A bit of fun.
This thing happened the other day over Facebook: somebody posted this image…
… and I commented that the really scary thing was, I would not need to google at least three of those items.
My real problem would be the hits of 2007.
Which caused me to think about the huge amount of spurious information, weird factoids and let’s-freeze-the-conversation-right-now sort of things I learned through the years as a reader and a roleplaying game master first, and later as a writer and game designer.
And I have already enthused about the joys of research, often, but really it is fun.
I learned about Tarot cards thanks to Roger Zelazny Amber books, and Piers Anthony Tarot trilogy. Then as a lark I bought myself a deck, got me a pair of handbooks by Alejandro Jodorowski, and now I can read tarot1. Which caused no end of embarrassment to my colleagues back in university – not the fact that they were willing to take a reading, mind you, no, what embarrassed them was that I could give them one.
I first got interested in food and cooking because of Len Deighton’s Harry Palmer spy novels, and his Action Cooking book. Then I discovered Elizabeth David and M.F.K. Fisher (both queens of food writing on two sides of the Atlantic, and both with a side serving of adventure in their lives). Now I cook a mean jalisco beans soup, and my French onion soup is the best in Astigianistan, and I enjoy cooking as a form of stress-relief activity.
My interest in the history of the Silk Road started in the late ‘80s as an aborted roleplaying game project, was later rekindled by an aborted research project (do we see a pattern emerge here?) and is now one of my many extracurricular interests.
I know how to prepare a molotov cocktail (adding the soap flakes and the rubber scraps for maximum effect), and I know why the molotov cocktail’s called that way. I know where to stab someone in a leg for optimal damage, and while it’s true that my knowledge of the occult and of werewolves owe more to Hammer Films than to actual hands-on practice, I can hold my own in a casual conversation – enough to make my counterpart uneasy.
Because that’s one mysterious thing – there’s people that could go on and talk about football rules and scores and history for hours on end, and consider that normal. But try and start discussing standard fieldcraft from pre-digital espionage, or Nazi occult leanings, or the best way to survive a crocodile attack, or the sexual practices of the Mayas, and they’ll look at you like you are a weirdo.
In the end I realize I collected a huge amount of information on a hugely different selection of topics – enough not to name my Egyptian main character after a river fish, for instance, or to be able to set-up a public lecture on artificial intelligence in a few days.
Which is all well and good, of course, but there are times, when I remember that I was told (too late, and uselessly, by people I did not respect) that specialization and focus were the wave of the future.
Be a good accountant, not a brilliant scientist, they told me and my schoolmates, back in 1985.
Many of us did not listen to them – now some of us are hunting sharks in the Pacific, some are bush-pilots in South America, some scrap a living writing books and designing games in the cold, hostile hills of Astigianistan.
It’s not been that bad so far.
And I checked the 2007 hits on Google.