Flooded Basement Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz, Yesterday I bought a sump pump, and I don’t yet know how to use this contraption that usually lives in a basement. I remember basements. While I know a certain Davis pen collector who has an impressive collection of chilled wines in his completed basement, the vast majority of homes in Davis don’t have much going on beneath the first floor. I guess one expects people to build up and out, rather than to dig down, in one of the flattest places on earth. Back in Washington DC, I lived in a basement throughout high school, and I felt like the luckiest kid I knew. Many of my friends were wealthier than my family, but almost none of my peers had his own bachelor pad with a private entrance, kitchenette (which I never used), and laundry facilities. I also had my own phone number: 202 965-1086. I stopped answering that ring in about 1985, so finally I feel comfortable sharing it. Anyway, I loved that basement pad, and never seemed to mind how dark it was. I used to listen to Bob Dylan down there. Basements in pop culture, especially the movies, are where one finds (or contacts) ghosts or weirdos. Audiences of horror films recognize that one never goes down to the basement, but characters in such films never learn this lesson. From over-telegraphed schlock like The People Under the Stairs to the Hitchcock classic Psycho to the Oscar-winner The Silence of the Lambs, we’ve learned to fear the basement and to expect the most dramatic scenes in the film to take place there. As R. L. Stine says, “Most fears are basic: fear of the dark, fear of going down in the basement, fear of weird sounds, fear that somebody is waiting for you in your closet. Those kinds of things stay with you no matter what age.” Luckily, most of us don’t have basements to fear. One group of students at Ohio State University wondered why their cabinets and sometimes even their microwave would be open when they arrived home to their off-campus apartment. What an industrious ghost they had! In our house when someone leaves all the doors of the pantry open, Kate makes a joke about the Sixth Sense. But for the Ohio State students, there was an actual non-ghost living in their basement. A search of their home revealed a locked door that they got the realtor to open up, only to find therein that a guy had been living in their house, for months. I’m not sure how that worked out, plumbing-wise, and fortunately, none of the news reports provide any of those details. Perhaps a sump pump played a part. I hope you don’t need a sump pump to help you deal with our wet weather, for yesterday I bought the last one at Davis Ace Hardware. Normally here one finds a clever segue to the hints for tonight’s Pub Quiz, but this week I used up all my cleverness discussing the unexpected topic of basements. Tonight expect questions on the following: bunnies, Golden Globes, bagel-related injuries, speedy science basement roaches, targets, favorites, tenacity, Trump critics, attorneys, best-selling authors, inventors, well-paid TV prognosticators, six-syllable words, John Kerry, a bridge too far, Dublin, Gene Wilder, Schopenhauer, mammal hunting, western ecosystems, above-ground mishaps, gestation periods, rodents that deserve to be bathed by cavemen who don’t use articles, Genius, the variety of colors of different animals and albums, essential meanings, Princess Diana, D verbs, psychoactivity, long drives from Davis, multitalented singers, Billy Bob Thornton, smartphones, 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.    Starting with the letter O, what brand name for a line of household cleaners uses the slogan “powered by the air you breathe, activated by the water you drink”?
  1. Internet Culture. Apple’s new wireless cord-free Bluetooth earbuds, called AirPods, retail for which of the following? $16, $76, or $160.
  1. Newspaper Headlines.   What S-word completes this sentence? Last week UC Davis was named the most BLANK university in the world.
  P.S. Until about midnight tonight, one can purchase the Audible audio book of the new Brian Tracy publication for two dollars. It is titled Get Smart: How to Think and Act Like the Most Successful and Highest-Paid People in Every Field. I bought my copy. Perhaps you want one? Brian Tracy says, “Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, "What's in it for me?” This opportunity I present to you as my gift.
gallery-carrie-fisher-1   Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz, Yesterday while waiting in line to buy tickets to Manchester by the Sea (an excellent film), I ran into the local KDVS DJ and music promoter Bill Wagman. Bill was heading over to see Rogue One, and admitted that last year he reviewed all six Star Wars films in anticipation of watching The Force Awakens. The new Star Wars movie and the untimely death of Carrie Fisher have lead many people to watch those films again. My son Truman’s room at age 11 looks somewhat like mine did at the same age, with Star Wars characters and posters festooned on the walls. Like most kids my age, Truman can speak about his favorite science fiction films with authority. My wife Kate was the one who broke the news to him. She wrote, “I felt awful telling him this morning, ‘honey, I have some very sad news: Carrie Fisher has died.’ He looked so sad and finally said, ‘Mommy, is it okay if we don't talk for a while?’ ‘I feel the same way,’ I said.” Reading this, I was reminded of the December morning when my Mom woke me with the news that John Lennon had been killed. He was important to me in part because of the causes that he espoused. Other musicians aspired to improve the world, as well. After Prince died last year, we discovered that he had funded solar panel investments here in northern California. As Van Jones said, "there are people who have solar panels right now on their houses in Oakland, California that don't know Prince paid for them." After George Michael passed away this past Christmas, we discovered that he had been donating proceeds from some of his biggest hits to British charities, and that he had volunteered time in homeless shelters, all while requesting that the charities and beneficiaries keep his kindness quiet. For example, as NPR reported, George “Michael donated the royalties from ‘Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me,’ his 1991 duet with Elton John,” to the London-based HIV-awareness organization Terrence Higgins Trust. Speaking of HIV awareness, Debbie Reynolds hosted benefits for HIV/AIDS research two years before President Reagan ever publicly acknowledged that AIDS existed. When Reagan was California governor, the two of them chatted in the green room while waiting to appear on the first ever episode of the Joey Bishop Show. 15 years later, they were worlds apart on the most important emerging medical crisis of the age. Reagan was running for president against Jimmy Carter in May of 1980, the month that I met Carrie Fisher at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, for the world premiere of The Empire Strikes Back. Even though she was in conversation with Harrison Ford, she was momentarily kind to me by making eye contact, signing an autograph, and telling me that she hoped I would enjoy the film. None of us knew about her private battles with substance abuse and mental illness, causes that she would champion with her writing and her celebrity. Fisher earned the Kim Peek Award for Disability in Media in 2012, in part because of her willingness to share details about her battles with bipolar disorder. Rather than Star Wars, we watched Singing in the Rain on New Year’s Eve. As I delighted in Gene Kelly’s ambitious choreography, I was reminded of having been introduced to that film, and especially its soundtrack, for years before sitting in the AFI screening room with my Dad to watch Star Wars. The deaths of so many stars and heroes in 2016 might make all of us feel a bit nostalgic and melancholy this new year. I hope that tonight’s Pub Quiz will lift our spirits. I will close with part of a poem by David Meltzer, the San Francisco beat poet and acquaintance of mine who passed away Saturday night, on the last day of 2016, at age 79:   The veil   existed before he was born and between his arising shadowed the world he moved through reaching for dim forms he thought brought light   Tonight’s Quiz will feature questions on some of the topics raised above, as well as on Apple, Inc., household cleaners, new year’s resolutions from garrulous fathers, new jobs, Miles Davis in 1962, atypical plants, Marie Curie, Africa, Stanley Steamers, musical instruments, Toy Stories, Mel Gibson, French authors, Browns, Ireland, Harrison Ford’s smoking habit, ingénues, cities in Texas, the mordantly wealthy, New Zealand, the coming night, Darryl Strawberry, ordained ministers, crosses in New Mexico, chased Mafiosi, Gerald Ford, intransitive two-syllable verbs with several meanings, Mitch Richmond, Saddam Hussein, joints and trusses, franchises, summer hits, Martina Navratilova, music consumption, soaked stagnancy, Michael Richards, swords, and Shakespeare. Happy New Year! Please join us tonight for our first de Vere’s Irish Pub Pub Quiz for 2017!   Your Quizmaster http://www.yourquizmaster.com http://www.twitter.com/yourquizmaster http://www.facebook.com/yourquizmaster yourquizmaster@gmail.com   Here are three questions from a quiz I presented on December 28, 2009:
  1. Books and Authors. Who wrote A Child’s Christmas in Wales in 1955?
  2. Pop Culture – Music (Karaoke Question). About whom did Miles Davis say “You can’t play nothing on trumpet that doesn’t come from him”?
  3. Sports. Two-time consecutive World Cup winner Lindsey Vonn left a competition today after seriously injuring her arm. In what sport is Vonn considered one of America’s greatest competitors?
  P.S. “You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world.” James Baldwin
  The UC Davis Arboretum Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz, Despite the cold, this morning and this afternoon my wife Kate and I walked the UC Davis Arboretum loop. We were still buzzed with joy and musical cheer after seeing LaLa Land at the Varsity Theatre last night. Fans of the rare well-made modern musical, we could see why the film made so many top-ten lists for 2016 films, including being voted the top film by critics at Rolling Stone and All Things Considered (NPR), among other media outlets. Tom Hanks said, "When you see something that is brand new, that you can't imagine, and you think ‘well thank God this landed’, because I think a movie like La La Land would be [anathema] to studios. Number one, it is a musical and no one knows the songs." Peter Bradshaw of the British newspaper The Guardian gave the film five stars, calling it "a sun-drenched musical masterpiece." It is heart-wrenching and heart-warming in all the ways that work. Kate loved the soundtrack so much that she downloaded it on Christmas night, and played it during her two walks around the Arboretum loop (about seven miles total). So that I could hear, during the second loop Kate unplugged her earbuds, sharing the tunes with me and the occasional smiling and quizzical passersby. Feeling like we were in our own musical, Kate proposed that we learn some dance moves like those used by Sebastian and Mia in the film. Excited about our Boxing Day project, we are now searching for choreographers, and may have to turn to our friends at the Davis Shakespeare Ensemble for help. In any event, I was dancing in the park this morning instead of writing newsletters for the pub quiz. Like you, I have been on vacation. In her book, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now, Maya Angelou writes, “Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” I hope that our Pub Quiz can function this way for you, as a two-hour sanctuary from your cares and woes. I expect a crowd tonight, so I hope you can join us by 6! Happy holidays and happy new year. And here are the hints. In addition to what was mentioned above, tonight also expect questions about Christmas carols, drones, cards, Hebrew words, the entertainers, chambers, important dates in history and mythology, my latest writing projects, speech-writers, wooing with rough strife, rivalries, popular people, life and comedy, sicknesses, nutrients, Academy Awards, states of peace, journalism, Ireland in the movies, Judds, fountainheads, columnists, structured information in the news, beating China’s record, mayday flowers, successful athletes, top-ranked neighbors, halls of fame, hitters, domestic enhancement, candles, crackpot conspiracy theorists who are not actually related to me, places of the heart, data, and Shakespeare. Did you know that I often stick in additional hints here that one won't even see in the newsletter? Don't ask me why. 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. Pop Culture – Music. With four letters and two words in its name, what band's video for "Here It Goes Again" won a Grammy Award for Best Music Video in 2007?
  1. Science.   What two-syllable M word completes this definition of “Spectroscopy”? “Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between BLANK and electromagnetic radiation.”
  1. Unusual Four-Syllable Words that will Never Appear in a Donald Trump Tweet. What C word, a noun, means “deception by trickery”?
  P.S. “The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” Mary Oliver   P.P.S. Thanks for your support of the Pub Quiz in 2016. I hope you can join me in looking forward to completing meaningful creative or philanthropic projects in 2017.
North Sumatra

North Sumatra

  Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz, As I write this, an authentic frost has blanketed Davis. Our house this early morning reminds me of my childhood home in Washington DC, where temperatures below 32 degrees were typical for this time of year. As I did in the 1970s, today I hear the coffee-maker percolating, I smell the aroma of Sumatran coffee (which Peet’s Coffee calls “Rustic and satisfyingly earthy”), and feel the cold on my bare feet – it encourages me to sit cross-legged in my writing chair to conserve warmth. I associate all three of these foreign sensations with my mom, Mary, who is visiting from DC this week. Neither Kate nor I is a coffee drinker, and the severity of this cold seems more Mid-Atlantic than Yoloan. Up late last night working on writing projects for you and for other audiences, I reflected on the ways that we would have coped with such cold 50, 100, or 200 years ago. Poetry might give us some indications. 50 years ago, in his 1966 Collected Poems, Robert Hayden published his most famous poem, “Those Winter Sundays,“ which begins   Sundays too my father got up early and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, then with cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday weather made banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.   Whenever I reread this poem, I remember my grandmother starting an early-morning fire at our rural Pennsylvania cabin, enticing us to venture out into the cold and up the gravel path to the outhouse. I hope I thanked my grandmother for making my bed before I returned to it, thus redirecting me to the fireplace and the start of my day. 100 years ago T.S. Eliot imagined the deserted-street streetlights talking to him on a cold evening in his 1917 poem “Rhapsody on a Windy Night”:   The lamp said, "Four o'clock, Here is the number on the door. Memory! You have the key, The little lamp spreads a ring on the stair, Mount. The bed is open; the tooth-brush hangs on the wall Put your shoes at the door, sleep, prepare for life."   And 200 years ago? Perhaps the most famous frost poem not written by someone named Frost was Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Frost at Midnight,” published in 1817 in his book Sibylline Leaves. In that poem, Coleridge meditates on the small blue flame of his fireplace keeping him warm while he writes poems next to his sleeping infant son, Hartley:   The thin blue flame Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not; Only that film, which fluttered on the grate, Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.   With Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos keeping time with Mr. Coffee in the kitchen (thanks, Alexa), the bulldog snoring in the laundry room, the low hum of I-80 traffic, and our neighbor’s garrulous dog wondering why he has to spend so much time outside on such a frosty morning, here in south Davis I may never know the absolute silence that Coleridge suggests a poet needs in order to reflect and to create:   The inmates of my cottage, all at rest, Have left me to that solitude, which suits Abstruser musings: save that at my side My cradled infant slumbers peacefully. 'Tis calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs And vexes meditation with its strange And extreme silentness.   Nevertheless, reflecting on such silences, and the cold starts and ends of our days during this season of frost, I grow all the more ready for the holiday break that starts for many of us in a few days, with the warmth of our families safeguarding us against the day’s chill, and the sound of uplifting music filling the silence of a mid-winter’s night. In additions to topics raised above, tonight at the Pub Quiz expect questions about Christmas in Melbourne, the Amu river, German Christmas traditions, French words with multiple accents, south divisions, anniversaries, stimuli coping mechanisms, Readers Choice Awards, swords, Oscar nominees, the health benefits of heating up the leftover Chinese food, loud title characters, the snow in Alaska, birch-log fires, paradoxes, escaping consumerism, minty oval sciaticae, people born in Russia, family tales, Bruce Springsteen, U.S. Presidents, active NBA players, short names, physics, journalism, Chaplin and Welles, Redd Foxx, vegetarian likes in a Christmas tree, map features, redefining the unexpected, and Shakespeare. Tonight’s is our last Pub Quiz before the Christmas holiday. Enjoy the upcoming time with family and friends, and I hope you and your team can join us this evening. We have confirmed an appearance by the unduly confident team Trivia Newton John, so the competition and the fun will be significant.   Best,   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. Great Designers. The man who designed the logos for ABC, IBM, and UPS shares a monosyllabic first and last name with a current U.S. Senator, only in reverse order. Name the designer or the senator.   
  1. California History. Who on this date in 1995 defeated incumbent mayor Frank Jordan to become the first African American mayor of San Francisco?   
  1. Science. When one alphabetizes the common names for sea snails, what name comes first?
  P.S. Doris Lessing offers this advice regarding your creative projects: “Always the same advice: learn to trust your own judgment, learn inner independence, learn to trust that time will sort the good from the bad – including your own bad.”
  george-washington Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz, As seems always to be the case, I am working on a new book project. Up to 40,000 words as of this morning, my new writing textbook includes four sections: explanations of marginal comments that I share on student essays, lessons that I typically offer in literature and writing classes, enumerated collections of advice from notable authors, and other quotations by such authors. As a rushed example, please find below some writing wisdom from just the “George” section of the book:
  • “Take on new influences without fear and you need not fear what is new. Change the people around you by changing the people around you.” George Clinton
  • “Blessed is the man, who having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact.” George Eliot
  • “Out of my entire annual output of songs, perhaps two, or at the most three, came as a result of inspiration. We can never rely on inspiration. When we most want it, it does not come.” George Gershwin
  • “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” George Orwell
  • “For a creative writer, possession of the “truth” is less important than emotional sincerity.” George Orwell
  • “To write or even speak English is not a science but an art. There are no reliable words. Whoever writes English is involved in a struggle that never lets up even for a sentence. He is struggling against vagueness, against obscurity, against the lure of the decorative adjective, against the encroachment of Latin and Greek, and, above all, against the worn-out phrases and dead metaphors with which the language is cluttered up.” George Orwell
  • “Good prose should be transparent, like a windowpane.” George Orwell
  • “What we’re doing in writing is not all that different from what we’ve been doing all our lives, i.e., using our personalities as a way of coping with life. Writing is about charm, about finding and accessing and honing one’s particular charms.” George Saunders
  • “If you haven't read you don't have the voice. The lack of voice eliminates experience.” George Saunders
  • “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw
  • “Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.” George Bernard Shaw
As these are just 11 of the 559 writing quotations currently found in the book, you can imagine that this has been quite an undertaking. Now I have to decide how many “books” to divide my currently 110-page manuscript into. I have much to research yet, and thus expect that the final document will be closer to 150 pages once I have included all the citations. Which part of such a book, if any, might be helpful to you? I am also curious to know which George quotation is your favorite. Meanwhile, we have a Pub Quiz tonight! In addition to topics raised above, expect questions on the following topics: Liches, New Zealand, thunder and lightning, ruminants, either-or choices, significant streams, the Midwest, Facebook, U.S. Senators, flags, curls, captains, big mayors, the Russians, Santa Claus, silver, sea creatures, naval ships, a bunch of dudes named George, sandwiches, stretches, roadside discoveries, mindless pop, flabbiness or disorganization, U.S. presidents, favorite films, office holders, cauldrons, astronomy, flags, football, people who died in 1977, people named Maria, a straight line to Dublin, volcanos, erasers, shared names, and Shakespeare. This coming Thursday night at the Natsoulas Gallery will be Poetry Night! You should join us on December 15th for a special event of poetry and prose, including works read by the pre-eminent Davis poet, Sandra McPherson. Occasional Maven Naomi Williams will also be performing. Consider it a holiday present from the authors and me to you and your families. And I expect to see you tonight. It’s mid-December! Happy holidays!   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. Books and Authors.   What author of The Woman Warrior said, “the writer writes for herself”?
  1. Film.   Two of Bill Murray’s highest-grossing films were Ghostbusters in 1984 and Ghostbusters II in 1989. What film with a one-syllable title, the second highest-grossing PG-13 film of 1988, was also a Bill Murray movie about ghosts?  
  1. Irish Culture. What is the name of the daughter of actors Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin? Dublin Baldwin, Ireland Baldwin, or Kilkenny Baldwin.
  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.


"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.