Adam Reger | Freelance Writer

Pittsburgh-based freelance writer

I am minimally famous, Part II

A few weeks ago I was elated to have won the trivia contest of Slate‘s “Hang up and Listen” podcast. Well, everyone: I did it again.

What’s more, I got some pretty good props, again, from the panelists. My name got spelled out, albeit in support of the same incorrect pronunciation, and they called attention to the fact that I’d won a few weeks prior. (The really satisfying part was when the moderator, Slate editor Josh Levine, cited “HuaL”‘s reigning trivia champ, Carmen Tse, and said that he was probably hearing footsteps. It’s far too soon for me to say any such thing, but I appreciate the suggestion.)

Most gratifying, they gave me a shout-out by correcting the record: as I asserted at the time, I am not a furry. Mike Pesca said that I was beating up a furry in my Facebook photo, which is loosely true (I am ripping the detachable tail off a furry dressed as a gecko). But still. The vindication is sweet, so sweet.

Oh, and here was the trivia question: “During the first half of the 1980s, in major league baseball two players were in the top 10 repeatedly in a major offensive category. These two players have the same name (first and last), with only two letters being different.”

I’m paraphrasing; it was a somewhat confusingly worded question, and I got quite turned around in what it meant that two letters were different (e.g., “If I take all the letters in ‘Tony Armas,’ is that within two letters of ‘Mike Schmidt’?”). But after sifting through lots and lots of baseball stats for the years 1980–1985, what I came up with was this: in steals, Willie Wilson of the Kansas City Royals and William “Mookie” Wilson of the Chicago Cubs showed up on the same list at least once. (They may also have shown up on the triples list, but that seems less of a “major” offensive category.)

A friend asked, after the first trivia win, if I was going to try to be a repeat champ. I said I didn’t think so, that that Dustin Hoffman-themed question seemed like a one-off and, really, the only kind of trivia question I was likely to get. Winning this time has opened the possibility that I can compete when the questions are weird, and more conducive to someone getting obsessed with the question and pursuing it for an hour or two at a time than someone just having lots of sports knowledge. If there are any more of those, maybe I’ve got a chance at future wins.

Franzen Redux

1) I received Freedom in the mail yesterday. Quite excited to start it, though I am just getting into Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, which so far is fantastic.

2) I have a subscription to MOG, an online music site that’s a pleasant and necessary diversion at work. I was a big fan of Lala, until Apple bought it so they could demolish it (as it was an iTunes competitor). One cool thing about MOG is that there is a scale one can slide during a given song, selecting a notch on a spectrum from “Artist Only” to “Similar Artists.” So when I was listening to a ton of Ween, I could have slid the scale over to “Similar Artists” to listen to what MOG thought was in the same ballpark. And if I were listening to a compilation album, and Ween came up, I could then slide the scale all the way over to “Artist Only” and thereby jump into a Ween mix. And so on—you could jump in and out, deciding you like Ween but you’d like to see similar artists, and from that decide what you really wanted to hear was the Butthole Surfers or early Flaming Lips—and so forth. Here is an interesting New Yorker piece about the larger online-music scene, with some special attention paid to MOG.

Navigating MOG, though, has put me in mind of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections and a program he describes one of the characters writing that uses (what sounds to me like) similar technology, and which the character sells off for nearly $20 million. I’d always thought it was called Eigenvector, but apparently it’s actually “Eigenmelody.”

It is, of course, deeply impressive that Franzen thought this up. I suppose similar things were around in the early 2000s, but I remember reading The Corrections a few years late and being impressed by the novelty of this idea. Invention isn’t considered the strength of Franzen’s writing, but this again calls to mind his friend, David Foster Wallace, and all the technological developments described in Infinite Jest.