"Bells are Ringing" with Gia Battista and Ian Hopps

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

One of my favorite scenes from Bells are Ringing, now playing Thursdays through Sundays with Cyrano de Bergerac at the Veterans Memorial Theatre here in Davis, is the song “Drop That Name.” In it, the play’s comedic heroine Ella finds herself at a high-society party where everyone but her is chatting casually about their interactions with the hoi polloi of 1950s Hollywood. The verses of the song are made up almost entirely by the names of (then) recognizable stars of industry, politics, stage and screen:

Barney Baruch and King Farouk, Alistair Cooke and Debbie and Eddie)

(Lucille Ball and Lauren Bacall, Hedy Lamarr, Roz Russel and Freddie)

(Carol Reed and Sammy Snead and Deborah Kerr)

(Anna May Wong) …………And Ron Ton Tong!

Now it is my turn to drop some names. Gia Battista does a marvelous job as Ella. With her 30+ productions and her recent graduate training in opera, UC Davis alumna Battista, the co-artistic director of the Davis Shakespeare Ensemble, is uniquely suited to thrive in this demanding role that was made famous by Oscar-winner Judy Holliday. The laughter and standing ovation suggest that Battista delights audiences.

Opposite Battista is Ian Hopps, a versatile song and dance man who has impressed Davisites with his voice acting at Stories on Stage Davis at the Pence Gallery, and on E Street and elsewhere as an occasional busking accordionist. Longtime Davis resident and Actors Equity actor Matt Edwards carries Cyrano de Bergerac with his poetic calisthenics and impassioned swordplay. Other standouts in this production include fan favorites Kristi Webb and Pablo Lopez, both with important roles in Cyrano, and ensemble roles in Bells.

I can’t decide which play I loved more. With its live orchestrated music and comedy, Bells is so much fun. I was also impressed with the sets, including a subway scene that made me feel like I was underground on the A line heading south towards Greenwich Village. Also, my family friend Jean Stapleton played the role of Sue Summers in the original Broadway production of Bells are Ringing, and in the 1960 film, so I enjoyed imagining her playing that role that helped to launch her career (long before she became Edith Bunker).

As much as I loved Bells are Ringing, however, the poetry, longing, romance, and adventure in Cyrano moved me even more deeply. As a grandiloquent hero, Cyrano inspires any dorky poet, such as myself, who hopes to use his words to woo the most beautiful woman in town. Directed by Rob Salas, both productions are highly recommended, and you have but two weekends left to see both shows before the final showing on July 31.

Late on the first night I saw Cyrano, I found much of the cast at de Vere’s Irish Pub (where I had parked my bike), so I got to tell them in person how much I enjoyed their work on stage. In the audience at Bells I saw a favorite Davis Parent Nursery School teacher who had taught my two older children, a respected Yolo Superior Court judge who was once named “the father of downtown Davis,” and the President of Team Davis, who noticed (to my delight) that I was taking my disabled son to the theatre. The next day I discussed our experiences of both productions with members of Davis Sunrise Rotary.

You may know the names of some of these people to whom I have alluded, or you may not. When you attend these plays, you will encounter different friends from the ones I met with during intermission. Either way, you may find as I did that these chance encounters represent one of the best benefits of living in our quirky and bikeable city. I admire such people not only because of our friendship and because of their commitments to improving and sustaining our city of Davis. I also admire them because of their commitment to the arts, a crucial element of any thriving community.

We are so lucky to have the Davis Shakespeare Ensemble in our town, sparking the conversations and the imaginations of our residents. Whether you go for the gripping plots, the hilarious comedy, and inspiring poetry, or the invitation to turn off your smartphone for a couple hours, I hope you will catch the final showings of these Davis Shakespeare Ensemble productions, and join me in doubling down on your own investments in the arts. After that next Davis production, you might use the same words that Cyrano uses for Roxanne: “You blessed my life!”

Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions on some of the topics raised above, and on all of the following: emo tracks, baseball records, international airports, publishing disappointments, members of the Bush family, inconvenient manslaughter convictions, the lure of trumpets, unwelcome topiaries, hot reactions, Disney films, the EU, expensive shopping options, William Shatner, ancient times, airline users, old ladies, Rolling Stone, the city of Davis, Herbie Hancock, African countries, second languages, county puzzles, governors, hacking, beloved cars, and Shakespeare.

Thursday is Poetry Night in Davis. Melissa Goodrum, a poet and actress who is also a National Endowment for the Arts scholar, is visiting from Brooklyn. Her grandfather was the jazz pioneer Charlie Dixon, a banjoist who played with Fletcher Henderson, Louis Armstrong, and others, so she will have some stories to tell. Much of the poetry Thursday night will be political, and Goodrum will be joined on stage by local musician Timothy Nutter and Brooklyn artist Erin Grey. Find details at the website Poetry in Davis.


I hope you can join us tonight for some neo-theatrical entertainment.


Your Quizmaster


P.S. Here are three questions from the vault:


  1. Looking at its governor and congressional delegation, what is the bluest, that is, most Democratic, state that does not border an ocean?


  1. What D word means “to cut into cubes”?


  1. The Ukrainian city of Pripyat was abandoned almost years ago because of what C word?



P.S. Regretfully, tonight’s Pub Quiz will not include questions about John Glenn, who turns 95 years old today.

Rev. Ben McBride

Rev. Ben McBride


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

This summer I have been missing my son Jukie’s regular bus driver, a man named John who greeted Jukie every day with a smile and a handshake and the right amount of firmness and guidance to help my teenager with autism make the right decisions on the bus every day. We rarely heard stories of behavioral challenges when John was at the wheel.

Jukie can’t introduce himself with words, so I always appreciate it when friends greet Jukie by name. Saturday I encountered the boss of a good friend – she approached us in sunglasses and was greeting both Jukie and me before I realized who this friendly Davis citizen was who knew Jukie so well. Yesterday I walked into a deli in Crockett and again heard Jukie greeted by name by the California poet Connie Post. These kindnesses matter to a kid, and to his parents.

Kate and I similarly appreciate it when a parent calls us at home to discuss cake and ice cream ingredients for a friend’s surprise birthday party. Most of our friends know that our daughter Geneva carries an Epinephrine Auto-Injector because of her deadly peanut allergy. A parent’s or neighbor’s kindnesses remind us that we live in a community of people who care.

Parents and their children depend heavily upon such public servants. Last week I read about a cafeteria supervisor who memorized the names, and the food allergies, of the 500 children at the Montessori school where he worked. As the parent of children who benefit directly from the conscientious care of such school staff members, I can tell you that my anxiety is lessened by the work of John the bus driver, or, over at Davis Senior High School, the entire village of staff members and teachers who supported by daughter all the way to graduation last month.

As of this week, 500 children in St. Paul, Minnesota won’t benefit from that sort of care, for last week the cafeteria supervisor in question, Philando Castile, was killed at a traffic stop in the suburb of Falcon Heights, evidently while complying with officer’s directions. Still wearing his seat belt, Castile was shot four times with his girlfriend’s four-year-old daughter strapped into a car-seat directly behind him.

Feeling desolated by the violence in St. Paul, Baton Rouge, and Dallas, and feeling somewhat removed from the sites of our nation’s conflict and protest, yesterday my son and I ventured to a Sunday service in the First Congregational Church of Oakland. The experience provided us the solace and inspiration that we needed.

In a rousing sermon, community activist and visiting Reverend Ben McBride spoke to the congregation about the importance of “crossing the street” between African-American communities and law enforcement communities. Providing context, he spoke of the history of policies and duplicitous bargains that Americans have embraced, each of them serving to denigrate the ancestors or members of our citizenry. McBride challenged our nation’s leaders’ choices to commit genocide against native people, to kidnap and enslave generations of Africans, to subjugate immigrants and women and LGBTQIA folks, as if any of these actions could be somehow excusable or reconcilable steps towards becoming a great nation. Too many of us and our ancestors have been treated like rungs on a ladder.

Learning from these conflicts, McBride argues, neither African Americans feeling besieged and threatened when they step out of their homes or into their cars, nor police officers who fear for their safety with so many unregulated firearms on our streets, should belittle the humanity of members of the other group in order to gain additional security. With lessons from our nation’s history in mind, McBride says, we should recognize that violence and threats of violence never make us feel more secure.

Our civil rights leaders can inspire us to make better choices. A year before Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, the civil rights leader told Harry Belafonte “We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know that we will win. But I’ve come to believe we’re integrating into a burning house.” According to Belafonte, King said, “I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears at the soul of this nation.”

When asked what could be done, King responded, “Become the firemen. Let us not stand by and let the house burn.” Keeping King’s analogy in mind, perhaps all of us might consider how we could help to carry the water buckets or turn on the hose. I have been reading the news of this past week with distress and sympathy, as well as with admiration for those who peacefully protest. Like many, I would wish that the love we feel for the ideals of our country could be made more manifest. To do that, we must endeavor to press for goodwill and justice in all our interactions. As Cornel West says, “Justice is what love looks like in public.”


Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions on one or more of the issues raised above, as well as on prose adaptations, the eating habits of millennials, people who may take charge, the Peter Pan syndrome, words that start with Q, ambitious garden projects, the extra calories needed to lose weight, that which matters, titles with five vowels, British actors, unforgiveable, colorful names, faddishness, Sarah Winnemucca, the San Francisco Bay, long-standing icons, people born with the name Elizabeth, nearby rivals, dance moves, popular birds, young shoots, excellence at reproducing, the last guy in a human centipede, the never-ending British invasion, convenient disappearances, and Shakespeare.

Speaking of Shakespeare, I saw the Davis Shakespeare Ensemble’s Cyrano de Bergerac Friday night, and highly recommend it. The play addresses the importance of literature, poetry, and self-expression during a time of conflict. The play runs in repertory (much the same cast) with the musical comedy Bells are Ringing.

I hope you can join us tonight after a Monday night off. We will celebrate some time away from TV news, from which I’m sure we will all benefit.


Your Quizmaster






Here are some unexpected questions for you to reflect upon until 7:


  1. Sandwiched between two dynamic statesmen, Warren G. Harding and Herbert Hoover, our 30th President of the United States was formerly a Republican Lawyer born on the 4th of July, 1872. Who was he?


  1. What is the highest grossing Will Smith film of all time?


  1. Philip Glass has composed music for “This American Life,” a radio show hosted by whom?


P.S. Poetry Night on July 21 will feature Melissa Goodrum.


Sacramento Trees

Sacramento Trees

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

After lunch on the day of our Pub Quiz, I’m still trying to figure out what to write about.

Saturday I presented a talk at the University of the Pacific Writers Conference, co-presenting with my friend the Davis novelist and professor Scott Evans. In addition to presenting with Scott, one of my favorite parts of the conference this year was the opportunity to have lunch with the novelist and professor Sandra Hunter, and Gabrielle Myers, a writer, teacher and chef with whom I have taken creative writing classes at UC Davis. I loved hearing about Sandra and Gabby’s writing projects, and participating in each of their workshops about writing.

Another conference presenter was KCRA on-air reporter Mike Luery, talking about his book Baseball Between Us. The next day, Mike was being roughed up by reporters at the state capitol building, where American Nazis and sometimes masked counter-demonstrators were battling, with handheld and thrown weapons, near the front steps of Sacramento’s grandest building. Footage showed people pushing mike around and down as he was trying to conduct interviews and report the conflicts. The protester who stole his iPhone later returned it.

I was considering writing as essay about the extent to which the Trump for President campaign was fomenting and excusing this sort of political violence in Sacramento, but I much prefer the positive way that my wife Kate represented my former home: “Seeing so many disturbing images coming out of Sacramento yesterday, I know that those photos and videos do not represent the beautiful city in which Andy and I lived when I moved to California 25 years ago. Affectionately called Sactown, or more often just plain Sac, Sacramento is one of the most integrated communities in the U.S., with its diverse cultures blending together smoothly into a beautiful cultural mosaic. Sac is known for its festivals and its rivers and of course its gorgeous urban forest.”

All of this happened yesterday as I was hiking with my sons through the wilds of Fairfax, California, starting early before the heat got too bad. You know who else takes early hikes from Deer Park up to Five Corners on a Sunday morning? Bird by Bird author Anne Lamott, whom I last saw give a talk in Berkeley in 1990. Best known for her novels and her writing about the writing process, she is also eloquent on religious topics, such as when she says, ““You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” As you would expect, Lamott kindly greeted my boys and me, and then the four of us, separately, returned to beholding the equally kind canopy of relief created by the trees (and the nuts) around us.

Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions about the following topics: The Bonfire of the Vanities, a kind of fighting, Super conflicts, the U.S. Supreme Court, ancient templates, Canada, Google’s plans for all of us, preparing a face to meet the faces that you meet, people who change their minds, Milton Berle, Ireland, American chivalry, living life, hat tricks, astronomical units, people named Morgan, Star Wars, the likeness of leaves, endangered species, a wife’s favorite lager, basketball, American painters, Jamaica, not quite outshooting Jordan, dudes named Kevin, southern greats, busy streets, Nigeria, countries named after cities, loudness, rebuilding lives, Pakistan, the easiness of being green, working class heroes, and Shakespeare.

I hope you can join us tonight. The air conditioning will be powerful.


Your Quizmaster






Here are some questions from a June Pub Quiz:


  1. Film.   Alexander Gould voiced the title character in the highest-grossing animated film, and second highest grossing film, of 2003. Name the film.  


  1. Countries of the World.  Located in the Horn of Africa, what country shares a border with Eritrea to the north and northeast, Djibouti and Somalia to the east, Sudan and South Sudan to the west, and Kenya to the south?


  1. Books and Authors.   What are the five letters in the last name of the author of Tuesdays with Morrie?


  1. Shakespeare.   Created early in the 17th century, what is the name of the Shakespeare character who accompanies her husband when he is deployed to Cyprus in the service of the Republic of Venice?


P.S. Instead of the Pub Quiz, I will be reading a poem to thousands at Community Park next Monday, the 4th of July. Perhaps I will see you there? More likely, you might see me.



Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

When you don’t have a dad anymore, you turn to your children on Father’s Day, welcoming time with them, their sweet cards, presents, and attention, as recompense for the heartfelt loss, the inability to make the longed-for phone-call. This year for the Hallmark holiday Kate and the kids took me on a spontaneous adventure, just as I prefer, to a new destination. In Chico for the first time, we hiked the Yahi Trail in huge Bidwell Park. The creek and the later wine were cold, the pizza was delicious, and we made it through the day with nary a nosebleed or a complaint. It’s rare to have a day when everything goes just right, a day free of even little disasters. I hope you also enjoyed such a day this past weekend.

On Saturday I got to see last week’s Pub Quiz newsletter reappear, transformed, in the Sacramento Bee, accompanied by an Orlando remembrance and vigil picture taken by Kate. As you may know, I occasionally send the Bee, and more often, The Enterprise, my short essays and reflections. I have found that at the Bee, the opinion editors most appreciate essays that offer reflections on my family and my life as a dad, as was the case last week when I attempted answers to my son’s questions about the massacre of innocents in Orlando. When I send the Bee fascinating and cogent opinion pieces on political characters or departed musical heroes, the editors thank me, but pass. They have access to actual authorities on those topics to whom they can turn for such analysis.

Speaking of turns and transitions, although I was trained as a reader of poetry, this summer I am turning to prose as I finish preparations for a class that I will teach for the UC Davis English Department on The Short Story. I last taught the class in 2009, introducing the Twitter Method as a means to encourage discussion outside of class. Reviewing and then reviving an old syllabus, I realize how much both teaching and I have changed in the ensuing seven years since I last taught this class, as is the case with anyone over seven years.

Although I will be making some additions, many of the assigned stories will remain the same. Having studied certain favorites so many times with my students, I recognize their features and qualities, and remember well who I was the last time I spent time turning their pages, re-entering those settings, and examining their conflicted characters. Like cousins I last saw at our last big family reunion (grandma’s 90th birthday!) in 1990, these stories welcome me and I them. I remain comfortable in their company, and stand before this gathering of real and fictional people ready to tell my own stories about what we have gained and whom we have lost in the ensuing decades.

Tonight expect questions on fathers in recognition of Father’s Day. Expect also questions on temperance, Stanford University projects, The Talking Heads, professional boxing, law school assignments, peppers, mercy, what’s in vogue, books about time, Barbara Walters, organic chemistry, announced pregnancies, Asian cities, the safety of Molly, prodigious novelists, running mates (so to speak), architecture, ancient Greek heroes, sent headways, trans-continental authors, boys who are named after their fathers, big cities with unoriginal names, optimism, Connecticuters, field metabolism, sweat, factories, esters, immediate British crunching, familiar composers, commodores, and Shakespeare.

Tonight’s anagram contains a word that one almost never pluralizes: HEADWAYS. Are you curious to know the rest? You and your team will have to join us tonight to find out the second short word, and perhaps even the answer, found in tonight’s anagram. See you at 7!

Your Quizmaster






To mix things up, here are five questions from a pub quiz that I hosted a couple years ago:


  1. Mottos and Slogans.   What motto on the crest of what famous boarding school is “Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus” which of course translates as “Never tickle a sleeping dragon”? I wasn’t even going to translate the Latin, but someone suggested that the first question of the Pub Quiz shouldn’t require conjugating.


  1. Actors and Actresses. What English-born Australian actor’s second, third, and fourth highest-grossing films were Clash of the Titans, Terminator Salvation, and Wrath of the Titans, which he later apologized for making? Somehow I missed all three of these movies.


  1. Pop Culture – Music. What 33 year-old American singer-songwriter and actor has a hit this week with the song “Not a Bad Thing”? Some critics disagree.


  1. Sports.   According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, basketball and WHAT cause the most sports-related eye injuries? Hint: Boxing and MMA matches only endanger two people at a time.


  1. Science: Flora.   Oak woodlands, pine woodlands, and, in California, walnut woodlands can all be described with what six-syllable adjective that begins with the letter M?   I learned the answer to this question from Elaine Fingerett in the Davis Arboretum.


P.S. I hope you will click on the link to my Sacramento Bee story, for today the newspaper business is all about the clicks. Thanks!

Candles at the vigil


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Yesterday I read a version of this new poem at a Vigil for the Shooting Victims in Orlando.


Fourteen Times


Do you remember when iconic men fell from our sight?

Lone gunmen snuffed out our hopes,

Silenced our heroes,

Darkened our days, extended our nights.

We all felt those gunshots,

Heard their echoes

Resound in our public squares,

In our Mississippi driveways,

In our Manhattan ballrooms,

And in our marble city halls,

Now monuments to those we have lost.


The gunshot echoes becoming the soundtrack of an era of loss.


The decades pass, and the loss,

No longer merely symbolic, has now been socialized.

It has spread to elementary schools,

High schools, and universities.

It has spread to movie theaters,

To churches, to offices, to nightclubs.

The gunshot echoes have become staccato:

A desolate tune.


Fourteen times our consoler in chief,

his face pained, his hair ashen,

has addressed the nation.

Fourteen times.


The child asks if anyone important has died,

And the mother explains that everyone is important,

Even if none of them this time is famous.

We are made important by our bravery;

We are made important by our willingness to stand up

And to stand out;

We are made important by the joy we give

And the joy we receive;

We are made important by our solidarity,

By our resolve, and our community.


Unwilling to forget those whom we do not know, but whom we love,

Today we open our arms and take heed of our hearts,

Stretched and enlarged by mournful, practiced sympathy.


I would love not to have to write any more such poems as Poet Laureate of Davis.


Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions on almost none of the topics raised above. Instead, expect questions on angry birds and odd birds, weddings, mirrors, the U.N., superheroes, successful mixes, tablets, fish, Macklemore, Nigel Smith, Canadians who worked in America, Steinbeck, delicacies that were finally exported to Europe in the 1930s, Clinton vs. Trump, mutual claims, Ireland, rockets, HBCUs, composers, Hawaii, schemes that go awry on stage, Dracula, definitely The Beatles, across the pond, modern conservatism, people with unique names, coloring, German luxuries, poll numbers, sardonic masks, democracy, and Shakespeare.

I hope you can join us this evening. We need to reaffirm our spirit of community and laughter at a time like this.


Your Quizmaster






Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Mottos and Slogans.  Who used the commercial slogan “So easy a caveman could do it”?


  1. Internet Culture. The second most-popular website in the world is the third most-popular website in the U.S., after Facebook. What is the second most-popular website in the world?


  1. Newspaper Headlines.   Today Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency because of oncoming tropical storm Colin. Of what state is Scott governor?


P.S. This coming Thursday night is Poetry Night, and we are featuring multi-award-winning science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson. He’s one of the biggest names in town, and this coming Thursday night at 8 at the Natsoulas Gallery, you can find out why.


Crazy Hats Day

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

My wife read a touching essay at the Sacramento Poetry Center Saturday afternoon. Because I appreciate the opportunity to call upon her for assistance in all things, I will quote it here, in its entirety:


“Some mornings when I drop off Truman at school, I feel a wistful tug at my mommy heartstrings, sensing the sweetness and the poignancy of each fleeting moment in time and an awareness that such moments soon blend into days and into years gone by.

We grown-ups can forget how hard life is for kids, how big the world seems, and how lost on the playground kids can feel.

Sometimes Truman gives me a hurried look just before turning away, and it really gets me: I know he’s preparing to face the trials of his day. I hope that he will recall the pep talk I gave him on the ride over and remember that he’s strong and brave. Sometimes I’m thinking about the bad dream that woke him (and then me) in the middle of the night and our ensuing snuggle; I hope that sense of Mommy comfort resides somewhere deep within him when he needs it most.

This morning, I watched him check for rain and then earnestly adjust the three hats he wore for Crazy Hat Day. He slung his Star Wars backpack over his shoulder, and as he headed for class, I noticed that his pants seemed barely to reach his ankles. Suddenly, his legs seem way too long for his frame. When did he become so lanky?

I know all too well what monumental developmental changes lie ahead for my sweet boy. And I’m bracing myself for the metamorphosis of adolescence. We can’t stop time, but I feel it slowing down a bit when I tune in and pay attention, savoring a hug and a sweet glance over his shoulder on a Friday morning just before my boy disappears into a sea of crazy hats.”

Truman and his big sister Geneva also read some poems and stories before the patient audience on Saturday to a crowd of almost 20. I sold a bunch of books, and thus have made almost enough to fund the first year of the Charles Ternes Prize, the creativity prize that I am establishing for veteran students at UC Davis. If you would like to contribute, the easiest way would be to purchase a copy of my book, In the Almond Orchard: Coming Home from War. I will have copies available at the Pub tonight. Copies can also be purchased at The Avid Reader (in Davis or Sacramento), and online.


Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions on unions, World War II, togetherness, fish, animal trainers, Massachusetts, first-born children, famous pairs, classical music, Ellen DeGeneres, graduation ceremonies, cities whose names start with the letter D, the meaning of chrome, Louisiana, favorite fruits, neighborhood singers, women in the title, roots and tubers, Peruvian exports, river confluences, institutionalized thievery, Greenery, famous families of people who died too early, 124, proud parents of presidents, luck of the year, the joys of singing about exercise, people from New Hampshire, the trees of Europe, groups of people who I would like to meet, and Shakespeare.


Your Quizmaster






Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

  1. Internet Culture. True or False: Computer Engineering is the highest-paying college major.
  1. Newspaper Headlines.   According to National Public Radio, how many schoolchildren are there in Texas? Is it 50,000, 500,000, five million, or 50 million?
  1. The 2016 Election. In February of this year, the journal and website Politico listed seven battleground states. Which comes first when these states are listed alphabetically? Hint: Virginia comes last. Another hint: If Trump gives up on the west, could Arizona be added to this list?


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

My numerous jobs allow me to meet many varieties of Davisites. I teach from three to six classes a year, and all those classes overflow with curious, insightful, and highly intelligent students. When I first started teaching and 1990, most of my students were Californian, even Northern Californian.  Today, I encounter students in my classes from around the country, and around the world. I consider myself lucky that UC Davis attracts the best of the best, and that I get to talk with such students about writing, critical thinking, and literature.

I have met many more students as a radio personality at KDVS over the last 16 years, and students have served on committees with me, as my interns and assistance, and as student employees at Academic Technology Services, where I have an administrative position.  Students also flock to the poetry readings that I host, such as the reading this coming Thursday with Linda Lancione and Laurie Glover. As Davis poet laureate, I have had a chance to mentor many young poets, eager aspirants exploring new avenues of creativity and expression.

While I enjoy all these opportunities, one of my favorite places to encounter new students and make new friends is our own de Vere’s Irish Pub as your Quizmaster. Nowhere else do I get to meet students of veterinary medicine, announcers for the Metropolitan Opera, pharmacists of all stripes, and grown men who have become famous because of their work with pudding (and of course I don’t mean the disgraced Bill Cosby).

One frequent participant in our Pub Quiz is Lauren Jabusch. At UC Davis, Lauren has participated for more than eight years, and the last two years as chair, in the California Student Sustainability Coalition, a network of student organizations that promote sustainability. In that capacity, Lauren launched the Students for Energy Justice campaign and the Solidarity Organizing Program. Any organization that works for justice or solidarity is one I can support. Lauren has also been working with other UC’s on neutralizing carbon. Is she a superhero?

Well, UC President Janet Napolitano seems to think so, for at a recent meeting of the UC Regents Napolitano presented Lauren with a UC President’s Award for Outstanding Student Leadership. Three such students from across the UCs were thus honored, and two of them, not surprisingly, come from UC Davis! The other is Mariah Watson, the first female African American president of the UC Davis student body (in 2015-16). Congratulations to Mariah and Lauren for this important recognition.

Lauren will be joining us again tonight at the Pub Quiz. In Hollywood as in Davis, as I get older I notice that the celebrities keep getting younger and younger. I hope that you will also be joining us this evening at 7.

Here are the hints. Expect questions about five famous people who have or had unusual occupations. You will also get to answer questions about Italian princes, the Pips, big Birds, Denmark, planks, cartoonists, things that are a matter, feuds, space travel, the meaning of axes, what works in Ireland, skirmishes in “onesies,” rich rainbows, Cecils, Rick Perry (remember him?), broiled hens, Chinese abs, find your friend, ironic comedians, two-syllable contradictions, Great Mexicans, El Nino, baseball greats, richest among peers, lists where Virginia comes last, the example of Controversy, schoolchildren, beaches, good-paying jobs, and Shakespeare.

Your Quizmaster






Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Mottos and Slogans.    What airline used the commercial slogan “Something Special in the Air”?


  1. Internet Culture. What became the most popular Internet browser in the world in April of this year, overtaking Internet Explorer?


  1. Newspaper Headlines.   Today a Mexican judge said that the extradition of what drug lord to the U.S. can proceed?



P.S. Thursday night is Poetry Night in Davis! I’m looking forward to welcoming Linda Lancione and Laurie Glover.


Linda Lancione grew up in the Bay Area and was educated at the University of California, Berkeley. She began writing poetry in the early 1970s under the sway of feminist poets such as Sharon Olds, Adrienne Rich, Susan Griffin and Alta. Her poems have been published widely in literary journals and anthologies, such as Baltimore Review, Cimarron Review, Connecticut Review, Crazyhorse, Harpur Palate, The MacGuffin, Notre Dame Review, Poet Lore, and Spillway. Her poetry chapbooks include Wanting the Moon, This Short Season, and 2% Organic, Poems from a West Marin Dairy Barn. Finishing Line Press will publish her next chapbook, The Taste of Blood, in June, 2016.


Laurie Glover’s writing seems always to do with place, whether that place is her childhood mountains, the San Gabriels, northern California rivers, Greek islands, or Tasmania. Her poems have appeared in California Quarterly, Women’s Studies, Terrain, and Nimrod International Journal. Glover is also a poet of collaboration, completing poem cycles with Latina poet Maria Melendez (Seven Fords, Four Cattleguards) and Israeli-American Yosefa Raz (The Dome of the Sky Held the Waters in Check). She has been a resident at Dorland Mountain Arts Colony and was a member of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers in 2015; one of her poems will appear in their anthology, Written Here, in 2016. Her current work arises from the summers she spends working on backcountry trails at a retreat center in Sonoma County. The most recent is about freeing strangled trees from obsolete barbed wire.


We meet Thursday night at 8 at the John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 1st Street in Davis. Find out more about this event by visiting http://poetryindavis.com/archive/2016/05/poets-laurie-glover-and-linda-lancione-perform-at-the-john-natsoulas-gallery-may-19th-at-8pm/.


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 Breitbart.com and RealClearPolitics.com 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!