I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for Fun Facts and little bits of odd information.
All that stuff that shows up on Snapple lids, obscure specials aired late, late at night on The History Channel, cereal boxes, moldy almanacs, and, of course, the Internet.
I just can’t resist.
Here are some of my favorites from the world of Arts and Letters, culled from a variety of sources found in the Fontana Regional Library System and therefore accurate beyond reproach.
Fun Fact #1: One of my favorites is the revelation that St. Ambrose seems to have developed the practice of reading silently. His buddy St. Augustine wrote that, “When [Ambrose] read, his eyes scanned the page and his heart sought out the meaning, but his voice was silent and his tongue was still. Anyone could approach him freely and guests were not commonly announced, so that often, when we came to visit him, we found him reading like this in silence, for he never read aloud.”
Ambrose’s contemporaries were stunned that he was able take in a text without sounding out the words.
In fact, so radical was the idea that a person could absorb the lesson of a manuscript without reading it aloud that some members of the church thought the ability must have been demonic in origin.
Think of it, the ancient Library at Alexandria must have been like Helmet Night at Shea Stadium, with thousands of scholars reading aloud from scrolls. That’s why, even today, Fontana Regional Library System encourages patrons to read in their loudest voices, so that others may share in the excitement of reading.
Fun Fact #2: Can you guess the highest rated show ever on South Korean television? I was thinking it was “Star Trek” or maybe something splashy like “Dallas.” A friend of mine, who says that South Korean programs are wildly popular throughout Asia, guessed it was something produced domestically, like “Hyun Bak Soon,” a situation comedy set aboard an industrial squid gutting ship in the South China Sea.
Whatever you’re guessing, you’re wrong. It was the premiere episode of “Joanie Loves Chachi.” “Joanie Loves Chachi” was a spinoff of “Happy Days,” which also spawned “Mork and Mindy” and, I’m pretty sure, the currently-popular “Downton Abbey.”
You’re probably wondering why a sitcom about a pair of teens in the early 1960s seeking romance and fame as rock stars would initially attract a massive South Korean audience. Perhaps we’ll never know.
Fun Fact # 3: T.S. Eliot’s monumental poem “The Waste Land” was translated to the screen as the 1938 MGM musical “The Gal’s Got Gams.” He was purportedly unhappy with the finished product.
Fun Fact #4: The Greek playwright Aeschylus was killed by a turtle dropped on his head by an eagle in 456 B.C. Aeschylus is generally considered the father of tragedy. I don’t know if he ever killed off a character with a turtle bomb. If you think about it, he could perhaps be called the father of comedy. It’s hard to keep a straight face when you think about a guy going out that way.
And don’t you know that eagle must have felt a deep sense of satisfaction watching that turtle plummet end over end for thousands of feet and landing squarely on Aeschylus’s bald dome? I guess it’s impossible to know what could make an eagle really happy, but that’s got to be up there.
Fun Fact #5: Charles Dickens, who turns 200 this year, was the most succesful author of his time. (Naturally, Dickens is dead. He really isn’t shambling around at age 200. That’d make him a character in a Steven King novel.) He also grew up in abject poverty, and was forced to work in a factory at age 12 after his parent and most of his siblings were thrown into debtors’ prison. Yet despite his sympathetic treatment of the underprivileged and children and his vast fortune, he unceremoniously gave his wife and youngest child the boot when he decided to take up with an actress performing in his play “The Frozen Deep.” Though social strictures prevented him from getting a divorce, Dickens spent the rest of his life fighting against paying for their livelihood. At the end of the day, the guy was a jerk.
I was going to end this post with Fun Fact #6, but at the last moment, like Bert Lahr (pictured above) as the Cowardly Lion, I’ve suddenly lost my “noive.” This final fact would have tied everything together and revealed the world in a new light for you, but almost certainly would have violated Fontana Regional Library policy. I don’t want to have the lovely and talented Serenity Richards, the librarian at Albert Carlton-Cashiers Community Library,yell at me for a simple posting.
So here’s what I’m going to do. If you’d like to learn Fun Fact #6, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the Subject Line, type in “Fun Fact #6” so I’ll know you’re not a Ukranian trying to sell me Natural Enhancement Supplements. I’ll respond with this little dollop of information and, naturally, my warmest wishes for a healthy and happy life.