Stevie Wonder, Remembering Prince

Stevie Wonder, Remembering Prince

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz:

The first and only day that people were already in line when this particular usher showed up for a morning shift at the Tenley Circle Theatre was Friday, July 24th, 1984. That was the day the film Purple Rain opened in theaters across the country. Prince had many fans in Washington DC, one of whom that morning was wearing a white blouse with purple felt buttons, iridescent purple taffeta pants, and unmistakable earrings: purple and vinyl, they were made of 45 RPM records. Although I tore the ticket of this particular customer, I didn’t get close enough to examine the lettering on the earrings, but I was sure that the name PRINCE could be found above the titles of those hit singles.

That week in July Prince starred in the highest-grossing film in the nation, and “When Doves Cry” was the top charting song. The film went on to gross more than $68 million, almost twice that of The Terminator, and it gave us two number one hits (with “Doves” was “Let’s Go Crazy”) and one number two hit: “Purple Rain.” According to Rolling Stone magazine, Purple Rain is the second best soundtrack of all time, second only to The Beatles’ Help! Vanity Fair once proclaimed Purple Rain the best soundtrack of all time, and Tempo magazine named it the greatest album of the 1980s (even greater than Thriller).

The Thriller comparison is germane, because during that decade Michael Jackson outperformed Prince on just about any indicator that you could mention: number of albums sold, number of #1 hits, amount of money made from concert ticket sales, etc. Today, though, and especially over this last week, more of us might call ourselves Prince fans than Michael Jackson fans. Michael Jackson performed pop music, while Prince performed soul-infused rock and roll: music for adults. Even non-historians can see direct lines of influences from Little Richard (who so far has outlived everyone except Chuck Berry) to Jimi Hendrix to Prince. Perhaps many music lovers embrace Prince over Jackson today because while Jackson presented himself as innocent, childlike, and asexual (when clearly he was not), Prince presented himself in music as lustful and raunchy, when in his personal life, he was known to be considerate, and supportive of other artists. As Chris Rock put it in his 2004 HBO special Never Scared, “Remember when we was young, everybody used to have these arguments about who’s better, Michael Jackson or Prince? Prince won!”

My brother the journalist Oliver Jones has recently published a Prince remembrance that is going viral, or at least as viral as anything published on Facebook can go. In it he says that Prince “was the magical ingredient that could transform American things that suck — proms and halftime shows, sleazy hookups and soul wrenching break-ups — into beautiful, transcendent experiences.” I’m always impressed with Oliver’s writing, and will defer to him on the larger importance of Prince. I just remember all those times when I was out with friends, we would turn up “Let’s Go Crazy” and other Prince hits while driving the streets of DC, and just let loose. During that summer of 1984, Prince was everywhere, he was blatantly sexual, and we loved him. Although none of us ended up “going crazy,” he provided the soundtrack for our fun.

But was he a poet? In auditoria and after-parties, I have enjoyed talks by literary critics such as Sir Christopher Ricks, Helen Vendler, Joshua Clover and Joe Wenderoth as they reflected on the meaningful differences between song lyrics and poetry. Bob Dylan is regarded as the better lyric-writing poet, but in recent decades Prince has been the more productive lyricist, writing hit songs especially for women, including Cyndi Lauper, Alicia Keys, Steve Nicks, Madonna, and Sinead O’Connor. As with Dylan, perhaps this is one mark of a successful poet, that so many other performers can find success with his words?

As a lifelong poetry-lover and your Poet Laureate, I myself have read or heard perhaps 20,000 poems, including everything by Shakespeare, and a clear majority of the “hits” by Wordsworth, Whitman, Dickinson and Plath. But of all those million or more lines of poetry, the one that means the most to me was chosen by my wife Kate, a surprise wedding present presented on a day – our wedding day – when I could still slip off my new wedding ring and read the inscription on the inside. In addition to our wedding date, she had the jeweler engrave a single line of poetry that was written by Prince: “Nothing compares 2 U.” So to both Kate and Prince I will say thanks for the inspiration, and thanks for all the beautiful music.

Postscript: As you can see in the picture, above, yesterday I got to hear Stevie Wonder talk about the many talents we have lost in recent months. Stevie mentioned Glen Frey, Natalie Cole, Maurice White, and Prince. Introducing Stevie to my wife Kate reminded me how precious life is, whether it is that of a young Davisite killed on a Lake Tahoe ski slope (and the reason Wonder was performing in the UC Davis Arboretum yesterday), or that of a music icon who is beloved by millions. Our continued love and our familial and humor-filled conversations keep alive the talents, spirit, and humanity of these important and beloved friends who leave us too soon.

Tonight’s Pub Quiz, guest-hosted by my main man Jason, will feature questions on the following subjects: small boxes and big boxes, Julius Caesar, the extent to which Mick Jagger misses you, rich nations, Fords and Pages, Elihu Smails, fancy roadsters, robots, hints of fog, federations with French names, clocks, oak and mistletoe, poems about growing, fantasy football, unusual words, where the bodies are buried, annoyances, unpalatable-sounding food, people named Harris, babies, bat helpings, Princes and Queens, animals of various sorts, soccer, famous children whose names almost nobody knows, medical terminology, fashion, popular TV shows, Roseville, and Shakespeare.

I will be enjoying a show at the Mondavi Center while you enjoy tonight’s Pub Quiz. Happy National Poetry Month, and I look forward to seeing you on May 2nd.


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Internet Culture. The Prime Minister of what country evidently knows how to explain quantum computing?


  1. Four for Four. Which of the following B words are also shades of purple? Boysenberry, Buff, Bugle, Byzantium.


  1. Science. With regard to radio waves, what does FM stand for?


P.S. The next Poetry Night on May 5th at the Natsoulas Gallery will feature Matthew Zapruder, the new poetry columnist for the New York Times. Mark your calendar now!


Katehi on Picnic Day


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Oscar Wilde said “There is only one thing worse than being talked about and that is NOT being talked about,” while P.T. Barnum and others have purportedly said something along the lines of “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.” I know someone who might question these precepts this week, and her name is spelled K-A-T-E-H-I. Saturday my wife Kate happened to be sitting behind the Chancellor during the Picnic Day Parade, across the street from where I was announcing, using my favorite Quizmaster inflections to enthuse the audience in yesterday’s student-run showcase of the best of UC Davis and the City of Davis. She took a picture of student protesters hoisting their “FIRE KATEHI” signs in which the well-coiffed hair of the Chancellor could be seen in the foreground. One wonders what the UC Davis Chancellor is thinking behind those dark sunglasses.

If it were me, in my head I would be replaying the objections to my decisions, and to my tenure, especially the concerns expressed by students. One can’t deny that in some ways the university has prospered in the years since Chancellor Katehi has come to power. Our endowment has surpassed a billion dollars, our Agriculture, Forestry, Biological Science, and especially Veterinary Medicine programs are ranked among the top in the world. And U.S. News and World Report repeatedly ranks the University Writing Program of UC Davis as “stellar,” the only UC to earn that distinction.

But in recent days, as we know, one can’t find mention of these accomplishments. It has even been hard to find articles celebrating last week’s terrific and relatively violence- and scandal-free Picnic Day (with credit going to the excellent team of students in charge, headed by my friend and former student, Grace Scott). By contrast, yesterday the BBC called us “Pepper Spray University.”

For the record, I agree with the approach of crowding out bad news with good. It makes sense that administrators in Mrak Hall would want to change the subject from the way that peaceful protesters were treated in 2011. But now people are asking, “At what cost?”

Those of us associated with UC Davis have accomplished much, and have much to be proud of. I look forward to seeing what steps the university will take to address the concerns that are now being voiced nationwide and even worldwide (UC Davis is the top trending topic on Facebook as I write this). If the university’s approach embraces accountability, transparency, and student-centeredness, it will most likely be more effective than what we have tried thus far.

Speaking of effective, tonight’s pub qui will feature questions on a variety of topics that you should know something about. This week they will include fast cars, antique firearms, catcher backups, big budget films,  Australian intrigues, the River Lethe, baby animals, years the international celebrities were born, big countries, Irish poets, overcoming the chimerical, laws of the jungle, recognizable characters, voicework for pinball machines and video games, shopping in Pennsylvania, Simon and Garfunkel lyrics, actresses with the last name of Kudrow, Herbert Hoover, unwanted fluid, remarks that cradle, trophy supermarkets, that which modulates, the number 538, birds that mesmerize, San Diego, viral inquisitiveness, Bugle and Boysenberry, movies, and Shakespeare.

It’s KDVS Fundraiser Week! My KDVS fundraiser show takes place Wednesday, April 20th, at 5. Please set an alarm on your smartphone now to call 530 752-2777 at that time so you can make a pledge. Many premiums will be available as thank-you gifts, and you can help my cohost and me raise $1,000 during that time. Thanks!

See you tonight.


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Food and Drink. Jams are made from fruit while jellies are made from what five-letter word?


  1. Pop Culture – Music. The acronym BOB refers to what Rolling Stones’ song?


  1. Science.   Some Louisiana alligators have learned how to balance sticks on their snouts during what particular season for egrets and herons? The answer is a seven-letter word.


P.S. The poet, essayist and really successful musician Nick Jaina will feature at Poetry Night on Thursday night at 8 at the John Natsoulas Gallery. Google Jaina to discover why you should join us.


Notifications for Dr. Andy

Notifications for Dr. Andy

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Some of my friends don’t even have Facebook accounts. Some such friends are elderly, some are busy authors, and some see what Facebook does to the rest of us, and just choose to abstain. I remember feeling the same way as a high-school senior. Even though the drinking age in my hometown of Washington DC was 18 when I was 18, I chose to abstain from drinking alcohol. Now I work in a bar.

According to an article in today’s Washington Post, “Facebook is slowly eating the rest of the Internet.” (As an aside, note that the Post is still capitalizing “internet”). Today the encroachment comes in the form of live steaming video. Here’s how the Post article begins:


You can now stream live to Facebook, and Mark Zuckerberg wants you to know it’s a big deal.

But Facebook’s latest feature is more than just the ability to post live video for your friends to see. There’s a map where you can explore streams from across the world. There are filters to use when broadcasting, and integration with the newly minted Facebook reactions.

It’s one of the largest product releases by Facebook in a while, but most of the bells and whistles sound like features offered elsewhere. By jumping into live video, Facebook is also replicating or, well, re-imagining live video done by Periscope, Meerkat and others. In an interview with Buzzfeed News last week, Zuckerberg addressed what makes Live different from Periscope — the video streaming company owned by Twitter.

His answer was simple, Facebook has the audience. The competitors don’t.

“If you’re a person that just wants to share with your friends, it helps to have your friends there,” Zuckerberg told Buzzfeed.


After imploring various constituencies to come of my SRO book release party Friday night, I myself took the weekend off from Facebook, spending time instead walking around town with my kids, and attending a barbecue in Central Park. Just now I glanced at Facebook and see that I have 74 notifications waiting for me. I’m sure many of those people are wondering where in addition to the Avid Reader they can find my book.

I can see why authors and other creative types take a break – sometimes a lifelong break – from the Facebook feed. I myself have just this morning graded a dozen essays, bike-commuted to campus, taught a class, written the Pub Quiz and, as you can see, written the newsletter. Perhaps my Facebook sabbatical has made me more productive. I wonder what such a break could do for you.

That said, I guess it’s now time for me to take a break from this blessed break, and thank some people for coming to my book release party. People like to know that they are “liked.”

Speaking of likes, Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature the return of my wife and her team, for which I am grateful. It will also feature questions on words (a favorite topic of any poet), couplets, endings, Latin mottos (remember last week?), Uber, hungry corporatists, the crown of Queen Victoria, Missouri households, new clothing, people born in 1970, collapses, dreams and trees, small ages, yogurt, world capitals, Roman culture, masks, comic books, Scrabble knowledge, tingly sensations, cheerful refusals, conjunctions, the financial burden of maintaining the British military, numbers of records, obvious prequels, recognized wizards, opinions in action, tall men named James, jams on it, light bars, Facebook, and Shakespeare.

Word on the street is that A) Mayor Dan Wolk is returning to the Quiz this evening, B) April 13 is National Scrabble Day, and C) I will be announcing at the beginning of the Picnic Day Parade. Perhaps I will see you there by the bandstand. Question: When do I get to ride (or, better, drive in one of those funny or eco cars IN the parade. Maybe they need me too much up front, pronouncing Jamima Wolk’s name properly as HA-MEE-MA, which is a lot of fun to say.

See you this evening!


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Mottos and Slogans. In the western world, mottos are usually written in what language?


  1. Internet Culture. Are the websites and progressive or conservative?
  1. Newspaper Headlines.   As part of the European migration crisis, Greece has started deporting migrants to what country?


P.S. The next Poetry Night on April 21 features Nick Jaina!


Francisco X. Alarcon

Francisco X. Alarcon

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

In most cases public speakers don’t like people following them onstage. Star musicians are used to backup singers. Some megachurch preachers are used to the presence of gospel singers. But public speakers want the unmediated attention of their audiences.

You can imagine how distracting it was when someone came out of the audience of the Cesar Chavez Day Celebration at Veterans’ Memorial Theatre here in Davis and mounted the stage after I did, standing either next to me or behind me, swaying a little bit, and making odd noises.

It was distracting, but not surprising, because the interloper was my son Jukie, and I have grown used to his antics for years. Jukie’s greatest strength is not impulse control. Saturday he saw a wood chip on a woman’s skirt, so he reached off to remove it for her. Yesterday at the Cesar Chavez event he couldn’t figure out what was causing the smudge on the knee of the jeans of the man sitting next to him, so he repeatedly tried to brush off the discoloration. After seeing what Jukie wanted to do, I reached out my hand in a fatherly way and held onto his, and then tried to stop him from straining mightily against my grip. If something is amiss, Jukie will seek to right it, to fix it, or to remove it. When obsessive compulsive disorder is mixed with autism, the result, I find, is many new apologies, and new friends.

Saturday was World Autism Day, so we dressed ourselves and Jukie up in blue, and ventured into the world. According to all the T-shirts printed for the occasion of the big campaign kickoff event in Central Park next to the bicycle-powered merry-go-round, Will Arnold and his supporters, some of them electricians and builders, were wearing a bright shade of blue. We felt at home there.

More strangers than usual knew Jukie and me at the Will Arnold event, proving to me a lesson I learned long ago from the late Francisco Alarcon: If you attend enough events as a member of the audience, sooner or later you will be asked to stand up to speak. Francisco was the subject of my prepared remarks, a fond remembrance, for Cesar Chavez Day. I was there with some context of Francisco’s important work as a bilingual poet, author of children’s books, and a scholar, while Jukie was there to personify Francisco’s exuberance and performative moxie.

Whether we are celebrating great departed friends like Mrs. Barbara Neu or the poetry maestro Francisco Alarcon, it’s important to give room for people to speak, and to consider which of their works – their poems, their students, their magnanimity – will live after them, and which of us will have the responsibility to remember, represent, and re-create those qualities that made our departed friends and leaders so important.

We have a special event tomorrow / Tuesday night at 8 for Pub Quiz regulars. Tomorrow night at 8 at the Irish Pub I will be sharing chapters of my new Pub Quiz book with folks who are willing try out some of the quizzes in groups, and provide joke answers and other hilarity while enjoying some free beer and appetizers. Send me an email or let me know in person if someone from your team will be joining us at this free event. The book will come out later this spring.

And my book release party takes place this coming Friday, April 8th, at 7:30 PM at the Avid Reader. Please join me!

Tonight’s pub quiz will feature questions on many of the expected topics, including motto commonalities, challenges in Europe, healthy rappers, engineering, small boons and big boons,  numbers that are divisible by three, master builders, the attraction of flecks, book genres, singing birds, Tuesday’s get-together at the Irish Pub, aging islanders, public holidays for particular publics, the question of Affleck, German culture, recognizable queens, primer, majestic dragons, fated marriages, new talent, Native American lands, incoherence that is huge and glitzy, red tails, Young rockers, Appalachia, migrants, and Shakespearean tragedies.

See you this evening! There will be new players, so come early.


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Mottos and Slogans.    According to the website “Funny or Die,” what U.S. state’s slogan is “Nobody Cares”?


  1. Internet Culture. According to John Oliver, what is the primary reason to have a landline phone at home?


  1. Pomeranians. Pomeranian is an adjective referring to Pomerania, an area divided between two countries. Name either country.
Odd bike in the Arboretum -- Photograph by Hillel Eflal

Photograph by Hillel Eflal

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Are you standing on a platform? If not, people may have trouble hearing you.

Once upon a time you did well to know some journalists if you had a message to share. There were limited media – newspapers, radio, television – and only people with a lot of money, or who were friends with journalists, could access the audiences who depended upon those media.

The media were an important part of my life as a child in Washington DC. My father appeared on local television most weeknights just before Walter Cronkite. TV station WUSA and radio station WTOP were his platforms. Looking for the most trusted man on television, Washingtonians tuning into CBS every night would incidentally encounter my dad as he reviewed a movie or play, and they would often be perplexed or amazed at his uniquely energetic yet substantive approach to discussing the cinematic and performing arts. No one else on TV incorporated magic tricks or torn up index cards into their movies reviews.

One devoted follower of Davey Marlin-Jones told me years later that he thought my dad must have owned the station, for why else would he be allowed to carry on like that at the end of Eyewitness News? His movie reviews were the primary reasons we owned a TV. Although he didn’t write a book during those years, my dad benefited from his platform of followers in DC and Detroit, the vast majority of whom he didn’t know.

Today people with platforms are expected to connect more personally and individually with their online friends, fans, and followers. And today those platforms have to be built, plank by plank, by the performing talents themselves, rather than being bestowed to a lucky few by the corporations who owned the media, or by who financed the media through commercial advertising. As my Austin friend Rusty Shelton explains in his March, 2016 book, Mastering the New Media Landscape: Embrace the Micromedia Mindset, each of us who has a message, service, or product needs to start thinking like media moguls, and hatch plans to control our small media empires. Costs and other barriers to participation have been lowered dramatically, for most of us could access the tools we need from home, though building a successful platform requires planning, consistency, investments of time and energy, and attention to detail.

But is every creative professional with a message or a product willing to do all that work? Not usually. I sometimes help authors and other creative thought-leaders with platform-building strategies. But like any of us, I also appreciate the attention of those older consumers of information that embody the occasional blessing of traditional media. Such was the case Friday (online) and yesterday (in print), for none other than the San Francisco Chronicle recognized and shared kind words about our de Vere’s Davis Pub Quiz. Here’s the final paragraph of the article titled “Davis a town of understated genius” by Peter Fish:

Evening entertainment? The Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, on the UC Davis campus, is a world-class venue for world-class musicians. This spring’s headliners include Aimee Mann (with poet Billy Collins) and Yo-Yo Ma. For a lower-key night out, hit the Varsity Theater, which boasts cool Midcentury Modern architecture and a neon pink marquee and shows art-house and indie films. Or test your mental acuity in a popular Davis evening event: the bar trivia contest. Numerous downtown watering holes run these, but the pinnacle is probably the Monday night contest at De Vere’s Irish Pub, led by UC Davis English prof Andy Jones. The good news is that if you lose, you can always find solace in a pint of Guinness.

I would have appreciated some mention of the highest-quality ingredients in the food at de Vere’s, the excellent wait staff, or the scintillating newsletter available via, but perhaps someone will mention those excellent parts of our Mondays together online in the comments section. I enjoyed reading online newspaper comments that sought to celebrate local resources rather than inflaming anger with a flame war. Check out the entire San Francisco Chronicle review of our hometown at, and thanks for helping me make our Pub Quiz noteworthy to that little newspaper with the big circulation to the southwest of our town of understated genius.

Speaking of generating buzz, I hope you will consider attending my Avid Reader book release party on Friday, April 8. My book In the Almond Orchard: Coming Home from War can already be found at The Avid Reader, and soon will be purchasable in paperback and online form for a mere $10. Money from book sales will fund The Charles Ternes Prize, a creativity award for Veteran Students at UC Davis.

Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions on spectator sports, video games, trips to Cuba, NPR, cynicism on stage, people named “Ryne,” metric measurements, summer hits, people who move to California to write books, understanding metals, the EU, doctor distinctions, unknown beasts, peaks and valleys, Pulitzer Prizes, circulation, green zones, local attractions, mathematics, Legos, Star Wars, vibrating pouches, ambitious rebuilding projects, the British spelling of “Baptise,” previous batches of TV shows that I have never watched, the ways that we talk about the word, missing youths, crime tales, Kris and Ernie, embassies, lightning strikes, living to 80, America’s sweethearts, percentages, odd takes on The Wizard of Oz, New England, shoes, and Shakespeare.

Attracted by the newspaper, will we have a bunch of newbies join us tonight? Or back for spring break, will we have former Blue Devils filling our booths and tables? And when will we see the return of Bob Dunning or Lucas Frerichs? These and many other important questions will be answered tonight at the de Vere’s Irish Pub Pub Quiz!

See you at 7. Bring an extra $10 if you want a signed copy of my new book.


Your Quizmaster


Here are four questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Four for Four.      Which of the following, if any, are among the California’s top-three most valued agricultural commodities for 2014? Almonds, Macadamia nuts, Pistachios, Walnuts.


  1. Pop Culture – Music. According to Billboard Magazine, Michael Jackson’s biggest hit of all time was a duet with Sir Paul McCartney. Name the song.


  1. Sports: Baseball. What switch-hitting all-time Major League leader in outs (10,328) recently signed a baseball to Donald Trump, inscribing the words “Please make America great again”?


  1. Science.   The section of the brain called the hippocampus was named after its resemblance to what small marine fish?


P.S. Enjoy your spring break. For those of you who are struggling, know that people care about you, and are willing to help.

 Peter Schjeldahl

Peter Schjeldahl


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Thanks to everyone who came to my birthday party after the Pub Quiz last Monday. I collected a significant number of thoughtful birthday cards, including several from players that I get to see most Monday nights. I also enjoyed catching up with a bevy of friends from many different parts of my California life, including friends representing (directly or indirectly) five different continents. The 9 o’clock start time was too late for most of my academic colleagues, but totally appropriate for people I know in the poetry community. We closed the Pub down!

Speaking of poetry, I got to have lunch on my actual birthday with New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl, author of many books of poetry and criticism. When I shared an anecdote about a piano player with a long memory, he said, “That’s brilliant,” so of course I asked if I could quote him on the cover of my next book. And then we all laughed the knowing laugh of people who have been friends of W.H. Auden and the Beastie Boys, and who live on St. Marks Place in the East Village. Or at least one of us did. And then we enjoyed some pie.

Schjeldahl said that he was supporting Hillary Clinton because, unlike young Bernie Sanders supporters, Peter doesn’t anticipate surviving the fallout of the Sanders revolution, should the Vermont senator become president. Schjeldahl said that he appreciates the stability and competence that he anticipates from a Hillary Clinton presidency. Others might feel that stability is overrated during desperate times. Another high-level administrator at UC Davis told me that while her husband is “feeling the Bern,” she herself is “feeling the c(H)ill,” a phrase I hadn’t yet heard. Not so many people I encounter are “feeling the Trump.” I suspect that Trump will not carry California, should he be given that opportunity. But nobody knows for sure. Schwarzenegger did well here.

I wonder if intellectuals and poets such as Peter Schjeldahl consider the literary acumen of the different candidates for president. In college, Barack Obama was thoroughly knowledgeable on the poetry and philosophies of T.S. Eliot, or so we learned from a recent article in the New York Review of Books. And we know that Bill Clinton was a fan of Walt Whitman, giving a copy of Leaves of Grass to a “friend.” But what of today’s candidates – have any of them made room for poetry in their lives? We know that Allen Ginsberg wrote a poem for Bernie Sanders in 1986 when Sanders was Mayor of Burlington:


Socialist snow on the streets

Socialist talk in the Maverick bookstore

Socialist kids sucking socialist lollipops

Socialist poetry in socialist mouths

—aren’t the birds frozen socialists?

Aren’t the snowclouds blocking the airfield

Social Democratic Appeasement?

Isn’t the socialist sky owned by

the socialist sun?

Earth itself socialist, forests, rivers, lakes

furry mountains, socialist salt

in oceans?

Isn’t this poem socialist? It doesn’t

belong to me anymore.


Hillary Clinton recently quoted Mario Cuomo: “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.” From a strictly literary point of view, I would say that Donald Trump campaigns in neither poetry nor prose. He campaigns in crayon.

Speaking of poetry, my new book of poetry is now out (though the formal launch will take place in April, National Poetry Month). If you would like me to sign you a copy of In the Almond Orchard: Coming Home from War, I will have some on hand this evening before and after the Pub Quiz. The books are a mere $10, and the funds support the Charles Ternes Creativity Prize for veteran students at UC Davis. This prize is another way we can thank veterans for their service.

In addition to one or more topics raised above, tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions on the following: felines, collaboration tools, newspaper headlines, Japanese trains, famous daughters, hermits with odd servants nursing grudges, sports of choice, the Ten Commandments, Shelley, views from mountains, astrology, romantic comedies, significant Sacramento commutes, chiefs of staff, cities of more than one million people in countries neither of us has visited, the brain, screenplays, the OED, military terms, pastry, ancient Greeks, Gages, mathematical sets, adorable puns, counting digits, getting to work, duets, Romantic Thunderdomes, under my foreign thumb, somewhat great Americans who spend most (but not all) of their time outside of prison, fish, Stonehenge, polygons, and Shakespeare.

I hope to see you tonight. There may be an extra table available, so you should convince an extra team to join us. In addition to buying my book, if they are there tonight, you should also congratulate The Outside Agitators. That team came in first at Saturday night’s Rotary Trivia Challenge, winning $2,000 for Communicare Health Centers. What a terrific event, and a noble cause!

Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Mottos and Slogans.    Starting with the letter I, what calls itself “The Last Great Race on Earth”?
  1. Animated Film. Flynn Rider is an antagonist and then love interest in what Disney film?  
  1. Pop Culture – Music. Born in 1962, Anthony Kiedis is the lead singer of what American rock band that has sold more than 80 million albums?


P.S. March 17th is Poetry Night. Come by the Natsoulas Gallery at 8 before heading to the Irish Pub thereafter (or before and after). Ta.



Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Saturday I got to visit a 5,000 square foot four+ story home in north Berkeley owned by a gracious woman who told me that she loves to entertain. She and her husband evidently throw parties often, using their expansive darkwood-paneled home with a view of the San Francisco Bay as a gathering place for followers of their progressive causes, as well as potential future alumni of the small liberal arts college that helped her launch the sort of career that might lead to the purchase of such a vertical mansion.

Our decidedly more modest Davis home doesn’t accommodate large parties, but I still send out many invitations. The “parties” I host take place in other people’s buildings, whether it be meeting rooms at UC Davis, the John Natsoulas Gallery, or our own beloved Irish Pub. When I worry that I may send out too many invitations, I remind myself that people are encouraged to turn me down. Both the Poetry in Davis and de Vere’s Irish Pub mailing lists have hundreds of subscribers, but typically less than 10% of those on the list actually come to any particular event. The same is (even more true) for events that I host for UC Davis faculty interested in improving their teaching to learning about new instructional technologies. We all have competing obligations and responsibilities. A friend’s presence is a gift, and one’s absence merely extends the pause between chances to catch up.

Some parties represent a last hurrah. I can think of a number of people last seen at my 1992 wedding to Kate or at my last visit to my Mom’s Washington DC apartment who can no longer receive my invitations or smile at my Facebook updates. At least I reached out, I say to myself. At least they accepted that one last invitation. We are all getting older, but before they checked out, at least my invitees knew they were wanted. So whether the event is a pub quiz or a poetry reading, I keep inviting, excited to see what new combination of friends will gather to meet at my next event.

Tonight, this coming Saturday, and Sunday afternoon are times of three atypical events that I hope you will consider attending.

In order, then. Tonight after Pub Quiz I will be holding my annual de Vere’s Irish Pub birthday party. Because the kitchen closes at 9 on Mondays, and because I am expecting a bunch of friends to show up at 9:15, tonight’s Pub Quiz will be speedy. The sound check will begin a few minutes before 7, the introductions will be brief, and the questions will be shorter and even more clear than usual. I hope to be assessing completed quizzes by 8:45 and reading correct answers before 9. I will need your help tonight to pull that off. I won’t need any presents, though, except perhaps a donation to KDVS, our Davis campus and community radio station that starts its April fundraiser right after Picnic Day.

Saturday night (March 12) I am hosting a bonus Pub Quiz for Davis Rotary at the Davis Senior Center. This one benefits a number of non-partisan and non-sectarian local non-profit organizations. Past winners have included healthcare organizations in Woodland, environmental organizations in Davis, and even a local theatre troupe. The participation fee is $50 per person or $400 for a table of eight, but that includes dinner, entertainment, and time spent with some of the most philanthropic and fun-loving people in Davis. Also, babysitting will be provided (though not this year by my daughter Geneva, who will be participating in the penultimate performance of The Eden Project at the Brunelle Theatre at Davis Senior High School). See the Davis Enterprise article for details on the Rotary Pub Quiz Saturday — I believe tickets are still available, and can be had from Chuck Snipes, a Pub Quiz regular.

And finally Sunday, March 13th at 1 PM at the Davis Cemetery I will be performing poems from my just-published book, In the Almond Orchard: Coming Home from War. The book grew out of a commission I earned from Yolo Arts to write a poem about war veterans re-acclimating to life in California after serving overseas. Funds from book sales will fund the Charles Ternes Prize, a creativity prize named after my Uncle Chuck, a World War II vet and photographer. The award will benefit veteran students at UC Davis. For sale for the first time on March 13th, the book contains some of Chuck’s photographs from the 1950s and 60s, and almost 100 pages of my poems. I’m excited.

I extend to you an invitation to all three of these events. These won’t be my last invitations to you, for I have significantly more hosting to do, and books to write.

Tonight’s Dr. Andy’s Birthday Pub Quiz will feature questions on the following topics: great races, relevant symbols, transformative jesters, three-pointers, Halls with financial security, the National Book Award, rodents, sylvan locales, Africa, bodies of water with unsurprising names, thin white dukes, tides, Oscar nominees with attractive names, supermodels, smile leaders, rock and roll HOF inductees, people who are younger than you would think, asterisks, popular prejudices (and ways to confront them), words that start with the letter D, baseball players, antagonists who become love interests, Ben Carson’s new habits, people named Zellweger, old and young people, pests, and Shakespeare.

So I hope to see you tonight at 7 or at 9, and preferably for both. Come judge me by the company I keep!


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Mottos and Slogans, or their Absence.    What brand of high end clothing whose logo is a polo player astride a horse does not use slogans to advertise?


  1. Internet Culture. What is the last name of the American computer programmer, 2016 Libertarian Party presidential candidate, and developer of the first commercial anti-virus program which once bore his name?


  1. Newspaper Headlines.   Donald Trump recently blamed a “lousy earpiece” for his unwillingness to denounce what white nationalist leader on CNN?


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

I’m no politician, but, like just about all of my students, I have heard of David Duke. If someone were to ask me if I would be willing to disavow the support of David Duke or the Ku Klux Klan, I wouldn’t have to do any research. No matter how faulty my earpiece, my disavowal would be assumed, and I would still reiterate.

Chris Rock at the Academy Awards last night brought up the sort of systematic racism and hate-inspired violence that we associate with the Klan. In case you were not watching last night, this is what Rock said:

“Why are we protesting? The big question: Why this Oscars?

It’s the 88th Academy Awards. It’s the 88th Academy Awards, which means this whole no black nominees thing has happened at least 71 other times. O.K.?

You gotta figure that it happened in the 50s, in the 60s — you know, in the 60s, one of those years Sidney didn’t put out a movie. I’m sure there were no black nominees some of those years. Say ‘62 or ‘63, and black people did not protest.

Why? Because we had real things to protest at the time, you know? We had real things to protest; you know, we’re too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer.

You know, when your grandmother’s swinging from a tree, it’s really hard to care about Best Documentary Foreign Short.”

The day after the event, some Hollywood-watchers are saying that best supporting actor favorite Sylvester Stallone did not win his expected award because of the nomination history of his film Creed. As a journalism and diversity professor told me on my radio show Wednesday, Creed is a film about an African-American boxer that was directed by an African-American director and produced by African-American producers, but the only people nominated for the film were its white writers and its white co-star, Stallone.

Marlon James, author of the 2015 Man Booker prize-winning Brief History of Seven Killings, has recently published a video arguing that responsible citizens should actively confront racism as anti-racists, rather than merely congratulating ourselves for declaring ourselves to be non-racists. One thinks of John McCain’s campaign-trail correction of a supporter who was saying nutty things about President Obama’s religious preferences, while this past November one-time candidate Carly Fiorina chose not to correct a New Hampshire voter who called President Obama a “Black Muslim.”

Will cooler heads prevail in the Republican party? It seems not, judging by Donald Trump’s momentum going into Super Tuesday tomorrow. That said, today Mitt Romney tweeted this about Trump’s relationship with some of his biggest fans in the white nationalist community: “A disqualifying & disgusting response by @realDonaldTrump to the KKK. His coddling of repugnant bigotry is not in the character of America.” When it comes to the endorsement race, we will see if opportunists and Trump supporters such as Chris Christie will win the day, or if the endorsement tipping point for Marco Rubio will ever be reached (and if it will matter in time). Ironically, GOP establishment favorite Rubio has yet to win a state, and seems unlikely to win any future state, even his home state of Florida, during this contest. We will know much more by the end of tomorrow.

I consider all of you winners at the Pub Quiz. In addition to topics raised above, tonight expect questions about football, libertarians, polo, tomato frogs, favorite destinations, depth, little buttercups, actors and actresses, players not named Dave Krieg, Italian names, broken silences, kid books, saturated fats, birthday parties, noble dogs, spits, company for Harper Lee, Oscar-winning films, thornberries, Golden Globes, jeans that are crumbly, things which are filled beyond capacity, assets, great Brits, genera, and Shakespeare.

Speaking of birthday parties, mine will be held at 9:30 on March 7th. You are invited. And my next book will be released at a Davis Cemetery event on March 13th. More on that next week.

I expect also to see you this evening at 7.


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

  1. Mottos and Slogans.    Former football player and actor Terry Crews starred in the TV commercials about “the man your man could smell like.” Name the brand of body wash he was advertising.
  1. Internet Culture. Mark Zuckerberg gave a presentation on VR in Barcelona today. What does VR stand for?
  1. Newspaper Headlines.   As we learned today, a 2016 film is set to surpass Passion of the Christ for highest grossing R-rated movie released to date. Name the 2016 film.  


P.S. Thursday is Poetry Night! They come so often. Lucky.



Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,


I have time only for two sets of nouns. The first would have been the topics that should have appeared in this newsletter.

Power tools, trucks over the side of the Causeway, three-hour delays on i-80, Lake Tahoe, Martians, four speaking gigs in one day, the Beat Generation, Sasha Abramsky, peanut allergic reactions, school nurses, Benadryl, sleeping beauties, Republicans, elevation, bulldogs on the loose, hobos, Russians, cords that have no purpose, land lines, returns, and reunions.

And now the hints: Danish princes, French anger management, weight concerns, crooners who sing about strangers, Barbara Norrander, worms Roxanne, duels, people who died with $10 million to their names, countries that once started with the letter B, owners of diners, prime numbers, fiery redheads, fictional loner makers, fifth in a series, websites with short URLs, Hillary Clinton, actual mathematics, secretaries, presidential politics, people who live in tawny places, Shia LaBeouf, people named Josh, where the magic happens, tricks and deceptions, one of Truman’s favorite presidents, 11-letter words that start with T, Paris, chimpanzees and their friends, the ideal man, and Shakespeare.

Now I want you to imagine how great this newsletter might have been.


See you tonight.


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week:


  1. Mottos and Slogans.    What County’s fair uses the slogan “the longest running free gate fair in northern California”?


  1. Internet Culture. What is the max duration for Instagram videos? Is it six, 15, 30, or 90 seconds?


  1. Newspaper Headlines.   Last week Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill met for more than two hours and signed a joint declaration, marking the first meeting between the heads of the Roman Catholic and the Russian Orthodox churches in nearly 1,000 years. In what country did the two religious leaders meet?


P.S. The next Poetry Night is March 3. My birthday party, to which you are invited, will be March 7th, right after our weekly get-together. My new poetry book comes out on March 13, in a cemetery. Details to come.

John F. Fitzgerald, Mayor of Boston

John F. Fitzgerald, Mayor of Boston


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

During a long and exhilarating concert in Wooster, Massachusetts, in 1986, I got to see Billy Joel play many of his best hits, including his first, “Piano Man.” My favorite sections from this song details the variety of characters that the fictional piano player would encounter at the Executive Room bar in Los Angeles.


Now Paul is a real estate novelist

Who never had time for a wife

And he’s talkin’ with Davy, who’s still in the Navy

And probably will be for life


And the waitress is practicing politics

As the businessmen slowly get stoned

Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness

But it’s better than drinkin’ alone


Sometimes the lyrics of this song return to me as I walk the hallways of the International Mark Hopkins Hotel for a weekend every February. Having presented and participated in the San Francisco Writers Conference in the same hotel every year for the last 12 years, I’ve become friends and collaborators with most of the regulars.

Vicki is a retired lieutenant colonel novelist, who finally did make time for her wife. She and her wife just celebrated their anniversary (as so many do) on Valentine’s Day, and are doing a great job parenting their two children. Brian is a CEO poet who ensures that everyone is having a good time at the after party. Saima is a mystical poet who has a black belt in Brazilian ju-jitsu, while Dawn is a Canadian born now Baja surfer who volunteers at the conference while finishing a memoir. Retired professor Mary publishes a book of poetry or fiction every other year, and should be out with her 22nd book at next year’s conference. A leader in social media and content marketing, Rusty is taking a break from the conference this year to welcome home his third child and first daughter, sharing photos with all of us of a wife who looked remarkably composed and fit while loading their little one into the SUV for the first ride home. Lissa has written a book about using book fairs as fundraisers, and has been selling out copies of her illustrated chapbook about her children.

Unlike the barflies that congregated around Billy Joel’s Piano Man, these folks are creative, vibrant, evolving, and full of direction and projects. When I first started attending this conference in 2005, I most looked forward to my presentations and talks (and over that time I have given over 50 talks at the conference alone). Soon thereafter I most anticipated learning about writing, publishing, and publicity from the other speakers. While all of these still sustain me, now I most anticipate the reunions with my friends, and getting them to sign the books that seemed lofty and impractical dreams when we first started sharing at the Mark Hopkins Hotel. And this year and last, my wife Kate joined me at the top of Nob Hill, an added Valentine’s Day bonus. February is always a highlight of my year, as I hope is the case for you.

Today is Presidents’ Day! Today I overheard some of the following dialogue between my ten-year-old Truman and his mom.


Truman: Hey, Mommy, I thought of a good Pub Quiz question for Daddy to use for Presidents’ Day: what was John F. Kennedy’s mother’s father’s nickname? Is that too easy?

Kate: Uh, definitely not too easy….

Truman: And here’s another one: how many square feet was the schoolhouse where President James K. Polk sent his children?

Kate: So, I don’t know if many people…

Truman: The answer is this: trick question! James K. Polk didn’t have any children.

Kate: Haha – that would stump the entire pub!

Truman: Yeah, you’re right. Maybe he should ask about the First Ladies. I read that Betty Ford once admitted she drank too much.


I don’t know if you could consider these suggested questions from Truman to be hints, but they might trigger some relevant research.

Expect also questions on the following: Reptiles and amphibians of southern Africa, the pastoral, members of the Football Hall of Fame, reclusive novelists, cute nicknames for people that are otherwise not cute, villains, benzodiazepines, Solano County and other counties, Oscars, the example of Job, embryonic stem cell research, bachelors, prolific authors, people with the same last name, big audiences, free gate fairs, Africa, speakers of the House, the hose, thumbing, unpronounceable names, the place of joy, the Olympics, knights, the act of understanding, Texas laws, things that should be said, congressmen, things that start with K, lotion, and Shakespeare.

We have some guests visiting from out of state tonight, so our table may be even louder than usual. I hope you can also join us this evening for the de Vere’s Irish Pub Pub Quiz. Some of the Swag will come from the San Francisco Writers Conference!


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Mottos and Slogans.    Starting with the letter R, what website uses the slogan “The Front Page of the Internet”?


  1. Internet Culture. Steve Ballmer was the CEO for what tech company for more than 14 years?


  1. Newspaper Headlines.  Yesterday in an interview, President and Michelle Obama said that their daughters are annoyed with something about the White House, and that Obama hopes to have it fixed before his successor takes over. What’s annoying the first daughters?


P.S. Thursday night at 7, we will celebrate the life of Francisco X. Alarcon. Join us at the Natsoulas Gallery on February 18th for this important event.