Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

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





Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


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


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


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



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



Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

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

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

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

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

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


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


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


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


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



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


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


Davis Shakespeare Ensemble

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

"Greek athletic sports and festivals" (1910)


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

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


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

Skinny Dipping with Dave Pierini


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Saturday night Kate and I got to see a one-man show by our favorite B Street Theatre actor, Dave Pierini. I have seen many one-person shows over the years, including by Sir Ian McKellen long before he was Gandalf or Magneto, and by Bella Merlin, the supremely talented acting professor who now teaches at UC Riverside. Taking on this challenge requires an incredible amount of chutzpa, endurance, willpower, and oratory prowess, something McKellen and Merlin have in spades.

Dave Pierini, by contrast, is the master of the dramatic reaction, the engaging conversation, and that on-stage dance of interaction and engagement. In every role, he convinces the playgoer that he is that character in that situation, reacting to others’ odd or unexpected phrases or actions in ways that keep audiences laughing. As we drove to Sacramento, we wondered how he would do all that with no other actors to respond to.

Dave was already engaging with the audiences when we walked into the crowded theatre, giving out pieces of paper with numbers and lines to select playgoers. The title of the play, Every Brilliant Thing, refers to a long list started by the main character, a list of everything that makes life worth living. The numbers and phrases turned out to be lines spoken by the playgoers. “Remember to project,” we were told. Some people got a single phrase, such as “ice cream,” while I was handed a compound-complex sentence about the comfort that comes from the realization that we cannot change even unpleasant situations (Dave knows me, and thought I could handle the long line). Kate’s well-projected line, which Dave said he picked specially for her, referred to one of her favorite activities: skinny dipping.

Dave Pierini’s performance in a play about emotional trauma, the maturing process, and jazz featured humor, patience, and improvisational brilliance. Dave provided us an acting class, as well lessons about life, love, and perseverance. He also made us laugh, over and over. The audience was deeply touched by Every Brilliant Thing, and I remain grateful that we have such cultural heroes in our midst, courtesy of the B Street Theatre in Sacramento

The last performance in this run took place yesterday. I should ask the B Street Theatre to move our subscription to earlier in the season so I can tell all of you about future shows. We have many theatres to choose from – and the Davis Shakespeare Ensemble offers Romeo and Juliet soon. When it comes to Sacramento offerings, I encourage you to look for Dave Pierini – actor, director, and playwright – in another B Street Theatre production sometime soon.

Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions on television shows, automobiles, the importance of time, Memphis, prime ministers, urban adventures, the loyal opposition, mouths, El Salvador, heroes after who schools are named, regional Tony awards, Angie to her friends, entertainers, used books, repeated ordinal numbers, feeling wonderful, Darwin’s haunts, the new #1, the big IFF, billions and billions, unreal definitions of reality, a start at democracy, famous bugs, fish people, the lachrymose I, expected intrusions, 38 seasons, The Emmys, Julia Roberts, the state of being lissome, The Beatles, Oscar-winners from Massachusetts, cane sleeves, ongoing feuds, not Nancy, American wars, and Shakespeare.

The UC Davis students are back. Have you noticed? Wear your helmets!


See you tonight.


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Mottos and Slogans.  What website has used the slogan “Buy it, sell it, love it”?


  1. Internet Culture. I found out yesterday that Qantas has imposed a ban on Galaxy Note 7 smartphones, which have a propensity to spontaneously catch fire. Name the manufacturer.


  1. Four for Four.    Which of the following jazz musicians, if any, are known primarily for their work with the saxophone? John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker.



P.S. As you may know, I’m working on a Pub Quiz book. If the paperback is 220 pages, with over 1,000 questions, should it sell for $15 or $20?



Margaret Thatcher

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Margaret Thatcher once said, “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.” Setting aside whether one can make blanket seemingly-essentialist statements about men and women in our sensitive era, I will say that I myself depend upon all sorts of women. My mom, for instance, has done a marvelous job parenting my brother and me, even while working full time as a librarian for the last five decades or so. These days she is continuing to find and increase her strength after getting her hip replaced. She impressed her doctors and physical therapists with her resilience and ability to heal. Obviously the years of yoga, dance, and swimming lessons have served her well.

My wife Kate underestimated the weight of our solid son Jukie when adjusting the patio chaise lounger in which he was reclining yesterday morning, and she consequently pulled a muscle in her back. At least she got to enjoy brunch and dinner in bed, delivered by her husband who has been prepping for fall classes and writing a guide to the cultural offerings of Davis. The boys and I depend heavily on Kate – she is what a friend called “the CEO of the family.” I will see to what extent I can pick up the extra slack – so many jobs, so many tasks! – while Kate is recovering.

And then there’s Hillary. Our former Secretary of State seemed to have recovered pretty quickly from the frightening episode, recorded on multiple smartphones yesterday, in which she had great difficulty getting into her car. At least 40% of the country, myself included, expressed concern and rooted for her to recover soon. Many of us also wondered why her pneumonia, diagnosed Friday, was not previously revealed to the public. Discussions began about what we should know about candidates running for president, especially two of the three oldest ever to aspire to occupy the office. The polls are tightening, and the anxiety is rising. Men and women everywhere are hoping their candidate has the strength to continue.

Poetry comes to mind when I need strength or inspiration. Here is a short and I hope relevant poem by the Indian poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore:


This is my prayer to thee, my lord—strike,

strike at the root of penury in my heart.

Give me the strength lightly to bear my joys and sorrows.

Give me the strength to make my love fruitful in service.

Give me the strength never to disown the poor or bend my knees before insolent might.

Give me the strength to raise my mind high above daily trifles.

And give me the strength to surrender my strength to thy will with love.


For myself, I will need to call upon more of my internal resources without the available strength of these three strong women. In such situations, I seek out the sort of love that Tagore mentions in the close of this poem. I hope such love is also available to you.

Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions about the U.S. Constitution, consumerism, trade deficits, Turks, punks, accomplished directors, memoirists, Harvard doctorates, the things you are, tissues, the wide expanse of Canada, Lawrence Olivier, that which is shared with cheese, longer titles, mediated authenticity, 38 seasons, great Scots, unusual containers, combustion, accommodating American consumerism, turned attention to water, that which is demanding, school rooms, legislatures, people named John, hemp, odd numbers, teams named after creatures, the ACLU, an account of billiard balls, the question as to whether Virginia is for lover(s), Davis artistic expression, and Shakespeare.

It would be a thrill to see some (or all) of you are my re-coronation as Davis poet laureate tomorrow evening at the beginning of the Davis City Council meeting. I expect to be crowned at 6:40 or so, at which time I will present a new poem. The poem is so new that it could even be called “unborn.” After the poem, I will slip out, and you are encouraged to do the same.

Meanwhile, see you tonight at 7!


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. California Counties. Starting with the letter T, what California county has the greatest number of cows and dairies?


  1. The Presidential Election of 2016. When did, does, or will early voting start in one or more American states? Last month, this month, next month, or November?   


  1. Pop Culture – Music. What late 2012 hit for and Britney Spears was the first number one song of the newly established Dance/Electronic Songs chart? Hint: The song has 12 letters in its title, if one counts the ampersand.



P.S. Thursday is Poetry Night again. Can you believe it?


Spider Man Park in Davis CA

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

I’m sitting in the shade at one of our favorite parks. A slight breeze cools the 81-degree day at noon. Children are playing Frisbee golf with their parents, while my sons climb a large structure made of ropes and metal fasteners. Sometimes a truck can be heard on California State Highway 113, but at this distance, the freeway sounds almost resemble surf. From all the joyous yelling, I have learned that two of nearby dogs are named “Bullet” and “Chainsaw.”

A professor of English walks by with his 13-year-old son, and refuses our offer of raspberries, kindly adding that at home they have been eating them by the “Costco cartful.” He tells me that he is enjoying his Frisbee golf victories while he can, for soon his son will beat him in all physical games. The boy nods.

My sons and I enjoy a Safeway brunch of bagels, berries, and mango protein drinks at a picnic table. At the far end of the table sits a black leather purse. We wonder what its story could be. Moving students have been known to abandon furniture on the streets of Davis on the 1st of September, but not usually purses. After 15 minutes, one of the Frisbee players, a blonde woman with tattoos walks towards us, smiling, to grab her purse. She asks if I am writing Pub Quiz questions. “The newsletter,” I respond.

The redwood trees that encircle this park are taller than the nearby apartment houses. They offer significant shade in the aggregate, rather than individually, for all their growing energy seems to be devoted to producing height alone, rather than to creating a canopy of branches. They invest in the long term, these redwoods. John Muir once said, “As soon as a redwood is cut down or burned, it sends up a crowd of eager, hopeful shoots, which, if allowed to grow, would in a few decades attain a height of a hundred feet, and the strongest of them would finally become giants as great as the original tree.”

Sometimes the cycle of life, and such prodigious growth, takes decades, but in the park this afternoon, the process seems to have been sped up. I glance up at my friend the English professor just as his son threw his yellow Frisbee at a target from 20 yards away. The sound of the plastic hitting the chains means that he improbably hit his mark, even from such a distance. My friend heard me applauding, looked over to me, his mouth still open, and remarks, “It has already begun!”


Inspired by my time in the park today, tonight’s pub quiz will feature questions on familial relations. Expect also questions on Sweden, division I, Italy, ampersands, Scott Simon, politics, ecology, the word “monatomic,” cows, women of the world, transplants, people named Isaac, Cheers, wireless in Manila, court sports, cable hawks, pride of the USSR, boats, British physicians, mild invectives in pop songs, American cities, national teams, presidential politics, big cities, gadgets, and Shakespeare. I also have yet to write a few of the questions. Perhaps some of these hints will not apply. All of us should expect surprises.

Happy anniversary (Wednesday) to my wife Kate. Our marriage is the same age as Daisy Ridley.

Happy Labor Day! I look forward to seeing you and your teams this evening.


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

  1. Internet Culture. Google moved into its current headquarters in 2004. Name the city.
  1. Newspaper Headlines.   It was 50 years ago today on Aug. 29, 1966, that a certain rock band played what turned out to be their final ticketed show, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Name the band.
  1. Four for Four.      California leads the nation in the production of which of the following? Cheese, cotton, lettuce, strawberries.

P.S. Tune into Capital Public Radio Wednesday morning during the 9 AM hour to hear me talk with Beth Ruyak about my new poetry book, In the Almond Orchard. And then Thursday night at 8, I will be reading at Luna’s Juice Bar in Sacramento. You are invited.


Bike Commuters, two to a bike

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Many people get to ride their bikes only on weekends, if at all. I get to ride my bike on weekdays, but then must rely more on the car on weekends, mostly because of my responsibility to other travelers, to passengers. As a result, I look forward to Mondays with great anticipation and eagerness. After a weekend of being closed in (in homes, in cars), I am finally released to the open air. Also on Mondays, I get to see a bunch of old friends, and look forward to perplexing them.

Like many of you, I see my morning bicycle commute as the most pleasant part of my day. We have grown use to this phenomenon in Davis, where more of us ride our bikes to work or school than in any other American city, at least according to The Alliance for Biking and Walking and its 2016 Benchmarking Report. Reflecting on that report, blogger Melanie Curry writes, “Among smaller cities, Davis, at 20.3 percent bike mode share, was far and away the top U.S. city, far higher than number two Boulder, where 10.8 percent of commuters ride bikes.” With our weather and topography, we have certain advantages over Boulder, even though Boulder has the Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art.

In my early years of attending Davis City Council meetings, I noted that many of the citizens standing in line to offer public comment were still carrying their bike helmets, as if to communicate to the City Council and to each other that of course they biked to the evening meeting. The tacit question: Why didn’t you also bike this evening? I sometimes ask myself this question on Monday nights, for most of my swag could fit in my panniers. Peer pressure is not limited to high school.

Our highly esteemed Mayor of Davis, Robb Davis, doesn’t own a car. Perhaps this is why so many UC Davis students vote for him, for most of them are also carless. He understands their perspectives. Grocery shopping with one’s bike equipped with panniers is one thing, but Mayor Davis of Davis actually moved by bicycle. Now, he moved from one Davis home to another, and he had help from other bicyclists, for sometimes it takes a village to move a mayor, but still, one can imagine the engineering and problem-solving that went into that enterprise. Robb could have saved some time and energy by merely renting a U-Haul that day, as so many young people did this past weekend, but he is a man of principle. And today he has a great story to share. I have a working bicycle – I wish I had been there.


Tonight expect questions on the following topics: Presidential politics (again?), enough light in the lab, famous castles in Berkshire, languages, San Francisco and other familiar locations, baseball, men who pay close attention, scientific analysis, exclamations that you can share on TV, cheese, American heroes, superheroes, art and art history, popular fruits, UNESCO, cotton, that which is endangered, something else that India and Pakistan have in common, produce, the locations of welcome mats, alphabets, morning routines, landlocked countries, fashion choices, channels, nice mints that are worthy of sacrifice, aging month by month, classic TV, economies of fear, the difference between “muster” and “musket,” people with new jobs and minimal on-the-job training, John Lennon, Riverside, and Shakespeare.

This coming Thursday night, September 1st, is Poetry Night in the city of Davis. The Poetry Night Reading Series is proud to feature Bay-area poets Nina Lindsay and Rosa Lane on Thursday, September 1st at 8 P.M. They will be performing at the John Natsoulas Gallery at 521 1st Street in Davis. Each has written books, taught classes, and moved hearts. You should join us.

Thanks for sticking with the Quiz during this time of “changeover” in the city of Davis, with all the to and fro. The first week in September reminds us of the transitions that move us all.


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from a previous week’s quiz:

  1. Mottos and Slogans.    What “A” company teaches us that “Impossible is Nothing”? I reminded myself of this fact when out on a rare run through South Davis yesterday.
  1. Internet Culture. Speaking of transitions, the victim of a $140-million-dollar lawsuit, what news and celebrity gossip website will close later this week?  
  1. Newspaper Headlines.   According to a recent headline, the tanning industry blames 10,000 salon closings on what four syllable word that begins with the letter O?  


The Road in Utah

The Road in Utah

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

After a long road trip, one slowly grows used to stationary life. Unlike any of our hotels, our Davis home has more than two rooms; I find myself re-acclimating to the space and the locale. At night after the boys are in bed, I have caught myself walking into a room, say my daughter Geneva’s room, and considering anew the walls of art, like a tourist, perhaps like the tourist I was when I walked the rooms of the Art Institute of Chicago a week ago today, marveling at what I beheld.

We are home, but in my dreams, the road returns to me, and I return to movement as my frame of reference. What is the speed limit? In some states, it was 80, so we set the cruise control at 84. The momentum of our travel still propels my restless imagination. When passing another car, one feels like the pilot of a spaceship rather than the driver of an overstuffed minivan. Care must be taken. But when no cars can be seen, which was often the case in Wyoming and South Dakota, the extreme speeds seem appropriate, even conservative. When the roads are that deserted, one can take a moment on that smooth ribbon of asphalt to look to the side, to consider the nearby bluffs or mountains, the landscape, seeming moonscape or, in Utah, the salt-scape. The drought seems to be creeping east, originating in California, like so many of our nation’s trends and fads. Our country is a huge panorama that must be seen to be understood, but even then, it stretches outside of and beyond our comprehension.

One needs context to understand the road, and for me, that context often comes from the books I’ve read. When I first ventured to California as a 20-year-old, driving from Boston to Santa Cruz with my freshman-year roommate, Jack Kerouac provided our context, and our inspiration. Listening to our road trip tape, with songs by Chuck Berry, Erick Clapton, and Bob Dylan, we ate up the miles, amazed, then as now, with the enormity of it all. As Kerouac says, “Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” We looked forward with anticipation, like pilgrims making discoveries. In the original scroll of On the Road, Kerouac writes, “The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream.” Perhaps we need authors to capture and represent the ineffable joys of motor-travel, so that we better understand our vast fly-over states, even as we race through them.

Written in notebook form in the 1940s, Kerouac’s plan for On the Road did not reflect the benefits nor the homogenized trials provided by Eisenhower’s interstate. Despite his love for speed, Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty could not travel as quickly as we did, driving, for example, from Mount Rushmore to Chicago in a day (more than 925 miles!). Despite his speed, Kerouac stopped often, as we could not, arriving in Wisconsin just in time to meet with professors and administrators. On some days we would drive 400 miles at a sitting, stopping only for cheap gas, the bulldog and children snoring or occupied with books in the back.

But imagine how slowly Mark Twain traveled that same expanse! In 1861, Twain moved with his brother Orion from Missouri, where young Samuel Clemens had spent years learning the craft of a Mississippi steamboat captain, to western Nevada. I just completed a version of that drive this past week, and we found it to be long and grueling in our high-speed automobile. Kate and I discussed how we would have fared making that same trip across such a desiccated landscape via covered wagon in the 1860s. Clemens first took the name “Mark Twain” while writing for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, using the newspaper office as his university, as Whitman and Hemingway had also done. Because of the 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode of silver, Twain was not the only one to make his fortunes (and misfortunes) there. While the current population of Virginia City is a mere 855, in Twain’s time, it was closer to 25,000.

Eventually Twain himself left, as well, coming farther west to write for The Sacramento Union and various San Francisco newspapers. This means, of course, that his horse would have brought him along what would have later become I-80, a couple years before a Southern Pacific Railroad depot would be built in “Davisville” in 1868. I wonder what Twain was thinking while crossing Putah Creek!

Rather than tomes of adventure stories, and local color reflections, such as what Twain wrote during his time on the road, I have merely a list, composed by my wife Kate, to sum up our recent trip:

  • Number of miles driven: 5,179
  • Number of states visited: 11
  • Number of U.S. presidents viewed in stone: 4
  • Number of books read by Truman: 16
  • Number of U.S. presidents viewed in wax: 43
  • Number of Midwestern thunderstorms enjoyed: 2
  • Number of movies watched in the car: 11
  • Number of swimming pools sampled: 6
  • Number of miles between Davis, California and Beloit, Wisconsin: 2,029
  • Number of audiobooks read: 4
  • Number of Picassos studied at The Art Institute of Chicago: 23
  • Number of Amazon Prime boxes delivered to box #605 in the Beloit College student mailroom: 7
  • Number of minutes of Olympics coverage watched: 0
  • Number of daughters dropped off at college: 1

The Buddha said “It is better to travel well than to arrive.” We traveled well, as you can see. With the road continuing to haunt our dreams, I’m sure it will be a while before any of us feel that we have arrived.

Tonight, Your Quizmaster will return to the Pub Quiz. Expect questions on some of the topics raised above, and on most of the following: Questions of possibility, the prowess of Obama, parcel posts to the UK, the problems with cotton, synchronous performance hall performances, healthy tans, the Middle East, celebrity gossip, Fast Company, New Scientist, regrettable poisonings, Olympic heroes, wings of independence, the need for a marine biologist, electricity, Halle Berry and other people who are even taller than she is, Phoenicia, recycled pilgrims, defying the polls, silver online, Tonight Show hosts, unwelcome scandals, people who cajole coyotes while earning Pulitzer Prize nominations, happy rides, rail travel, the relationship between baseballs and the unhelmeted, secretaries of state, cityscapes, beasts of burden, and Shakespeare.

Special thanks to Jason, the backup quizmaster who makes my vacations and road trips possible. I hope you enjoyed your time with him during these past two Mondays. Now it is my turn!

See you tonight.


Your Quizmaster


Here are three Arthur Conan Doyle questions from a quiz I wrote in 2011:

  1.   Arthur Conan Doyle was born and died in what century or centuries. Be specific.
  1.    The British actor inside R2D2 shares a last name with the street Sherlock Holmes lived on. Name it.
  1.    What musical instrument did Sherlock Holmes play?