Letter Writing

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

I’m rereading one of my favorite creative writing handbooks, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. When I first moved to California in 1989, I used to listen to Lamott’s appearances on the KQED radio show West Coast Live with Sedge Thompson. Lamott was quirky and self-deprecating, but also wittily hilarious. Not long thereafter I saw her read from her fiction at Black Oak Books on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, and was thrilled when Bird by Bird was published in 1994.

1994 was also the year the internet as we know it was born with the advent of the World Wide Web. As Business Insider put it, in 1994 “There were no smartphones, no iPads, no flat-screen TVs … and, imagine this, no Google, no Netflix, no Dropbox.” One wonders how we managed. During those years I myself remember spending lots of time at the library, and continuing to build my own library. In our Sacramento apartment that year twelve bookshelves of various sizes displayed our prized possessions, our books, and I would revel in showing off my collections to visitors and friends.

Back then, we also wrote lots of letters. In Bird by Bird Lamott suggests breaking large writing tasks into tiny assignments, such as describing only what can be seen from the most focused perspective. She uses the metaphor of the one-inch picture frame. This approach lessens the anxiety writers feel about the possibility of completing huge projects, such as writing a novel.

Lamott also suggests writing letters, such as starting a long San Francisco Giants remembrance essay an editor assigned her by writing a letter about the topic to her son Sam. When we lessen the scope of a writing task with a tiny picture frame, or write to a beloved person rather than to an exacting magazine editor, we end up easing into a project that might otherwise have seemed daunting to start.

I get to write a letter to you fine people every Monday, but I think my training for this part of my job came from my own experiences as a letter-writer. When Kate and I met and lived together in London in 1987, calls home cost about a pound a minute from the public phone at the corner of England’s Lane and Primrose Gardens. And because of the stock market crash that year, those pounds became all the more expensive during our stay.

So instead of using the phone, we wrote letters home to our friends and family back home, and even to friends in London itself. Mail was delivered to our door twice a day, if you can believe that, and in each post we received actual hand-written letters from people whom we loved. Back in the states the next year, I sent Kate a constant stream of letters filled with my nascent literary, philosophical, and political thoughts, each one of them helping me to establish who I was as a college thinker, and then as a college graduate, and then as a new graduate student, hungry for knowledge and new experiences, such as teaching college classes and seeing plays at the B Street Theatre, which had been founded just a few years before we moved to Sacramento.

Emily Dickinson once said, “A letter always seemed to me like immortality because it is the mind alone without corporeal friend.” Not only did the letter writing that I engaged in give me a moment to share and reflect on favorite poets, such as Dickinson, but the habit also made reunions with my “corporeal friends” feel all the more heartfelt because of the ways we had sampled each other’s immortal minds. Emails and then Facebook posts and now, for many, tweets have supplanted epistolary communication; many of us approach the post office these days only to send a holiday package, as my Kate did this morning. We have gained so much with our instant access to one another, but with the death of letter-writing, we may have lost just as much.

 

Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions about some of the topics raised above, as well as Fidel Castro (have you heard?), precipitous falls, the Supreme Court, wetlands, super bowls, letters that conclude with “yours truly,” tops in their fields, Moana, Eudora Welty, video games, habitual smokers, appreciated shields, wow factors, third wives, San Francisco, aliens, the wings of butterflies, distinctive colors, Singers on TV, restraints, countries that are not Lichtenstein, inadvisable phone calls, clenching up, famous archers, genetic modification, 84 year gaps, hit movies, superheroes, outcasts, success stories, tactical bags, Switzerland, Carrie, prime numbers, hot dogs, benevolent despots, Castro, and Shakespeare.

I’m assuming that you have eaten most of your leftovers by now, so tonight would be a good night for you to come by de Vere’s Irish Pub in Davis in order for someone else to do the cooking for a change. See you at 7!

Your Quizmaster

http://www.yourquizmaster.com

http://www.twitter.com/yourquizmaster

http://www.facebook.com/yourquizmaster

yourquizmaster@gmail.com

 

Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

 

  1. Internet Culture. Starting with the letter S, what company with Elon Musk as its CEO has recently made another step toward delivering superfast Internet from space?

 

  1. Newspaper Headlines.   Who recently ended his three-song Sacramento performance with a rambling 17-minute monologue in which he criticized Hillary Clinton and Beyoncé?

 

  1. The History of Davis. In 1867, when the population of Davisville was only about 500, there were already nine instances of a specific kind of business, outnumbering every other type of public establishment in town, including churches and restaurants. What is this type of business that starts with the letter S?

 

P.S. Occasional past Pub Quiz participant Joshua Clover will be featuring at the Natsoulas Gallery this coming Thursday night at 8. Google him to see what a big deal he is.

 

P.P.S. You might have seen a shorter version of last week’s newsletter in Thursday’s Sacramento Bee. For me, that’s one of the benefits of these weekly letters I write you!

An Elephant in Africa

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

 

On this misty Monday morning, I just looked out the window and saw an elderly woman walking slowly across the park behind our house, using her cane for stability. About five yards behind her came her dog, dutiful and leashless; just now, the two of them turned onto the greenbelt to walk through the nearby woods. We have often encountered this kind woman when walking our own dog, or when strolling over to Safeway to buy some sunflower seeds. She always greets us with a smile, and with curious questions about our bulldog.

 

I much prefer this woman’s dog – quiet, loved and exercised – to our next-door neighbor’s dog. We get to hear that dog barking about its anguished isolation between 6 and 6:30 almost every morning. We have talked with the neighbor about our family’s strong preference for pre-dawn sleep, but to no avail. Now my 6:15 knocks on my neighbor’s door go unanswered. Let’s just say that we much prefer the first dog-lover, out on a silent stroll, to the second.

 

But during this week of Thanksgiving, perhaps I should be considering how I might express more wide-ranging gratitude, even for our unwelcome canine alarm clock. Sometimes the neighbor’s dog rouses me out of bed well before the sun, allowing me to get some writing done before I rouse my son Jukie and ready him for the school bus. Many people purposefully start their days with moments of solitary reflection, writing, or meditation. Thanks to our neighbor’s dog, such is the case for me. If I get some more solitary writing done before my family gets out of bed, then perhaps I should likewise be grateful to the neighbor who lets her dog out to bark at 6 AM, and then goes back to sleep.

 

Indeed, sometimes a disaster turns out to be a benefit. I remember reading somewhere that our evolution as a species was hastened by elephants knocking down the trees where our ancestors had been brachiating happily. Imagine the disruption! Whereas the anthropologist Stephen Jay Gould said that “Evolution is a process of constant branching and expansion,” the elephant theory holds that we couldn’t “expand” until we came down from our branches.  This theory was referenced in my poem, “Cell Story,” part of which I excerpt here:

 

All the best predators

Had their fun before we got here, takings risks

And eating creatures with long memories

 

Who seemed eager to avenge the pain

Upon us, screaming brachiators,

Until the elephants knocked down our trees.

 

We stumbled blinking upon the savannah,

Many of us to be quickly eaten so that

A few, you know the ones, could

 

Express an analogous hunger, an urge

To imagine, to create, to make,

As they say, something out of our lives.

 

The elephants were an obvious disaster to the early hominids, except that our ancestors had to evolve more quickly to survive, growing our human brains so that we could outsmart predators, use tools, and communicate more effectively. Thinking long-term, we bipedal hominids should have been grateful to the elephants.

 

During the Thanksgiving holiday, many of us will be forced to address that other elephant in the room. We can expect that talk around the dinner table will turn to President-Elect Donald Trump, the self-congratulator in chief who, we have learned, plans to pack his White House with climate deniers and white supremacists, thus threatening the forward progress of our nation.

 

This past weekend Sacramento comedian Robert Berry tweeted this: “BREAKING NEWS: Donald Trump just appointed a new Secretary of Agriculture…locusts!” We joke, but the talk of Sarah Palin in any cabinet position might also have once seemed like a punch line. Now, many Americans silently worry, realizing that Steve Bannon’s plan for our country is all the more dangerous because of the vengeful and protean aimlessness of his Republican leader.

 

How might we respond to this seeming disaster? Will the nation somehow eventually benefit if it survives what many anticipate will be the coming bottomless basket of calamities? Australian author Helen Razer has said that “Perhaps it is only when America sees itself in all its cartoonish ugliness that it can begin to reform itself.” Confronting a force more destructive than a herd of elephants, some believe that Trump is just the “shock” that our democracy needs so that it, too, can evolve more quickly. I’m skeptical, but would like to hold out hope. As we gather with our families, our love for them unchanged, and perhaps even deepened, many are redefining gratitude with a shudder as we consider what has become of our nation.

 

Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions about some of the topics raised above, as well as concert tours, sprites, badminton, national aspirations gone awry, inebriation, Colombia, underwater adventures, the end of candy, human similarities with other creatures, tiny fruits, famous Americans with Irish heritage, dresses, comic books, droplets, the metric system, associations with fronts, words with three o’s in them, counting tonsils, comedic pairings, the question of staying, a proper profile, space travel, wearable magic, American authors, time periods, champions, powerful women, rain, alternatives to “old,” Davis businesses, history lessons, pickles, internet schemes, and Shakespeare.

 

I hope you and your team can join us this evening. I love giving out prizes.

 

Your Quizmaster

http://www.yourquizmaster.com

http://www.twitter.com/yourquizmaster

http://www.facebook.com/yourquizmaster

yourquizmaster@gmail.com

 

Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

 

  1. Mottos and Slogans.    What General Mills product has used the slogan “I vant to eat your cereal!”?

 

  1. Internet Culture. The acronym DNS refers to the hierarchical decentralized naming system for computers, services, or any resource connected to the Internet or a private network. What does the D in DNS stand for?

 

  1. Newspaper Headlines.   A top-notch news anchor has passed away today at the age of 61, one of the most prominent African-American women in the news. Name this host of the PBS News Hour whose last name starts with an I.

 

 

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving! Our next Poetry Night will feature Joshua Clover (Google him) on December 1st.

 

world-war-ii-merchant-mariners

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Minor mistakes can be addressed. One can write a note of apology, or send flowers. One can stay up through the night revising a draft. One can work harder at a job, or on a relationship. When a mistake is acknowledged, an important lesson can be learned. Without “mistakes,” you would learn almost nothing from the Pub Quiz.

On this past Friday, I got to witness a mistake and an immediate remedy. As Davis poet laureate, I was honored to read a few original poems at the Davis Veterans Day ceremony, speaking after Mayor Robb Davis, and before the keynote speaker, Ryan Edwards, an army veteran of the war in Afghanistan.

After the prepared remarks, the Davis Madrigal Singers performed, presenting harmonies that rival those of the Beach Boys. They sang “America the Beautiful” and the “Armed Forces Medley” that includes the recognizable tunes for each of the U.S. Armed Forces. As the name of each branch of the armed forces was called out, active and retired members of that service stood and were recognized.

As the singers finished their songs, a woman in the second row rose to be heard. She pointed out that the Merchant Marines had not been recognized with their song, for her husband sitting next to her had served in the Merchant Marines during World War II. She declared that his service should also be recognized.

Indeed, our entire country has been slow in recognizing the service of the Merchant Marines. While their service and casualties were often concealed for strategic reasons, today historians recognize their significant sacrifice. During World War II, one in 24 Merchant Mariners died at sea, suffering the highest mortality rate of any service in the U.S. armed forces.

The host thanked this particular Mariner for his service, and thanked his wife for pointing out the omission. The morning’s ceremonies concluded with a benediction, after which we all paused in reflection. Then, unexpectedly, the Davis Madrigals formed a semicircle around the old Mariner, prompting him to get up from his seat, standing tall in his uniform, despite his advanced years.

It turns out that the singers did know the song of the Merchant Marines, and they performed it for him right then. The World War II veteran sang along quietly, while his wife wiped a tear from her eye. We all cheered as the singers finished with these words:

Damn the submarines,

We are the men of the Merchant Marines!

Then strangers stepped forward to hug the wife and her Mariner, many of them no doubt remembering parents and grandparents of that generation. We realized that we had just been treated to the most poignant moment of the ceremony.

Some mistakes can be remedied, while others are so large that no solution but time can be imagined, and sometimes perhaps not even time can right the wrong. As the ancient Greek poet Agathon said about our grandest blunders, “Even the gods cannot change the past.”

 

Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions on none of the topics raised above, focusing instead on the color yellow, X-men, breakfast cereals, a 2015 article in AdWeek, translated books, mining engineering, mother bears, geometry, Italian given names, weak perimeters, departed comedians, light coming in through the crack, Googling favorite authors, marine life, funding research, Latin culture, the City of Davis, princesses, Elm trees, European superpowers, floral choices, helpful oxidation, canaries in French and American history, Christina Aguilera, the media, famous poets, ocean-roamers, international capitals, a mix of electricity and comedy, Italian names, morning pleasures, square inches, elemental cores, The Sacramento Kings, dyes, the red carpet, and Shakespeare. The pub quiz will have no questions about earthquakes in New Zealand, or hate crimes in Davis.

Poetry Night is this Thursday, and the event will feature authors who together have written 30 books of poetry: DR Wagner and Alice Anderson. Join us at 8 PM at the Natsoulas Gallery, and check out http://www.poetryindavis.com for details.

See you tonight.

 

Your Quizmaster

http://www.yourquizmaster.com

http://www.twitter.com/yourquizmaster

http://www.facebook.com/yourquizmaster

yourquizmaster@gmail.com

 

Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

 

  1. Mottos and Slogans.  What company once used the slogan “What Can Brown Do for You?”

 

  1. Newspaper Headlines.  A recent Cubs World Series parade and rally ranks as the 7th largest gathering in human history, with five million people cheering on their home team after a 108-year drought in victories. A pilgrimage in what country drew the largest crowd ever, at 30 million?

 

  1.  Sports Stadiums. The future home of the Los Angeles Rams, City of Champions Stadium, now under construction, is found in what city whose name starts with I?   

 

Unpopularity

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Elections often seem like popularity contests. This year, our presidential election seems like an unpopularity contest, with many Americans voting against a candidate, rather than for one.

In the last days of campaigning, and especially in the hours since FBI Director James Comey announced that Hillary Clinton will not be indicted because of newly-discovered emails on Anthony Weiner’s computer, the tone of the two campaigns has diverged. Donald Trump continues to make aggrieved and vengeful statements, arguing, for example, that “now it is up to the American people to deliver justice at the ballot box.” This rhetoric is familiar and perhaps troubling, for “delivering justice” is how the Obama administration speaks of the Abbottabad confrontation with Osama bin Laden.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has stopped talking about the FBI and emails, and has returned to the rhetoric of unity and optimism that she has tried out in different speeches and in the three debates, or so I have learned from many of the people I follow on social media. On Twitter and Facebook, Clinton partisan and UC Davis professor Pam Houston has been curating some thoughtful commentary that has alternated between exuberance and outrage. Houston brought to my attention a stirring “closing argument” campaign video (titled “The Story of Us”) that will help to convince some Clinton supporters that they should vote for their candidate, and not just because they oppose the other guy. I’m sure that Donald Trump has a similar video, filled with bleak assessments of our country, and an assertion that “[he] alone can fix it.”

The former U.S. Senator from Illinois, Carol Moseley Braun, once said in an interview that “The really important victory of the civil rights movement was that it made racism unpopular, whereas a generation ago at the turn of the last century, you had to embrace racism to get elected to anything.” We will see what becomes less popular as a result of this election (xenophobia? Racism redux?), and what becomes more unifying, if anything. If, according to NBC, “62% of Voters Say Election Has Made Them Feel Less Proud of America,” then obviously we voters need something to rally around. We need something to trust, in which we can invest our hope, something that can persevere. With the help of American democracy and perhaps some inspiring rhetoric from someone with a name other than Obama, perhaps we can start to imagine what that unifying force will be on November 9th, and then again on January 20th, 2017.

Speaking of November 9th, I will be appearing on the Capital Public Radio show Insight Wednesday morning to discuss social media and the presidential election of 2016. Tune in if you want to hear me approximate my own insights about a couple of these enthusiasms.

In addition to issues raised above, tonight expect questions about pilgrimages, Kiss, the place where champions play, state governors of yesteryear, Bob Marley, ladies seminaries, cannon balls, proteins, that which bores, Linda Ronstadt, cherished desires, sea ports, vegetables, Barry White, natural sodas, Pulitzer Prizes, readables at weddings, totems of freedom, large painters, civil engineering, music in Reykjavik, plays with the word “THE” in them, Canada favorites, first ladies, niacin and other nutrients, beasts, a palpable hit, Olympic champions, Northern Ireland, the problems with ego, essential playmates, lighthouse boards, the jump from radio to television, and Shakespeare.

Thanks to the Pub Quiz regulars who came to Poetry Night last Thursday. Our next event takes place on November 17th, and will feature DR Wagner and Alice Anderson. See you tonight!

 

Your Quizmaster

http://www.yourquizmaster.com

http://www.twitter.com/yourquizmaster

http://www.facebook.com/yourquizmaster

yourquizmaster@gmail.com

 

Here are four questions from last week’s quiz:

 

  1. Mottos and Slogans.  With four letters in its name, what snack store uses the slogan “Too Much Good Stuff”?
  1. Newspaper Headlines.   This week Twitter announced that it is killing off an online video platform that it owns. Name the platform. Hint: Twitter does not own YouTube.
  1. Nancy SEALS. The United States Navy’s SEAL teams, commonly known as the Navy SEALs, are the U.S. Navy’s primary special operations force and a component of the Naval Special Warfare Command. SEAL in this case is an acronym for what three words?
  1. The Lincoln Highway. Formally dedicated on this date, October 31, in 1913, the Lincoln Highway ran coast-to-coast from Times Square in New York City west to Lincoln Park in what American city?

 

P.S. Vote.

 

anton-chekov-seated-on-st-001

“Forms of politics are processes, not ends.”

Roslyn Fuller

 

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

When you’ve lived through as many presidential elections as I have, you learn to expect one or multiple candidates claim that “this is the most important election in a generation” or even in our lifetimes. Usually we consider this to be true because of the Supreme Court, but this time, the stakes seem higher because we seem to be butting up against the end of an era.

As you may have heard, the Republican party is currently being led by a vengeful egomaniac who doesn’t share the recognized values and priorities of his purported political party. He insults many potential historical or potential GOP constituencies, including veterans, Latinos, the Club for Growth, Republican members of Congress, and women. Speculation swirls around what Trump’s millions of adherents might do after the election, including break further away from Republican party, perhaps following Trump to form a nativist Alt-Right party that will oppose and pillory Paul Ryan and other traditional Republicans. And with no stable and healthy Republican opposition, some think the Democrats might also splinter apart, likewise to be divided between centrists and what might affectionately be called the activists.

All of this conjecture assumes Hillary Clinton holding on after this past Friday’s FBI non-revelations about emails. CNN’s Jake Tapper said that the 2011 Anthony Weiner sexting scandal was like Chekhov’s gun, referring to the theatrical foreshadowing principle that anything introduced in the first act of a play, such as a loaded gun displayed above the mantelpiece, must be used by the end of the play. Now that the Weiner gun is going off, low information voters and the media are freaking out. Some political analysts have suggested that this wild and deplorable election season had grown staid and predictable in recent weeks, and that it needed an October surprise in the third act, a development that we have experienced just in time. MSNBC and Fox News advertisers are eager to ensure that the drama continues, and we keep tuning in.

Meanwhile, diverse endgames are being imagined by political partisans. Diehard Trump followers, some of them publicly espousing positions that might have been uncomfortable for them to speak out loud at this point last year, worry about a Clinton presidency that is beset by corruption, and, our borders overrun, worry that our newly unsafe America will be beset by the wrong kind of people. Some plan to take up their muskets.

For their part, Clinton partisans and poll-watchers have recently renewed their realistic concerns about a Trump victory next Tuesday. Aghast and fretful, they must now worry anew that Trump would lead the country into ballooning deficits, accelerating income inequality, diminished rights and freedoms for people of color and people of non-Christian faiths, escalating misogyny, and the enmity of our former international allies (among many other concerns). Although their political perspectives differ, a great variety of Americans with dystopian sensibilities are imagining how they might react to the “end” times that are predicted for our country, starting Wednesday the 9th.

Saturday night Kate and I saw a David Mamet play, Speed the Plow, that takes on some of these “ending” times from the perspective of LA film industry executives. As I listened to the weighty and well-acted dialogue of the second act, my mind wandered to the very first production of this 1988 play. I remember 1988 well, and can think now of the experiences that awaited me and all of us; 1988 was a time before the Wall came down, before Kate and I moved to California, before September 11th, before the death of my father, before the births of my children, before the advent of Obama. You have your own list of dramatic changes.

We can weather these changes individually, for we must, but how do we make sense of the impending ending that “begins” on Election Day? As Frank Kermode says in his groundbreaking literary study, A Sense of an Ending, “We project ourselves—a small, humble elect, perhaps—past the End, so as to see the structure whole, a thing we cannot do from our spot of time in the middle.” I appreciated the perspective of Speed the Plow (which features Dave Pierini and Kurt Johnson, and which closes next weekend at the B Street Theatre), but I know that, like you, I may be consulting more literary, philosophical, or religious texts to help me understand our own incipient sense of an ending.

Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions on one or more of the topics raised above, as well as ghost stories, horror novels, spooky costumes, candy, the color orange, snacks, sugar, caramel, milk chocolate, and other Halloween fare. Expect also questions on refreshed offerings, the Screen Actors Guild, sealed with an R, special warfare, Abraham Lincoln, hit albums from the 1980s, Pew Research Center surveys, thanes, hydrophobes, winter sanctuaries, swearing, dark halves, Saturday Night Live, Marty McFly, people named Bob, DC Comics, hypodermic needles, unbound scribes (anagram), 180 pound Americans, rap music, water-dwellers, cowardice, the Pacific Ocean, measures of liquid, baseball, football, and Shakespeare.

 

Your Quizmaster

http://www.yourquizmaster.com

http://www.twitter.com/yourquizmaster

http://www.facebook.com/yourquizmaster

yourquizmaster@gmail.com

 

Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

  1. Mottos and Slogans.    “Find your Beach” is a commercial slogan for the top-selling beer that is imported into the United States. Name the beer.
  1. Internet Culture. In the world of computing and networking, P2P stands for what?
  1. Newspaper Headlines.   This past weekend the first major daily newspaper endorsed Donald Trump. The newspaper’s website is reviewjournal.com, and its owner is Sheldon Adelson. Name the city for which the Review Journal is the primary daily paper.

 

P.S. Thursday is Poetry Night at the John Natsoulas Gallery. On November 3 at 8 PM, we will feature poetry and theatrical performances by Arturo Mantecón and Gilberto Rodriguez. You’ll be glad you came. Find details at the website for Poetry in Davis.

 

P.P.S. Happy birthday to Kate! You’d never be able to guess how old she will be on Friday.

 

lovely-vertical-artwork

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

I appreciate my mentors for a number of reasons, one of which is that the stories they tell can make previous decades come alive. Howard Zinn was born a decade before my father, and he outlived him by six years. They both told great stories about events that took place long before I was born, and thus enriched my life in ways that continue to sustain me.

Davey Marlin-Jones was a magician, actor, theatre director, film director, theatre critic, film critic, and drama professor, roughly in that order, but with significant overlap. Because of his famous memory and his background in drama, my dad told riveting stories about his experiences in the huge film auditoria of east-central Indiana, such as about the time he laughed so hard at a musical number by the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz (1939) that he chipped a tooth on the theatre seat in front of him.

Later his cinematic enthusiasms were available for review in book form in my childhood home on Tunlaw Road in Washington DC. I poured through richly illustrated books on Boris Karloff, Humphrey Bogart, and Buster Keaton. For my third-grade birthday party, my father rented a projector and a screen to share both reels of Citizen Kane. I sat next to him while we watched Young Frankenstein, and later, Star Wars, with my dad explaining the historical allusions or mythic context of the films during the drive or cab ride from the movie theatre or screening room to TV station WTOP (later renamed WDMV and then WUSA), the local CBS affiliate where my dad reviewed movies just before Walter Cronkite came on the air to tell us the way that it was.

While Gene Wilder and Harrison Ford were relatively young, emerging actors during those conversations, Bert Lahr, Karloff, Bogart, and Keaton were long dead. Through watching their films on television, and later when the family bought one of the first VCRs in DC, on originally pirated videotape, my dad and I were able to return to the decades of his childhood and young adulthood. I remember looking up to him not only for what he shared, but for what he loved, the cinematic and historical topics on which he could speak with such authority and enthusiasm.

Historian Howard Zinn did the same with history, using storytelling to return my Boston University classmates and me to the 1950s and 1960s. And as social proof for his experiences, he would bring icons who were important in previous decades to our classroom so we could hear their stories, and ask them questions. Ron Kovik told us about the stories relayed in his memoir Born on the Fourth of July. Julian Bond was a Georgia congressman who during the turbulent 1968 Democratic convention became the first African American to have his name entered into nomination as a major-party candidate for Vice President of the United States. He declined that opportunity, but did not decline the invitation from Professor Zinn to come speak before his students.

I bring up my dad and Howard Zinn in the context of California state legislator and anti-war activist Tom Hayden, whose death at 76 was reported this morning. I feel like I knew Hayden from hearing him interviewed on NPR so many times, and from his runs for office here in California in the 1990s. But I also knew the Hayden of the 1960s, when he was arrested as one of the “Chicago Seven” who allegedly conspired with others to incite a riot. Howard Zinn helped everyone in his history class understand that era, and Hayden’s ongoing ethical and political concerns. As I review this roiling mélange of memories and names this morning, I return to one troubling question. Did Howard Zinn bring Hayden to campus during that era, as he did Hayden’s alleged co-conspirator, Abbie Hoffman? Offhand, I don’t remember now. As we get older, we are defined not only by what we do and whom we love, but also who we have lost. Whether for fact-checking, or to relive the magic, too often I wish I could have just one more conversation with my beloved and departed mentors, to ask them once more to share their favorite stories.

Tonight’s pub quiz will feature questions about America. Expect also questions about beaches, networking, newspaper coups, big cities, keeping up with the Hemmingways, study visas, crucial decades, first ladies, the Indian military, groups of 23 academics, bookmakers, true vines, non-tropical coasts, Austin, populous countries, popular frights, nebulae, the place of California, dances, the price one pays for rentals, Bruce Springsteen, the pleasure of just watching, Twitter, Japanese lists, implausibility, interstates, mechanics, NCAA, and Shakespeare.

I hope you can join us tonight. We also meet next Monday, and you are encouraged to come in costume.

 

Your Quizmaster

http://www.yourquizmaster.com

http://www.twitter.com/yourquizmaster

http://www.facebook.com/yourquizmaster

yourquizmaster@gmail.com

 

Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

  1. Mottos and Slogans: Beer. The only beer that has been beechwood aged since 1876, what beer brand uses the slogan “beechwood aged for that clean crisp taste”?
  1. Internet Culture. Beginning in 2003, and with total sales topping $10 billion, what three-word video game series has released games that focused on World War II, the Cold War, and the near present?  
  1. Mascara. The four functions of mascara are to darken, thicken, lengthen, and/or BLANK the eyelashes. What D word fills in the blank?

 

trump-the-game

 

 

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Donald Trump doesn’t talk so much about walls anymore. Increasingly self-reverential, and ready to proclaim his opposition to anyone who has an opinion different from his (such as his running mate, at a recent debate), Trump talks about the campaign, the polls, and the election, and the adjective he uses most often is “rigged.”

The themes of a campaign can teach us much about its participants. When he was running against John McCain, Barack Obama was considered to be too junior, too fresh, and too untested to be given the presidency. Obama’s supporters pointed to the young Chicagoan’s actual campaign as evidence that he can take on huge and complex tasks, and excel in their execution. In effect, the success of his campaign helped to convince many that his campaign should succeed. Using such infinitely recursive reasoning, one might wonder what we are to learn about the campaign of Donald Trump, who has moved from walls to unsubstantiated paranoid spoutings and conspiracy theories.

As Jonathan Chait said in an essay in this morning’s New York Magazine, “If you do assume that Trump is acting rationally, then it is very hard to explain his campaign moves as steps in a considered plan to get elected president, and much easier to explain them as steps toward monetizing his audience through a media empire. This theory would explain why Trump handed control of his campaign to a media mogul (Steve Bannon), why he has needlessly attacked fellow members of his party, and why he has risked demoralizing his own voters by repeatedly calling the election rigged. These are logical decisions if his end goal is to wrest the intense loyalty of a large minority of the country away from other conservative organs and center it around a media brand he can control.”

All those rallies. All those debates. All that incessant TV coverage. All those schoolchildren tuning in to discover more about our political system, and civic discourse. Is Trump a genius if he has been playing us all, and especially that diehard 30% who support him no matter what outrageous thing he says? For the record, as of this morning, Trump indeed is polling at 30% in Utah, with Clinton at 28%, while he has 37% in Alaska, with Clinton right behind him at 36%. Trump’s lead in these states would make his campaign smile, if only these were not two of the most conservative states in the union. Something is amiss in Trumpville.

In the past, when Trump’s TV show didn’t win Emmys, Trump complained about the hosts, the judges, the ratings earned by telecast. Maybe he should have paid someone to take away his smartphone. The tone and content of these tweets anticipated his current complaints about how poorly he is doing, again, this time on the bigger stage of the polls, and our elections, America’s new national pastime. As ABC’s Rick Klein wrote today, “Trump is closing with allegations of massive conspiracy, suggesting a corporate/media/international cabal to boost the Clintons that would be unprecedented in scope. Even if there’s no evidence for any of it, Trump is now using words (and Tweets) that directly undermine faith in American democracy.” And if Trump plays his cards right, his millions of outraged and combustible supporters will have Trump TV as a new place to cheer, plot and complain. One imagines that Trump will also find on-air jobs for his campaign advisors, such as Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, and Vladimir Putin. Will you tune in?

 

Tonight’s pub quiz will feature questions about a number of these topics, including the Def Jam Music Group, Ty Cobb’s favorite play, Love and Paradise, the pastimes of ruminants, YouTube personalities, C10H15N, misplaced rage, Best Picture winners, epics, Princess Diana, the dates of events that did or did not happen, beer, cooler actors, global warming, UFOs, Scots words for girls, grains and rock and roll, Greeks, sword as an S-word, mystery numbers, health concerns, work forces, Jimmy Swaggart, eyelashes, favorite stars, predatory attitudes, the evolution of war, frogs, and Shakespeare.

Happy birthday to Astronaut and Physician Mae Jemison. I look forward to seeing you this evening.

 

Your Quizmaster

http://www.yourquizmaster.com

http://www.twitter.com/yourquizmaster

http://www.facebook.com/yourquizmaster

yourquizmaster@gmail.com

 

Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

 

  1. Pop Culture – Music. From these opening lyrics, tell me the name of the song. “Dearly beloved. We are gathered here today. To get through this thing called life. Electric word “life” It means forever and that’s a mighty long time.”

 

  1. Sports.   According to the Harris Poll, NFL football is the most popular sport of Americans. What is the second most-popular?

 

  1. Unusual Words. What P words means 1. vulnerable to; 2. Horizontal?

 

 

P.S. Poetry Night returns to the John Natsoulas Gallery. Join us Thursday night at 8 to hear a short story by Evan White, and a number of poems by American River College professor Traci Gourdine. The open mic starts at 9, and the after-party returns to the Irish Pub at 10.

 

snark-guitar-pick

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Saturday I shared a snarky tweet aimed at Jon Voight, the notable actor who was demeaning Robert De Niro for De Niro’s characterization of Donald Trump. Trump critics found and started liking the tweet by the dozens, while Trump fans said that “poet laureate is a title for someone who is unemployed,” which I thought was pretty funny. The tweet was approaching 20,000 impressions before I deleted it. The language and tone of my online ridiculers were becoming more caustic, and I didn’t like my most prominent tweet to be even a little mean-spirited. A friend wondered over dinner why I was “trolling” members of the Hollywood elite.

Another tweet to John McCain expressed admiration for the senior senator for withdrawing his support from Donald Trump in the aftermath of the release of the videotape that showed Trump telling stories about his proclivity for sexual assault. During my decades at UC Davis, I’ve taken dozens of workshops about sexual harassment and the definitions of words like “unwanted,” “unwelcome,” and “consent.” Do moguls and billionaires not have to take such classes? I guess they have lawyers, instead. Let’s just say that, if elected, Donald Trump would be our first U.S. president who has owned strip clubs. Today it was announced that the Trump Taj Mahal Casino has closed after years of losses, leaving over 3,000 workers without jobs.

The election fatigue felt by myself and many other voters is good news for Hillary Clinton. The Republican nominee is far enough behind in key battleground states, and there are too few undecided voters left to affect Clinton’s demographic and momentum advantages. Now we will see how the Clinton get-out-the-vote efforts will affect the makeup of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. While Senator McCain’s late withdrawal of his endorsement cannot be called an act of courage, his choice reminds us that each member of Congress will be judged by future voters and historians according to how closely those lawmakers adhere to a presidential candidate who has been so damaging to American political discourse, and to our very democracy itself. Speaking of dangers, the new concern is that Trump will be seen as so damaged that those voters who would seek to defeat him may stay home, thinking that they are not needed. What are your plans on election day?

Tonight’s Pub Quiz will take on a couple of the topics raised above, as well as ongoing disagreements, invasions, roses, educational rights, the question of heritage, rhizomes, Normans, book genres, people named Barnes, Ancient Greece, cannibal clowns, Australian performers, electricity, botany, inventors, spices, vulnerabilities, unwelcome residents, superheroes, gatherings of friends and family, Harris polls, civil wars, dudes named Tony, ABC sports, Norway, John Malkovich, modern manufacturing, a few other topics, and Shakespeare. There will be no questions about joists.

Tonight’s Pub Quiz may move quickly. I will be on Jukie duty (with help). See you tonight!

 

Your Quizmaster

http://www.yourquizmaster.com

http://www.twitter.com/yourquizmaster

http://www.facebook.com/yourquizmaster

yourquizmaster@gmail.com

 

Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

 

  1. Mottos and Slogans.    Tony the Tiger used a famous catch-phrase to promote what kind of breakfast cereal?

 

  1. Internet Culture. Today Facebook introduced a new tab in its mobile app which lets you buy and sell things in your city. What is the three-syllable name of this new function within Facebook?

 

  1. Newspaper Headlines.   Major League Baseball said goodbye to Turner Field today, with plans to move its team to SunTrust Park, now under construction in Cobb County. Name the team.

 

 

P.S. Pub Quiz irregular Evan White, a fiction writer and poet, will be opening for Don Thompson at Poetry Night on October 20th. Mark your calendars now!

 

P.P.S. This week marks our fall fundraiser at KDVS. Would you like to contribute?

 

Davis Shakespeare Ensemble

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

A “talkback” is an opportunity to learn more about a theatrical performance that one has just seen. Typically for a talkback the director, designers, technical staff and actors gather on stage to talk about their shared creative process, and to answer questions from the audience. I knew the term from having grown up in a theatrical family – in the late 1990s one ambitious graduate student at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, determined that my father had directed over 1,000 stage productions. As a child watching him give notes on some of those shows, I got to see an entire community of artists come together to reach important shared goals, and then discuss the process along the way.

Although I never took to theatre as one of my professions, I do miss experiencing (by proxy) that sort of camaraderie and attention paid to serving an audience with professionalism, artistry, and flair. I also miss the conversations with actors, finding that, like authors, their minds are always perceiving and synthesizing information, and preparing to share new aesthetic discoveries.

Thus I was delighted when “Juliet” and “Mercutio” joined me at my public Sunday evening office hours last night, joined by the two artistic directors of the Davis Shakespeare Ensemble, one of them the director of the production of Romeo and Juliet that Jukie had enjoyed earlier in the day. If you are looking for my thumbnail review, I would say that the production is inventive, well-acted, full of expertly choreographed stage combat, and often unsettling, especially in the second half. If you have seen the play, you know that the final critical scenes take place in a crypt, and certain spooky auditory special effects and directing choices succeed in communicating love and loss with a funereal tone, perfect for October and Halloween! Also, Gabby Battista does a wonderful job playing the tragedy’s beautiful young heroine.

So at office hours I got to hear more about the production, and I got to share a couple hours’ worth of marketing ideas and recommended priorities and practices. Having taught classes for the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, and having taught classes more recently on content marketing, I had plenty to say. The Davis Shakespeare Ensemble folks thank me with repeated invitations to Jukie and me, both to the fantastic productions, and to the fundraisers, such as the Bard B-Q scheduled for October 23rd. But even more rewarding for me was the chance to contribute to such an important cultural resource with my quirky and nichey areas of expertise.

The author and thought-leader Seth Godin once wrote that we get paid in one of three ways: cash, referrals, and attention. With a daughter in college, I haven’t much cash to offer the Davis Shakespeare Ensemble, but I do offer this referral: I recommend that you check out the DSE Romeo and Juliet sometime in the coming four weeks of its fall run at the Veteran’s Memorial Theatre: This production is worth your attention.

Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature a question on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the actual play, rather than the adaptation with the spritely Leonardo DiCaprio. Expect also questions on prime numbers, chairs and cups, open doors to the frontier, names in the news, Albert Einstein, antennae, religious philosophers, northern cities, poll numbers, lakes, jailers, justice, domestic conflicts, Clint Eastwood, curved bands of wood, something that is puffed out, Chinese material culture, the British Radio 1 DJ Vernon Kay who likes both to rant and to sing, Australian exports, ancient paper, chemistry, Angelinos, people who are not as popular as Prince, Donald Trump, wide boulevards, Golden Globe nominees, new markets, tigers, and, as I’ve already said, Shakespeare. I haven’t yet written the tie-breaker, so I welcome your suggestions for tonight’s final question.

I hope to see you this evening. The temperatures will be cool, so plan to bring a jacket if you want to sit outside.

 

Your Quizmaster

http://www.yourquizmaster.com

http://www.twitter.com/yourquizmaster

http://www.facebook.com/yourquizmaster

yourquizmaster@gmail.com

 

Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

 

  1. Mottos and Slogans.    What proper name appears in the tagline of the film Apollo 13?

 

  1. Internet Culture. What multimedia mobile application company has released its first hardware product, called “Spectacles”?

 

  1. Newspaper Headlines.   FARC is an anagram in Spanish for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of what country?

 

P.S. Thursday, October 6th is Poetry Night in Davis. We start at 8 and will feature Katherine Hastings and Susan Kelly-DeWitt at the John Natsoulas Gallery.

Katherine Hastings is the author of Shakespeare & Stein Walk Into a Bar (Spuyten Duyvil NYC, August 2016); Nighthawks; and Cloud Fire.  Poet laureate emerita of Sonoma County, CA, her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, as well as The Book of Forms — A Handbook of Poetics (Lewis Putnam Turco, editor), University Press of New England.  Hastings is the editor of Digging Our Poetic Roots — Poems from Sonoma County, and What Redwoods Know — Poems from California State Parks, published as a fundraiser for the California State Parks Foundation when 70 parks were faced with permanent closure.  She hosts WordTemple on NPR affiliate KRCB FM and curates the long-running WordTemple Poetry Series in Sonoma County. For more information go to www.wordtemple.

Susan Kelly-DeWitt is the author of many books, most recently Spider Season from Cold River Press (2016). About this book, Jane Mead has said, “The poems in Susan Kelly-DeWitt’s Spider Season reflect our human desire to weave the inner and outer worlds into an ordered pattern: like the spider’s web, these poems are delicate, made of strong filament, and vulnerable—impermanence proves to be a force as strong as the desire for order. This book beautifully renders the process, rewards and disappointments of this universal human struggle.”

I hope you can join us Thursday night. And the Friday and Saturday mark the return of the Jazz Beat Festival to Davis. Check out http://www.natsoulas.com for details.

"Greek athletic sports and festivals" (1910)

 

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

As a political junkie, I have been following the news a little bit too closely for my own good. This summer, I remember checking the Political Wire website several times a day, and feeling frustrated when Taegan Goddard hadn’t updated the site as obsessively as I was looking for new content. For a few weeks, Donald Trump would offer some new outrageous and offensive comment at least once a week, and Americans quite rightly turned away from him.

In recent weeks, Americans have also been turning away from the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, vexing those of us who care deeply for the promise of our flawed democracy. People in four or five swing states are vacillating, as if the choice was not obvious, at least to those of us who read about what’s at stake. It’s almost too much to bear. Meanwhile, President Obama’s poll numbers have continued to inch upwards, and some major news organizations have grown what might be called a spine, pointing out the different ways that Donald Trump lies.

I read today that as many as 100 million people will be tuning into tonight’s first presidential debate. Another claimed that 80% of voters will be tuning in. Commentators and comedians have pointed out the low expectations for Mr. Trump, with Bill Maher saying that, “The bar for Trump is so low! It’s like being in a spelling bee with a basset hound!” Meanwhile, today Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway says that the Clinton camp is right to be nervous, and not only with Hilary’s falling poll numbers, for “Donald Trump is a master debater.”

The world will tune in tonight to see if that is true, but I hope some people tonight will user their DVRs. My wife Kate said, “I hope you are prepared for an empty pub tonight.” I must admit that I added a few softballs to reward tonight’s attendees, including new folks who read about the de Vere’s Irish Pub Davis Pub Quiz in the San Francisco Chronicle last week. We will see what happens.

Right after tonight’s quiz, I will walk over to the Pence Gallery to see the end of the James Ragan film and reading, and then afterwards the award-winning poet and screenwriter who has read with Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg will stop by de Vere’s for a refreshing beverage. If you want to stick around the pub and would like to meet the subject of his own documentary, you are welcome to join us at the big table, if you are not rushing home to see the recorded spectacle along with the rest of America.

 

Tonight’s pub quiz will feature questions about international leaders and their wise comments, newly-acknowledged kings, playing cars, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 18th century criticism, familiar-sounding novels, the meaning and mooring of an axis, clubs to which I would not be a member, encountering rusty patches, Asia, divisions of war, helpful guides, unexpected Diesel, astronomy, men with multitudes, the Arab awakening, unpopular and dry undergarments, the importance of negotiations, New York City brownstones, competitive arguments, Mariposa, moons, the numbers 87 and 326 and 539, people who didn’t know that they wanted a revolution, tyros, shared legends, surprisingly bright and charismatic actors, common slang terms, Horton, accoutrements, famous problems, lovely winners of Academy Awards, and Shakespeare. There will be no geology questions this week, if you don’t count other planets and their moons.

 

Perhaps I will see you tonight. September 26th is the birthday of both T.S. Eliot and Truman Duren, two of my favorite creatives. Eliot said, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

Your Quizmaster

http://www.yourquizmaster.com

http://www.twitter.com/yourquizmaster

http://www.facebook.com/yourquizmaster

yourquizmaster@gmail.com

 

Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

  1. Mottos and Slogans.    Headquartered in Memphis, and with over 300,000 employees, what company uses the slogan “The World On Time,” including other more famous ones that you would recognize?
  1. Internet Culture. The co-founder of what four-letter company said yesterday that most of its cars will be autonomous in five years?
  1. Newspaper Headlines.   Prime minister Hun Sen says that he will continue his campaign against protests from the opposition in his country of 15 million people. Name the country.

 

P.S. Poetry Night is October 6th, and the Jack Kerouac Poetry Prize will be awarded live and in person on October 7th, both at the Natsoulas Gallery in Davis. Also, Peter Coyote is coming to the same gallery on October 8th. So much culture!