Jukie's New Bike


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Although he grew up in Indiana, and thus played lots of basketball as a youth, bicycling was my father’s “sport” of choice in the 1970s. He owned a black, steel Raleigh bicycle with a raised seat to account for his unusually long legs. There was a leather bike bag attached to the back of his seat, and, behind that, a tiny bike seat. I’m sure that seat would not be legal today, and frankly now that I think of it, I don’t remember my dad or me wearing a helmet during those years. Despite the fact that the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) would have taken away my dad’s bicycling license if they were to see us rumbling down 35th Street, past one of former president Kennedy’s Georgetown mansions, we spent many weekend mornings on that route, the best way to Fletcher’s Boathouse. That’s where we would catch the towpath along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, a vestige from an earlier age before locomotives when mules would tow freight boats along the canal.

Just today I learned that “Most freight boats on the C&O Canal were approximately 95 feet long and 14.5 feet wide while most locks were 100 feet long and 15 feet wide. This left boat captains little margin for error as they steered their boats into the locks, trying to avoid the $5.00 fine for damaging lock masonry.” The National Park Service website with this important information also reminds us that “All hikers and bikers must yield the right of way to horses and mules.” (Our bike paths in Davis can sometimes get crowded, but usually mules are not among the hazards we face.)

My dad and I spent hundreds of hours together biking along those 185 miles of Maryland and Virginia towpaths, which is still one of the largest biking trails in the country. Towards the end of his life dad would tell the story of how, towards the conclusion of an overly-ambitious ride, I would reach out my four or five-year-old hand and rest it on his back, giving him a bit of comfort and strength just at the moment when he strength was flagging. If I still lived in DC, I would investigate how I might arrange for a brick or plaque to be put up along one of those paths: “Davey Marlin-Jones biked past everything you see here, and his son was grateful for every mile.”

Fast forward more than 40 years, and today everyone in my “new” hometown Davis is riding a bicycle, or should be. The city has been named the most bicycle friendly town in the United States by the League of American Bicyclists, and we are home to the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame. Obviously this is the city for me, for I have adopted my father’s sport (though with his casual attention to recreation, rather than, say, competition).

Our city’s most dynamic proponent of bicycling, Peter Wagner, was celebrated by the Davis City Council on the occasion of his 60th birthday (in 2012), and Wagner’s Whymcycles are to be seem in every important Davis parade or event, most famously in the Picnic Day Parade. I find it strange, then, that the same City of Davis that celebrated Peter Wagner’s bicycles just a few years ago has now sent him a formal request to remove those bikes from his property. Doesn’t this local inventor, substitute teacher, and celebrated Davis bicycling champion deserve some consideration in this matter? I left a message with Code Enforcement Office Amy Juarez this morning, asking that some accommodation could be found. Certainly we as Davisites should consider how we might come to Peter Wagner’s defense. I invite you to review some of the primary documents in this unfortunate matter on the Peter Wagner page on Davis Wiki.

I almost approached Peter Wagner to ask him for some help with a particular biking challenge. My 14 year old son Jukie, now 115 pounds heavy, has been busting the tires on the ride-along bikes that we have attached to mine so that he could join the family on bike rides. Ken of Ken’s Bike and Ski correctly called Jukie “differently-abled”: he’s a kid who loves bicycling but doesn’t have the wherewithal to pedal, much less steer, a bike. And he’s too big now to sit on a “third wheel” behind my two wheels. So far this year, we have taken family bike rides in shifts, with Jukie watching wistfully from the window.

Well, this past weekend we stopped by one of our city’s many bike stores to check out a cargo bike fitted with a soft seat behind mine, and a securely-fastened steel ring to hold on to (I never had a steel ring on my Dad’s old Raleigh). As soon as Jukie figured out what we were considering, Jukie ran into the bike store and came out with a helmet, his way of saying that he wanted again to feel the freedom and exhilaration of a bike ride in Davis.

We bought a bright red Yuba Boda Boda 8 cargo bike, and I spent much of the weekend riding that boy around town. Saturday we explored South Davis, and Sunday we rode it out to the Unitarian Universalist Church to see my colleague Dr. Karma Waltonen provide the sermon: “The Sacrilicious Spirituality of the Simpsons.” For this family of bicyclists, all sorts of adventures are again available to us, and I am getting just the (intense) workout I need, especially hauling Jukie up to the top of the Pole Line Road Overpass, one of the best places in Davis to watch a summer sunset from the seat of your bicycle.

Tonight expect questions on the Statistic Brain Research Institute, maidservants, gridiron standouts, elective office, regrettable transitions, magma, China, ocean cities, Northern Irishmen, the Olympics, distinctive hats, SportsNet, shows I’ve never watched, small maritime disasters, the uncanny, high-power nachos, beer choices, blogging, the major, southwestern states, math problems involving animals on Greyhounds, basketball, pretty flowers, presidents, marine life, U.S. Geography, movies about toys, makeup cabinets, Oscar nominees, instant classics, hot topics, Maya Angelou, sports, Star Wars, and Shakespeare.

Tonight’s Pub Quiz comes at a time of transition. Many leases end tonight, and about an equal number of new ones start tomorrow. The beginning of the new Pub Quiz “season,” tonight we can start work together to find new teams and new players to replace those who, regrettably, are moving away from Davis.

I hope to see you this evening!


Your Quizmaster






Here are five questions from last week’s quiz:

  1. Mottos and Slogans.   “Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal” is the current commercial slogan for Cheerios. Which has been the best selling variety for years now: regular Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, or Multi-Grain Cheerios?
  1. U.S. States. In 1918, what was the last state to enact a compulsory school attendance law? Hint: The state produces the majority of farm-raised catfish consumed in the United States.
  1. Birthright Citizenship. What infamous Supreme Court decision, authored by Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, a former pro-slavery Attorney General under President Andrew Jackson, concluded that African Americans could not be U.S. citizens even if they were born free on American soil?
  1. Four for Four.    The headquarters of which of the following branches of the U.S. military, if any, is found in the U.S. commonwealth of Virginia? The U.S. Air Force, The U.S. Army, The U.S. Marine Corps, The U.S. Navy.
  1. Pop Culture – Music. Born in 1958, what recording artist who has appeared in 21 films and has sold over 250 million records worldwide was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 10, 2008?



Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Near the start of the 1992 film Patriot Games, retired CIA agent Jack Ryan is vacationing with his family in London when he encounters members of a radical IRA splinter group attacking and attempting to kidnap members of the British royal family. An American, Ryan charges into the gunfight, tackles and disarms one of the terrorists, shoots another, and disrupts the plot before the authorities arrive to restore order. The result of this heroism? The Queen of England makes him a member of The Royal Victorian Order, which I found a strange honor for an American, and a number of armed and vengeful Irishmen seek to have a word with him back in the states. As I recently discovered, Patriot Games is available for streaming on Netflix.

Saving royals is typical for an American in Europe, the Tom Clancy film seems to tell us. This self-congratulatory idea of “American exceptionalism” comes up in high school AP American history classes, and in Republican debates. The President whose party brought us birthright citizenship, Abraham Lincoln, asserted in his Gettysburg Address that our country was “conceived in liberty,” and since then (and before, as we can see in the writings of Alexis de Tocqueville), pundits have asserted that our country is like that “city upon a hill” whose light cannot be hidden.

Of course, doesn’t every country think it is special, and perhaps the most special? History has presented us with (some) haughty Parisians who scoffed at all others, (some) bellicose Germans who believed that a master race of proto-Aryans came were descended from residents of Atlantis, and (some) citizens of homogeneous Japan who believe that outsider visitors cannot act with sufficient decorum and respect. Our pop culture favorites have commented upon such nationalistic chauvinism, as well. The national anthem sung by Borat reminds us that “Kazakhstan [is the] number one exporter of potassium! / Other countries have inferior potassium.” We smile as we agree with Geoff Mulgan, the Chief Executive of the (British) National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts, who once said that “All of nationalism can be understood as a kind of collective narcissism.”

That said, I found myself swelling with nationalistic pride this past weekend when reading about the young men from Sacramento who, like Jack Ryan in Patriot Games, stepped up to stop the terrorists when Europeans needed them to. As you no doubt have heard, three locals are being celebrated by the heads of the U.S. and French governments because of their quick thinking. This is how the story began in Saturday’s Sacramento Bee:

Three childhood friends from the Sacramento area were hailed as international heroes Saturday after thwarting a gunman armed with an assault rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. French officials said the man was planning mass murder on a high-speed train bound from Amsterdam to Paris.

Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos, who had known each other since middle school, said they first heard shattering glass, then realized a man was brandishing an assault rifle in the train aisle. They jumped into action.

“My friend Alek just told Spencer, ‘Go get him,’” and “Spencer gets up in a split second and runs down the car and arrests the guy before he can shoot,” Sadler told reporters Saturday.

The three men, with help from another passenger, tackled the gunman, wrestled him to the ground, then hogtied him, saving themselves and other passengers.

This morning those three young American men were awarded the Legion d’honneur (Legion of Honor), France’s highest decoration, by French President François Hollande. As I said to my wife yesterday, it was a good thing that some Americans were nearby when a terrorist was loading his guns and looking for trouble. Peggy Noonan once wrote in The Wall Street Journal that “America is not exceptional because it has long attempted to be a force for good in the world; it attempts to be a force for good because it is exceptional.”

It’s not every day that I agree with Peggy Noonan or the Wall Street Journal, but when it comes to heroic and exceptional young men from the Central Valley of California, I find myself swelling with patriotic pride and gratitude.

Thanks to local reporter and editor David Greenwald for publishing a slightly different version of today’s newsletter in today’s People’s Vanguard of Davis. You might check out that version to see how locals have commented on my musings.

Tonight’s pub quiz will touch upon one or more topics that I have raised above, as well as foreign princes, the live-ball era, critiques from Angelinos, sleepy rabbits, periodic mathematics, cities in the news, Oscar Wilde, popular TV shows, King Tut, superheroes, musicals, tick tock Clarice, George McGovern’s nuked owl toy, Barney & Friends, famous alumni, praising that which is praiseworthy, common symptoms, that which is razor-thin, birthright citizenship, school attendance, expected and unexpected sports, winners of Academy Awards, what films make, women in film, the Commonwealth of Virginia, reprehensible slogans, breakfast cereal, and Shakespeare.

Thanks to all of you who attend our Pub Quiz every week. Last time some teams were told at 6:15 that all the tables had been claimed, so I encourage you to arrive earlier than usual. For some, tonight will be the last chance to participate under their current lease, so I expect a bit more calmness next week. And as the poet Josiah Gilbert Holland teaches us, “Calmness is the cradle of power.” See you tonight!


Your Quizmaster






Here are five questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Internet Culture. What is the last name of the CEO of Amazon.com?


  1. Southern Generals. What did Robert E. Lee do after the Civil War? A) He fled the U.S. for England, B) he moved to a large estate in Atlanta, C) he became the president of Washington University, or D) he spent two years in prison for treason.


  1. Great American Cities. Bicycling magazine ranked the top 50 bicycling cities of 100,000 or more people. Name one of the top three.


  1. Four for Four. Which of the following cities, if any, are found in El Dorado County? Placerville, Roseville, South Lake Tahoe, Truckee.


  1. Unusual Words. The phrase “Ta Moko” refers to tattoos worn by what indigenous people whose name starts with M?


P.S. Thanks for reading to the end. Here is a welcome comment from a favorite Pub Quiz regular: “I too felt a moment of irrational pride when the three bros got their medals and a kiss from President Hollande – I also hope they’ll get some kisses from Les Demoiselles, too. However, I have seen far too much of the terror American Exceptionalism has wrought on this continent and beyond our shores to celebrate what they and few older gentlemen did on this train as its example. From the press accounts the French, British and American travelers did what they did as a manifestation of a human and humane instinct to protect their friends and total strangers from a criminal intent on mass murder. We should instead celebrate this moment as one in which shared humanity and cosmopolitain citizenship defeated barbarism and a hateful ideology. Our side – civilization and humanity – won this one, not America.”

Fun in Lake Tahoe

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

I was really touched by what Barack Obama said in a speech to the President at the NAACP Conference at Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia last month. This long excerpt is worth a read:

What the marchers on Washington knew, what the marchers in Selma knew, what folks like Julian Bond knew, what the marchers in this room still know, is that justice is not only the absence of oppression, it is the presence of opportunity. Justice is giving every child a shot at a great education no matter what zip code they’re born into. Justice is giving everyone willing to work hard the chance at a good job with good wages, no matter what their name is, what their skin color is, where they live. Justice is living up to the common creed that says, I am my brother’s keeper and my sister’s keeper. Justice is making sure every young person knows they are special and they are important and that their lives matter — not because they heard it in a hashtag, but because of the love they feel every single day not just love from their parents, not just love from their neighborhood, but love from police, love from politicians. Love from somebody who lives on the other side of the country, but says, that young person is still important to me. That’s what justice is.

The Julian Bond that President Obama mentioned here came to speak to a history class that Howard Zinn taught me and about 200 of my Boston University classmates back in 1986. Bond spoke of his work as the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and as an activist who was the first African American to be nominated as a major-party candidate for Vice President of the United States (which he declined, being merely 28 years old in 1968). Bond inspired me and many others that day, and with his work later in life as President of the NAACP. Jesse Jackson once said that when Bond was sworn into the Georgia legislature, despite his opposition to the war in Vietnam, “He became our version of (Nelson) Mandela.” He passed away Saturday at the age of 75 after a lifetime of struggle for justice.

I wrote in a previous pub quiz newsletter about the logic and yet the ongoing tension inherent in linking the LGBT rights movement to the civil rights movement. Many of us who were too young to march for civil rights in the 1960s haven’t been too young or too old to march for gay rights in the 2010s, and before. Offering context for these struggles, I’ve heard pundits on political talk shows and students in UC Davis classrooms point out that in the 1960s Americans practiced a sort of casual racism that manifested itself in racist jokes, incidental discrimination, and police harassment. We might point out that although this sort of racism is still widespread today, most of us would be brave enough to confront it forcefully should we be given a chance.

But what about homophobia and transphobia? (I should stop to point out that although we all know what transphobia is, and that it can be found in Oxford dictionaries, Microsoft Word still tells me that the word doesn’t exist, that I need to add it to my dictionary. Done.) Would we all be as comfortable confronting the buffoon telling a homophobic joke or transphobic joke as we would the buffoon telling a racist joke?

With these questions in mind, last night Kate and I had an opportunity to act on our principles. As two members of my family suffer from asthma, with my daughter actually wheezing yesterday, we found ourselves driving east to escape the Davis air and heat, and found ourselves at Lake Tahoe. As Harvey’s Lake Tahoe Casino was only about three blocks from our hotel, Kate and I strolled over last night to catch the comedy show. Following two hilarious comedians who made all sorts of outrageous and edgy jokes, including good-naturedly insulting people in the audience (but not us, regrettably), the third “headliner” comedian stumbled over his opening, and then told a number of jokes that surprised us with the ferocity of his homophobia and transphobia.

Caitlin Jenner jokes are commonplace in some circles, I suppose, but this comedian used the occasion to present an extended argument that transgender people are not entitled to their feelings, to self-identification, and, by extension, to a community of supporters. He went so far as to suggest that transgender people in effect do not exist. As Kate and I sat in the middle of the front row, we searched this performer’s routine for relevance, for humanity, or for comedy. Having found none of these three, we walked out.

Since then the comedian in question has responded to my statement on Twitter that “transphobia is not funny,” saying, “The crowd couldn’t wait for you leave! We had GREAT TIME:) Please walk out of all my shows!:).”

Some might say that Kate and I were merely being multi-culturally over-sensitive, that we were trying to impose some sort of Davis political correctness upon comedians whose job it is to provoke and to offend. Jerry Seinfeld has recently expressed concern that “political correctness will destroy comedy.” And director Lars Van Trier has said that, “Political correctness kills discussion.” As someone whose life as a poet, professor, and broadcaster benefits daily from the First Amendment to the Constitution, I wonder if our own political concerns and sensitivities function to limit the absolutely free expression of the full spectrum of ideas, including those that challenge our primary values of inclusivity and compassion.

Nevertheless, I’m glad we walked out. One of the best ways to confront hatred and intolerance is to remove the audience of those who present such feelings as normal or funny. In Davis we pride ourselves on being ahead of the times when it comes to confronting institutionalized racism (in our response to Apartheid South Africa), and, in other arenas, to widespread sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. I look forward to the rest of the country catching up with us!

Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions about cameras, explosions, indigenous peoples, El Dorado County, WJLA interviews, famous pictures, Jarzabkowski, nautical characters, strips, countries in Europe, Irish shades, bow ties, warcraft, paid digital downloads, strategies for avoiding biting insects, The Fantasticks, rendering, The Ugly Duckling by A. A. Milne, harmony, comedic spinoffs, an endless journey, tattoos, cities with more than 100,000 people in them, Muhammad Ali, Virginia heroes, real estate, Irish culture, and Shakespeare.

I hope to see you this evening, no matter the temperature nor the air quality. Let’s pack the house!


Your Quizmaster






Here are five questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Languages of the World. There is one province in Italy, 31 communes in Poland, nine municipalities in Brazil and two villages in Slovakia where WHAT European language is a co-official or auxiliary language?
  1. Dogs. According to the American Kennel Club, the world’s leading police, guard and military dog is also the most loyal. Name the breed.
  1. Science. According to a Popular Science article from 2005, Americans eat more BLANKS than any other kind of fresh fruit, averaging about 26.2 pounds per person. Name the fruit.
  1. Books and Authors.  The maiden name of Michelle Obama is the same as a famous baseball player and that of the most notable science fiction author in Davis, winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards, and author of the new book Aurora. What last name do these people share?
  1. Current Events – Names in the News. Many pundits say that Marco Rubio won Thursday night’s Republican debate. Rubio represents what state in the U.S. Senate?
Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

A dozen years ago this summer I was chatting during office hours with a UC Davis student who told me why he was supporting Arnold Schwarzenegger for Governor: he wanted Schwarzenegger’s signature forever to adorn his college diploma. Many who took electoral politics seriously were surprised by the choice of the majority of  California voters that summer, with Time magazine featuring just one word on its August 18th, 2003 cover: “Ahhnold!?”

Another person who believes his success as a celebrity can transfer to success as a politician, perhaps with far less evidence, is Donald Trump. As you know, the polls tell us that the self-important and bellicose real estate magnate has perched himself at the top of a crowded field of Republican candidates for U.S. president. The media have responded to all the early public interest in Trump’s Twitter wars with Hollywood types (my favorite being this exchange with Modern Family writer Danny Zuker) and other tomfoolery by leading all political coverage with Trump’s latest public appearance or outrageous quip.

Some of the third-tier presidential candidates, such as Rick Perry or Lindsey Graham, have recently discovered that they only get media attention when they are sparring with Trump. Both these career politicians are probably frustrated with the ways that the current Trump-dominated poll numbers and Fox News have contributed to their slow slide to obscurity.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has taken this approach even further: “I realize that the best way to make news is to mention Donald Trump. That’s the gold standard for making news these days,” Jindal said in Iowa today. “So, I’ve decided to randomly put his name into my remarks at various points, thereby ensuring that the news media will cover what I have to say.”

Meanwhile, thinking voters are aghast at what is standing in for political discourse. The most recent debate featured a number of heated exchanges, empty zingers, and stumbling answers to questions, such as this when Mr. Trump was asked for evidence that the Mexican government is purposefully sending drug dealers and rapists to the U.S.: “Border Patrol, I was at the border last week. Border Patrol, people that I deal with, that I talk to, they say this is what’s happening. Because our leaders are stupid. Our politicians are stupid.”

Right-leaning voters have been raising concerns and objections. One of my longstanding Republican friends shared this on her Facebook wall in response to a news article about the field of candidates: “I was on the fence considering all the candidates from both sides, until Trump showed up. Last week I changed my party affiliation. For the R party to even give that chauvinistic jerk two seconds’ consideration was too much for me.”

Perhaps Lindsey Graham is right that, as Saturday’s interview in the Washington Post put it, that “fellow presidential candidate Donald Trump’s derogatory commentary has begun inflicting permanent and possibly fatal damage to the Republican Party brand.” Others are not surprised by the poisonous rhetoric, with the satirical “Borowitz Report” using this headline: “Trump Fails to Back Up Misogynist Slurs with Anti-woman Proposals, Rivals Say.” No matter one’s party affiliation or favorite political “news” network, perhaps this latest foray into celebrity politics will encourage more of us to consider the depth and validity of a candidate’s ideas, rather than his standing among sardonic watchers of reality television shows and action movies.

Tonight’s Pub Quiz will touch upon some of these political topics, but will also delve into the world of boy bands, Oscar-nominated actresses, and whether Joanie really did love Chachi. Expect also questions on auctions, prominent museums, Donald Trump (whether or not it’s true – there he is), desperation, swing states, Leipzig University, second languages, mononyms, wild things, Peter Pan, Hugo and Nebula Award winners, favorite fruits, American Kennel Club findings, something that Clinton and Dole had in common, colorful titles, big theories, film comedies, mafia grave diggers (anagram bait), folk music, three-letter words that start with the letter E, abandon, court cases, surprising touchdowns, a the paradise of a narrowing demographic, geography, and Shakespeare.

Thanks to Jason for guest-hosting the Pub Quiz last week, and to you if you are joining me at the Irish Pub this evening.

Your Quizmaster

Here are five questions from last week’s quiz:

  1. Mottos and Slogans: The slogan of what entertainment, social networking and news website is the self-titled “Front page of the internet”? Hint: The site allows registered users to vote submissions up or down the location on its content pages.
  1. Internet Culture: The latest Donald Trump surge in the presidential polls may remind us of the popular internet slang acronym DFTT, where the “D” stands for “Don’t.” What does DFTT mean?
  1. Newspaper Headlines: The Dallas Cowboys and the New York Yankees are tied for 2nd place on the list of the world’s most valuable sports franchises with a value of 3.2 billion dollars each. Which European soccer club was recently named by Forbes as the world’s most valuable sports franchise at 3.26 billion dollars?
  1. Car Companies. Speaking of Great Britain, the ornament that adorns the hood of this British auto maker’s cars is called “The Spirit of Ecstasy.” It is in the form of a woman leaning forward with her arms outstretched behind and above her. Billowing cloth runs from her arms to her back, resembling wings. What car company uses this ornament?
  1. Know Your Crops. This flowering plant is one of the most important forage crops in the world. It is most often harvested as hay and has the highest feeding value of all common hay crops. In the U.K., South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, they call it Lucerne. What do we call it here in the United States?

P.S. I saw past Pub Quiz winners at three important events this weekend: the Davis book release party of Naomi Williams incredibly-well-reviewed book Landfalls at the Avid Reader, local music impresario Pieter Pastoor’s 70th birthday party at the Natsoulas Gallery, and a celebration of the wedding of Rob Roy, whose team The Ice Cream Socialists won the quiz for an entire summer. Congrats to these upstanding citizens and ambitious artists!

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Recently I noticed that all the actors in my son Truman’s production of Twelfth Night seemed to know all the lines to all the parts. If any particular actor in the Camp Shakespeare production of the play would forget his lines, someone standing right next to him would start to mouth or whisper the first lines until they were remembered.

Glenn Ford, the biggest box office star of 1958, and later the adopted father to a cape-wearing Christopher Reeve, also had to learn the plays that he supported. Ford said, “I don’t know how it is now but the assistant stage manager had to understudy several parts. You had to be ready to go on at any time if the actor couldn’t make it to the play. I didn’t think anything of it.”

My favorite understudy story comes from Les Brown, the author and motivational speaker who I got to see perform in Sacramento a few weeks ago. He told the story of practicing in his bedroom to be a DJ, and then finally taking advantage of his opportunity to step before the microphone. This long excerpt comes from the Jack Canfield book, Chicken Soup for the Soul. 

“Les did whatever was asked of him at the station – and more. While hanging out with the deejays, he taught himself their hand movements on the control panel. He stayed in the control rooms and soaked up whatever he could until they asked him to leave. Then, back in his bedroom at night, he practiced and prepared himself for the opportunity that he knew would present itself. One Saturday afternoon while Les was at the station, a deejay named Rock was drinking while on the air. Les was the only other person in the building, and he realized that Rock was drinking himself toward trouble. Les stayed close. He walked back and forth in front of the window in Rock’s booth. As he prowled, he said to himself. “Drink, Rock, drink!” 

Les was hungry, and he was ready. He would have run down the street for more booze if Rock had asked. When the phone rang, Les pounced on it. It was the station manager, as he knew it would be. 

“Les, this is Mr. Klein.” 

“Yes,” said Les. “I know.” 

“Les, I don’t think Rock can finish his program.” 

“Yes sir, I know.” 

“Would you call one of the other deejays to come in and take over?” 

“Yes, sir. I sure will.” 

But when Les hung up the telephone, he said to himself, 

“Now, he must think I’m crazy.” 

Les did dial the telephone, but it wasn’t to call in another deejay. He called his mother first, and then his girlfriend. “You all go out on the front porch and turn up 

the radio because I’m about to come on the air!” he said. 

He waited about 15 minutes before he called the general manager. “Mr. Klein, I can’t find nobody,” Les said. 

Mr. Klein then asked, “Young man, do you know how to work the controls in the studio?” 

“Yes sir,” replied Les. 

Les darted into the booth, gently moved Rock aside and sat down at the turntable. He was ready. And he was hungry. He flipped on the microphone switch and said, “Look out! This is me LB, triple P – Les Brown, Your Platter Playing Poppa. There were none before me and there will be none after me. Therefore, that makes me the one and only. Young and single and love to mingle. Certified, bona fide, indubitably qualified to bring you satisfaction, a whole lot of action. Look out, baby, I’m your lo-o-ove man” 

Because of his preparation, Les was ready. He vowed the audience and his general manager. From that fateful beginning, Les went on to a successful career in broadcasting, politics, public speaking and television. 


Tonight’s Pub Quiz will benefit from an understudy who is also hungry. Now a Winters resident, my friend Jason doesn’t get to attend the Pub Quiz as often these days as he did back when his all-star team, The Penetrators, would always score in the top three of the Quiz. But he has the presence, the confidence, and the acumen not only to write questions for the de Vere’s Irish Pub Pub Quiz, but to take up the microphone.


Tonight at the Pub Quiz expect questions about North American sports, volcanoes, people who have been endorsed by Sarah Palin, abundance, heroes, best-selling books, diacritics, secessions, church imperatives, Ant-Man, unusual felines, cities with harsh winters, monks, influential literature, current events, popular websites, teen comedies, big baseball games, surprising screenwriters, high flyers, grains, Great Britain, Forbes on sports, Donald Trump, and Shakespeare.


Sometimes Jason asks questions on topics that I have covered in recent months. This may give some of you regulars a slight advantage, as long as you have researched all the topics raised on past pub quizzes (which I am sure you do).


Thanks to the firefighters and National Guardsmen and women of California, I hope to return to Davis safely later this week, and join all of you next Monday at the de Vere’s Irish Pub Pub Quiz. See you then!


Your Quizmaster








Mystery of Edwin Drood

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

My son Jukie and I saw a fascinating musical at the Veterans Memorial Theatre Friday night. The Mystery of Edwin Drood is based on the last novel Charles Dickens started to write. Dickens would have finished it if he hadn’t died in the middle of the composition process. Insofar as we have no indication of how Dickens planned to finish this half-written novel – complete with male impersonators and exotic socialites from Ceylon – Rupert Holmes faced some challenges when adapting the novel into a Broadway musical.

Holmes decided to involve the audience, having members of the audience indicate by applause and, later, tallied interviews with individual audience members, which of the play’s characters they wanted to function as the detective, the lovers, and the murderer of Edwin Drood. The challenge to the actors, then, would be for different actors to perform the impassioned revelatory solos at the end of the play, when they had no way of knowing beforehand if they would be called upon to triumphantly conclude the play. The Davis Shakespeare Ensemble should be commended again for putting on such a thrilling show, with phenomenal acting and singing. Great fun!

I enjoy such challenges. Although I have been known to consult separate calendars for work, family, poetry, and internship activities, and although I use multiple applications to help me track projects and action items, I still highly value surprise, improvisation, and thinking on my feet. At a February writers conference I was asked to give a talk for an absent presenter (which I gladly did). A decade ago I was asked with a few days’ notice to teach a literary theory class that I had never taken or taught before, and I brought up the English Department’s averages on course evaluations. And the Pub Quiz itself gives me a chance to work with the material you give me to entertain on the fly. The microphone can sometimes be a dangerous thing.

And although I can write a passably-good poem on any particular subject given an hour, I have not yet attempted to freestyle, that is, to write poetry while speaking it from the podium, the way some of our best jazz musicians and rappers can do. Some performers take an especially ambitious approach to improvisation, such as the Sacramento band Instagon. Here’s how the Sacramento News and Review once described this local cultural force:

Approaching the concepts of Jazz and Improvisation using Chaos Theory, Instagon (founded in 1993), has a unique approach to the practice of being a band…it doesn’t practice! Instagon happens as a new ensemble EVERY time it happens, and it happens regularly…never the same band twice, ever…no rehearsal, no practice, everything in the instant.. and then gone.. hence “Instagon”… In the 17+ years so far, Instagon has appeared over 525 times and had well over 500 members of the “group”. Founded by conceptual artist LOB, Instagon plays many many different styles of music and sounds and has no boundaries as far as genres…but tends to mostly play a style called “Garage Jazz”. Instagon always promises to be an experience for both the band and the audience…and it always delivers to move and shake the audience and rock the night away.

Do you leave room for discovery and surprise in the way that you perform? I recommend that you investigate where a little chaos theory could make your life more exciting.

Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions on species of fish: are they real, or did Dr. Andy make them up? Expect a four for four question on that. Expect also questions on the following topics: Latin American affairs, artificial intelligence, Best Buy, bushels of what, the Davis Shakespeare Ensemble, the best sportsman in the world, topics on which Musk and Wozniak agree, population losses, big planes, a tale of two cities, desserts, glands, corporate mascots, frightening robots, pounds of transition, a close look at binomials in bookstores, Napoleon’s schemes, visits to England, young actresses who hatch glue skis (anagram), X names, award shows, cassettes, verbs that have different definitions depending on how they are pronounced, guns, animals that are fourteen times better than a good dog, distant earths, ovalbumin, your daily bread, and Shakespeare.

We were off the hook crowded last Monday night, which I loved. You may want to arrive earlier this evening. I will do the same.


Your Quizmaster






Here are five questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Mottos and Slogans.   According to the slogan, and starting with the letter F, what is “Australian for Beer”? Foster’s
  1. Countries of the World. According to a June 2015 Pew Research Center Poll on Global Attitudes and Trends, what country whose name starts with the letter P has the highest regard for The United States, at 92%? Hint available. Hint: The country is the 12th largest in the world, with over 100 million people. The Philippines
  1. Newspaper Headlines.  According to a headline in this morning’s Fortune magazine, “Lockheed Martin is about to get even bigger by buying Sikorski.” The company Sikorski is famous for manufacturing what product with four syllables in its name? Helicopters
  1. Four for Four: People born in 1928. Which of the following people born in 1928 are still alive? Noam Chomsky, Jack Kevorkian, Hosni Mubarak, Shirley Temple. (YNYN)
  1. U.S. States. The second most oil-rich state (after Texas) is also the state with the lowest unemployment. What is this 19th-largest state by area in the U.S.? North Dakota


P.S. What should be the prize for the Pub Quiz participant who submits the best contribution to the new Guide to Davis? See http://www.guidetodavis.com/how-to-participate/ for details.


Guide to Davis

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Last week I told you about a Pub Quiz book that I have been working on: Your Quizmaster’s Book of (Pub) Quizzes: Trivia for Smart People. The rough draft is finished, and now I am rewriting questions that were perfect for 2014, but which a broader audience (in time and location) might find too regional or dated. I also have to write an introduction, explain the rules and how the book might be used, and stick in some (attempted) humor among the answers. A few of you will then be asked to give feedback, perhaps the only time that you are invited to argue with the Quizmaster.

My second book is a guide to Davis culture. “Will it be a pamphlet?,” asked someone who will not be invited to the book release party. Har har. Actually, Davis offers more culture, broadly defined, than most small towns in America. Because of our many theatre troupes, our galleries and public art, and our premier performing arts center on campus, one could argue that Davis is a cultural Mecca.

Of course, not everyone sees us that way, or at least not yet. One might reasonably argue that Davis needs more music venues, more urban culture, a poetry center (I’m working on that, too), and more people willing to donate to the organizations that work so hard to connect Davisites to their artsy enthusiasms. Like any city with aspirations, we can do more, and we shall.

Speaking of aspirational projects, I invite you to visit the website of my book, The Guide to Davis: An Exploration of the Cultural Offerings of California’s Most Relevant City. Find it at http://www.guidetodavis.com. The table of contents presents our main areas of focus, but no doubt we have neglected something or someone. We opted to include hotels and realtors, because such businesses help to bring new culture-lovers to Davis, but not banks or acupuncturists, for their connection to our main categories of artistic entertainment – visual, theatrical, literary, musical, and kinetic – is less causational. When I proposed that we should include martial arts studios, one of my helpers insisted, then, that we include yoga studios. This will ensure that L Street is sufficiently represented in the book.

On the website you can also see the introduction to the project, sample book sections (write-ups too short to be called “chapters”) on Logos Books and Newsbeat, as well as a selection of Frequently Asked Questions and, most importantly, an invitation to participate. I am hoping that Pub Quiz regulars will offer a long remembrance, a review of a restaurant or retail shop, or some opinions on what else makes Davis notable and welcoming. Anyone who contributes something substantive will receive a copy of the e-book when it is published, as well as a short bio in the book. I hope my Davis Guide will not only be about my hometown, but will also represent the voices of that town. If not, mine will have to do.

Regular Pub Quiz participant John suggested connections between this Guide to Davis, the Pub Quiz book, our weekly Monday meetings, and our need to revisit our common cultural literacy, as recently reviewed in an Atlantic article by Eric Liu. I appreciate this attempt to broaden and deepen the context of my summer projects, and I will see if I can work this into the introduction of one of the two books. Thanks, John!

The paperback of the book should be out by early next year, perhaps as early as the holiday shopping season. I will let you know.

Tonight’s Pub Quiz will test your knowledge of America and her heroes. We had such fun with the Hamlet question from last week’s quiz that I will ask yet another such question tonight. Perhaps you have time to reread the play before then? Expect also questions about Australia, Noam Chomsky, P standing for a place, Anglo-American poets, oil, extra innings, musical instruments, Alfred Hitchcock, nitrogen, mafia travels, keeping kosher, sailing trips, Academy Award nominees, British cities, Oklahoma, completing the local library, Captain Kirk’s earthly discoveries, antiheroes in charge, hard woods, minimal occupancy, groups with top-selling hits, Spain and Portugal, meanies, speaking from the gut, whistling for pigs, Harlem, abject and public failures, high regard, unemployment and, as I already mentioned, Shakespeare.

Come early tonight to claim a table inside! I will see you then.

Your Quizmaster






Here are five questions from last week’s quiz:



  1. Newspaper Headlines: New Revelations Edition.  Living from 1884-1962, what American liberal icon used to pack a 22-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol in her purse?


  1. Girls Named Elsa. According to data released by the Social Security Administration, 1,131 girls were named Elsa in 2014, up from 528 the year before. What F word accounts for the big jump?


  1. The Eiffel Tower. When it was built in 1889, The Eiffel Tower became the tallest structure in the world. What American structure had previously been the tallest since being completed in 1888?


  1. Great American Cities. In what decade did Davis become the first in the nation to vote via municipal referendum to divest from Apartheid South Africa?


  1. Unusual Words. What E word do we use to refer to a weasel or stoat with a winter white coat?



P.S. The next Poetry Night is August 20th. Mark your calendars now!

Admiral Ackbar


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

When I told some of my friends in a meeting that I was finishing three books this summer, one of them pointed out that he has an even longer reading list planned for his vacation months. Then I corrected myself, clarifying that I was going to finish writing three books this summer. I was immediately greeted by incredulous silence. When I recently revealed my summer plan to my friend Gena, she asked, “Three books? Why not five?”

Why is the newsletter a bit late today? Well, this morning I finished the first draft of one of the three books, the one with this working title: Your Quizmaster’s Book of (Pub) Quizzes: Trivia for Smart People. If you have been joining me for a while, and some of you have been joining me weekly for more than five years, then some of the content will be familiar to you, for I have been writing this book in weekly installments, without fail, with you in mind.

Some of the questions I ask made perfect sense at the time, but would be much more difficult to answer years later.

Here’s an example: What 6’4” tall action star, not Clint Eastwood, is missing from this news headline from yesterday? “Marked for Governor? Actor BLANKY BLANKY says he’s weighing bid for Arizona’s highest office.”

If you had just heard about this unlikely run at political office on NPR or in the Huffington Post that morning, you would know the answer right away, but 18 months in our busy lives can remind us how “trivial” some topical trivia questions can be.

I really enjoy the ephemeral nature of the thinking-person’s entertainment that I offer on Monday nights, but now that this book is scheduled to be published later this year, I have become more mindful of what hardy questions are “evergreen,” and which have especially short shelf lives. I’ve had to reword many questions, such as by mentioning someone’s year of birth, rather than her age.

Writing this book also reminds me of patterns of questions and topics that come up on the Quiz. Via Twitter, someone accused me today of writing only periodic table science questions. Then the quiz participant offered some alternative topics. I challenged the premise of the original objection, but I welcome the additional question topic categories. I love to have multiple perspectives represented in the Pub Quiz. I also love to remember your feedback on past quizzes as I improve, even further, on carefully composed questions. The two-person team Albatross, for example, has taught me important lessons about Admiral Ackbar (who was voiced by a veteran Berkeley actor who has never seen the first two Star Wars films).

If I remember, next week I will tell you about my second book – a Guide to Davis Culture – and let you know how you can participate in its composition, should you be interested, and should you feel that you could do justice to a favorite Davis haunt, or a favorite Davis hero.

Speaking of favorite Davisites, the great poet Julia Levine is reading at the Natsoulas Gallery this coming Thursday night at 8. Her most recent book, Small Disasters Seen in Sunlight, won the Northern California Book Award. The name Julia B. Levine is less well known in Northern California and in poetry circles than at least four of her five competitors, but Julia won. It’s a testament both to the highest quality of her verse, and to the perspicacity of the judges. I hope you will join us for that reading Thursday night.

Tonight’s Pub Quiz may feature questions on some of the topics I have raised above, as well as questions on monkeys, Silicon Valley, The White House, choices, kale and coriander, people who can’t stop (but really should), what Social Security teaches us about names, seafood, rising sands, stone, UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen, troublesome triangles, father figures, Muhammad Ali, French performers, Apartheid, fancy winter coats, undergraduates, when animals attack, coy volunteers, unpleasant climates, movie taglines, candidates, missed ice, impressive stadia, multi-decade hiatuses, the City of Davis, and Shakespeare.

I hope you can join us this evening.


Your Quizmaster






Here are five questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Mottos and Slogans.   Is the word “Pixar” in the famous Pixar logo with the bouncing desk lamp serif or non-serif?


  1. Newspaper Headlines.  It was announced today that The Alamo and four Spanish colonial Catholic missions in Texas are being designated U.S. World Heritage sites by the United Nations. In what Texas city does one find The Alamo?


  1. Beds. What model of bed is the signature bed of the Select Comfort bed company?


  1. Pop Culture – Music. What hugely successful American vocal group consists of A. J., Howie, Nick, Kevin, and Brian?


  1. Sports.   What NFL football player became the NFL’s all-time rushing leader, breaking the record formerly held by Walter Payton?


P.S. How much would you / someone pay for a book containing 1,500 top-notch pub quiz questions?



Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

I hope you enjoyed the Independence Day holiday. I must admit that it was a rather surreal experience to walk out of the crowd of 5,000 or so who were enjoying live music, be introduced by Davis Mayor Dan Wolk, and then take the stage myself to read a commemorative poem, one of my duties as Poet Laureate of Davis. My son Truman followed me on stage to wave his American Flag while I read.

Below please find the text of my poem, followed by the hints about tonight’s Pub Quiz.


The Perilous Fight

In memory of the Charleston Nine


America, your founding documents

were written on animal parchment

with feather quill pens.

They were written by immigrants and revolutionists in white wigs

imagining what words would help us all

start afresh, once liberation comes.

Before CNN, before the telegraph,

before air conditioning

they argued on behalf of you and me.


Notwithstanding this colonial start,

our country is young, and getting younger,

dragging us into the future like a child

pulling her parents towards Community Park

on the 4th of July.

The future comes quick,

and we had better make ready.


Jose, Jamal, and Johnny, can you see

if that star-spangled banner still waves?

Its colors don’t run from oppression, from indignity,

from intolerance, or from the perilous fight.

The flag, it waves for you.


Millennials are helping us rewrite the narrative.

Outraged, and with resolve,

we take down the battle flag.

What shall we replace it with?

The American flag?

A rainbow flag?

Shall we replace it with a fist in the air,

with the Golden State bear,

with the rocket’s red glare?


One flag comes down; another flag goes up.


There is work to be done,

and the First Amendment assumes that you will contribute a verse.

This flag celebrates peaceable gatherings,

religious choice, and the curious reporter.

It celebrates the artist

who comforts the afflicted, and who afflicts the comfortable.


Under this flag we have marched with our heroes

who themselves have marched with the afflicted.

We celebrate Martin and Cesar,

we celebrate Susan B. and Sojourner,

we celebrate Harvey and Rosa,

and today we celebrate Ellen and Shelley,

and Francisco and Allegra.

As Americans, we aspire to march with you.


And we thank those whom we have lost.

We thank those who have assembled in peace,

in a circle of welcoming love and grace,

and we will not forget you.

We will repeat your nine names.

We thank you Cynthia, Susie, and Ethel.

We thank you Depayne, Tywanza, and Daniel.

We thank you Sharonda and Myra.

We thank you Clementa for your leadership,

and for your sacrifice.

Look how you have galvanized us!


Tonight’s rockets’ red glare also shines on a wing of the White House.

So does the orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet glare!

Justice come like a thunderclap,

and we must work to be worthy of it.

A week in our evolving nation

can seem like a lifetime,

and we must live that life.

We live it under this flag, our flag,

which on this day, of all days,

is so gallantly streaming!



Tonight’s Quiz will feature questions on bridges, film studios, big internet acquisitions, Silento, pyrotechnics, amateur actors, new American heroes, radio dramas, deciduous trees, fish, religious weddings, comparing Ireland to Germany, diary entries, sequels, inhuman throngs, primatology, St. James, paste, universities, intellectual fashions, The U.S. Civil War, the American Kennel Club, The New Yorker, dudes named Kevin, beds, Texas, fonts, summertime, fireworks safety, and Shakespeare.

See you tonight at 7 for the Pub Quiz!

Your Quizmaster






Here are five questions from last week’s quiz:

  1. Mottos and Slogans.   Commercials for what kind of candy ask us to “taste the rainbow”?
  1. Internet Culture. The most Twitter users, 33% of the worldwide total, come from what region: Asia Pacific, North America, Western Europe, or South and Central America?
  1. Newspaper Headlines.   The governor of what Caribbean island and unincorporated U.S. territory said yesterday that the island’s debts are “not payable”?
  1. Four for Four.     Which of the following composers, if any, were born in Germany? Bach, Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms.
  1. Sports.   Currently number three in the world, who defeated Roger Federer at the 2012 Olympic Games in straight sets to win the gold medal in the men’s singles final, becoming the first British singles champion in over 100 years?


P.S. Happy belated birthday to local pharmacist Chuck Snipes, the Pub Quiz contestant who has provided more swag for you and other players than any other. I appreciate all the trips to the thrift store!


P.P.S. Poetry Night next takes place on July 16th, and features Julia Levine. Details next week.



Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

What a week it has been since last we congregated at the Irish Pub for intellectual challenges and revelry! Here’s how my wife Kate put it on Facebook:

The myriad details of most days disappear from my mind by the end of the week. Friday was different — I suspect that June 26, 2015 will remain etched in many of our minds for years to come. My typical summer day includes carting my three kids to various activities all over the Sacramento valley. On that day, in between and throughout the swimming lessons and camp and medical appointments and therapy, I remained fixed on satellite radio following reports of the day’s events. And when I heard President Obama’s voice as he began to eulogize the nine church-goers slain in South Carolina, I stopped everything to listen to his remarkable performance.

A week like the last one takes a while to process and digest, and in my house, we’ve been talking about little else. Truman’s excitement, his consciously absorbing history as we all live through it, infects us with his hopefulness and curiosity. Tonight Andy and I plan to sit down with the kids to watch the eulogy together. During a week as memorable and important as this one, I’m so proud of my president and of my country.

Today’s news from the Supreme Court was less good from my ecologically-informed Davis perspective, with a ruling about the EPA’s restrictions on power-company smokestacks. According to today’s Washington Post, “The court’s 5-to-4 decision halts further implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards rule, which required hundreds of coal-burning plants to install equipment to control mercury, a substance linked in multiple studies to respiratory illnesses as well as birth defects and developmental problems in children.”

That setback aside, last week will be remembered for the decisions on Obamacare and Marriage Equality, and for the sad events that have catalyzed southern states to re-examine its relationship with the Confederate Battle Flag. Do you agree with President Obama that our union is somewhat more perfect because of the strong steps forward made by our country in June, 2015?

Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions on some of the topics raised above, as well as composers, U.S. Presidents, the Caribbean, flags, Twitter, rainbows, bankruptcies, A&M Records, tennis, seeking to please in Latin, Massachusetts politicians, thorns, Finnish bullets, TV antagonists, the San Francisco Bay, alien invasions, adorable puns, marriage equality, revision, numbers that are divisible by 15, stars, hymns, beautiful titles, seasickness, populous islands, Cyprus, Harry Potter, red birds, the USDA, and Shakespeare.

See you this evening!


Your Quizmaster






Here are five questions from last week’s raucous quiz:


  1. Film. Inside Out has been released to widespread acclaim and box-office success. Divisible by five, what is the total number full-length films released by Pixar?


  1. Countries of the World. The names of eight of the 14 most populous cities in South Korea end with the same letter. What is that letter?


  1. Consecutive Integers. The sum of the least and greatest of 3 consecutive integers (numbers in a row) is 60. What are the values of the 3 integers?


  1. Science. Starting with the letter M, small grains of what common iron oxide (with a chemical formula Fe3O4) occur in almost all igneous and metamorphic rocks?


  1. Sports. Starting with the letter B, what is the last name of the Cleveland Cavaliers head coach who said that it has been a “great honor” to work with LeBron James this season?


P.S. Congratulations to my son Truman, the nine-year-old actor who will portray Miles Standish on stage at B Street Theatre in Sacramento this evening, in a production called Many Plays by Children, a title that Truman came up with himself. He and I will be performing at the same time this evening, but in different cities, so I will get to see his dress rehearsal this afternoon while the rest of our family, and many friends, see Truman’s Sacramento premiere tonight.