Trivial Pursuits {?} - Chapter 12, Part 1

Going back to the strange Saul questions now: if I remember myself right, the second day, when we were filming again at Pan Pacific Park, Eos didn’t ask anyone about Apostle Paul or the Detroit Tigers. Or what’s more likely is I just didn’t notice because I was still thinking all about my crazy dreams from that morning and the memory of Eos hugging me with her smooth black arms with the very nice veins was very fresh on my mind.

But on the third day, I know she asked the questions to many people. I clearly remember this because each person she asked was a boy near her age and I felt sort of jealous from it. Why wasn’t she asking me if I had an uncle named Saul? Or if I knew anything about the Detroit Tigers of 1938? Why didn’t she care if I knew the story of Apostle Paul and his revelation on the road to Dimashq? Just so you know, this is the Arabic name for the place where it is written Saul heard Jesus speak to him.





Of all the people she asked this question to, basically I knew more about this city than any of them. And it’s right that I do because Dimashq is only some 130 kilometers from my village, or town. At .62 miles per kilometer, that’s approximately 81 miles, which is much, much less distance even than San Diego is from Los Angeles. And though it’s true that I’ve never been on the road to Dimashq, so it’s still a very famous city because it’s one of the oldest in the world—going back to around 6,000 B.C.E. And besides the fame the city received from Saul who became Paul, it’s just as notorious as the city where the Druze people had their ugliest moment in history. You may have heard of the Massacre of 1860. If not, this is basically when we slaughtered some 10,000 Christians and it took Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, the first President of the French Republic, to send French armies to Syria to make us stop. None of my family was living in Dimashq at this time because, as I was saying before, we have always been living on the land where we are now. But still I am very very ashamed for my people and for what they did then. At this time in history, though, everyone in Dimashq was killing everyone else. Maronites were killing the Muslims and Christians were killing the Maronites and Druze were killing the Christians and the Maronites, and it was just very ugly for some 25 years. Even worse than the problems Syria and Lebanon are having with the Jews of Israel today. Even just thinking about all the good people who’ve been dying over the centuries because of their religion is enough reason for why I say I’m not practicing Druze. And I’m proud of that, at least.

But none of the guys Eos was asking these questions to knew anything like this or even about grandmaster Yasser Seirawan, who, if you don’t know, is a 4-time U.S. chess champion and who was born in Dimashq. I know him because he has written many books on chess that I’ve read, the most helpful being his Winning Chess Endings, which was useful for me last year when I was trying to improve my endgame. Well, basically I had to work on the rook versus the minor piece and rook and the minor piece versus the rook. So this book by Yasser Seirawan was really helpful with those moves—even if I still can’t beat the computer in the highest level.

Eos was getting all kind of useful answers to our questions that day. By the word useful, I mean answers that are appearing like they could be right, but are actually wrong. Like, for What is the main difference between an opera and a musical? question, you need both humorous answers like this one lady said, “Nothing. They’re both boring as hell” and serious answers, like this other lady said, “Opera is written by classical composers.”

The way Eos said she was going to edit all the answers together for the 30-second video on mentalfloss, basically each would be coming right after the next. Some would make people smile or laugh and some would be causing people to think: hmmmm, that sounds like it could be correct. But then Otis would be there for the end getting on the last word.

Many classical composers wrote both operas and musicals, like Leonard Bernstein who composed the opera A Quiet Place and the musical West Side Story. So even though that answer was sounding possible, it was still wrong. The correct answer, which I was eager to see Otis say, is that a musical generally has a lot of talking between the songs and an opera doesn’t. Operas are generally sung from start to finish and no one had this answer on day one and day two.

But that day, day three, we had moved filming location to the downtown part of Los Angeles where all the skyscrapers are, which was exciting me because I had only seen them in the distance from driving in the Winnebago until now. Our first place to do the interviews was outside of the Disney Hall, which, if you don’t know, it is this funny titanium building where the orchestra plays. Eos said it looked like a whipped-dollop of steel sour cream and so she kept calling it the steel cream building.

There’s also a music conservatory across the street, which I think is called the Coburn School or something like this. So Eos was hoping to get some musicians walking around who might have good answers to this question. The problem was that the three musicians we interviewed each had only the correct answer, which was unuseful to us because that was Otis’s job.

But still, we got a lot of good films that morning for the other questions and when we stopped for lunch, so we played some of the interviews back and watched them and Eos said she was psyched because I wasn’t making her seasick at all anymore. So this made me feel very happy and proud—not that I was learning this new word psyched, but that she was satisfied with my camerawork. And maybe this made the jealousy I was feeling from the Saul questions go away a little. But still I wanted to know who was this Saul she was searching and how she was going to use it on mentalfloss. So after lunch and before we went back to the interviews, basically I asked her this exact question: (to be continued)

Check out previous chapters of Trivial Pursuits {?} right here.





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