The other night, Final Jeopardy! managed to divert the attention of some of my co-workers. The answer, as given by Alex, was something along the lines of, "This 1928 work by a French composer consists entirely of a 17-minute crescendo."
Various questions were shouted out by those in the newsroom, but only one question - mine - happened to be correct. What is "Bolero?" (I think only one of the three contestants got it right)
Now, here's the thing. I didn't know for certain that "Bolero" was correct. But, I knew enough to make that guess with a reasonable amount of certainty. For instance, I knew that Ravel was French because I have a recording of his orchestration of Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" and the liner notes mention that Ravel is French. I also knew that Ravel's most famous work is "Bolero." Who can forget the amazing performance by ice dancers Torvill and Dean at the 1984 OLYMPICS? And, because the piece is included on the "PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION" CD, I knew that "Bolero" is repetetive, relatively short, and builds as it goes on. Therefore, I guessed "Bolero," and I turned out to be right. Everyone was amazed.
All of which reminded me of another Final Jeopardy! episode that took place sometime back in the '90s. Again, co-workers are involved. We had a habit of watching every night, and we had a habit of wagering obscene amounts of non-existant money. I don't recall the answer from this particular night, but I remember four things: 1) I bet $1 billion; 2) the question was, "What is the BOER WAR?"; 3) I was right; and 4) everyone was amazed.
But, they shouldn't have been amazed because, again, I didn't really know the question to the answer. But, what I did have was enough information to make a pretty good guess. I remembered visiting a museum - in Leeds, I think - which had exhibits that featured British military uniforms and medals from throughout the years. I recalled seeing a little card in one of the exhibit cases, and the card indicated that these particular medals were from the Boer War. I think there was another line or two that listed the dates and the location of the fighting. So, you see, I based my answer not on what I knew (which was nothing), but on a memory of what I had seen.
All of which makes me wonder how - and why - I remember such things. Liner notes. Notes on museum cards. Why can I remember that stuff but can't figure out how to fold a fitted sheet? That's one thing I definitely don't know.