Sacramento Trees

Sacramento Trees

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Your Quizmaster


Here are some questions from a June Pub Quiz:


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


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


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


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


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



Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Quizmaster


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Candles at the vigil


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

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


Fourteen Times


Do you remember when iconic men fell from our sight?

Lone gunmen snuffed out our hopes,

Silenced our heroes,

Darkened our days, extended our nights.

We all felt those gunshots,

Heard their echoes

Resound in our public squares,

In our Mississippi driveways,

In our Manhattan ballrooms,

And in our marble city halls,

Now monuments to those we have lost.


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


The decades pass, and the loss,

No longer merely symbolic, has now been socialized.

It has spread to elementary schools,

High schools, and universities.

It has spread to movie theaters,

To churches, to offices, to nightclubs.

The gunshot echoes have become staccato:

A desolate tune.


Fourteen times our consoler in chief,

his face pained, his hair ashen,

has addressed the nation.

Fourteen times.


The child asks if anyone important has died,

And the mother explains that everyone is important,

Even if none of them this time is famous.

We are made important by our bravery;

We are made important by our willingness to stand up

And to stand out;

We are made important by the joy we give

And the joy we receive;

We are made important by our solidarity,

By our resolve, and our community.


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

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

Stretched and enlarged by mournful, practiced sympathy.


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


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

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


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


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


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


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


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


Crazy Hats Day

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

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


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


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


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


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



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


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


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


We meet Thursday night at 8 at the John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 1st Street in Davis. Find out more about this event by visiting


Stevie Wonder, Remembering Prince

Stevie Wonder, Remembering Prince

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz:

The first and only day that people were already in line when this particular usher showed up for a morning shift at the Tenley Circle Theatre was Friday, July 24th, 1984. That was the day the film Purple Rain opened in theaters across the country. Prince had many fans in Washington DC, one of whom that morning was wearing a white blouse with purple felt buttons, iridescent purple taffeta pants, and unmistakable earrings: purple and vinyl, they were made of 45 RPM records. Although I tore the ticket of this particular customer, I didn’t get close enough to examine the lettering on the earrings, but I was sure that the name PRINCE could be found above the titles of those hit singles.

That week in July Prince starred in the highest-grossing film in the nation, and “When Doves Cry” was the top charting song. The film went on to gross more than $68 million, almost twice that of The Terminator, and it gave us two number one hits (with “Doves” was “Let’s Go Crazy”) and one number two hit: “Purple Rain.” According to Rolling Stone magazine, Purple Rain is the second best soundtrack of all time, second only to The Beatles’ Help! Vanity Fair once proclaimed Purple Rain the best soundtrack of all time, and Tempo magazine named it the greatest album of the 1980s (even greater than Thriller).

The Thriller comparison is germane, because during that decade Michael Jackson outperformed Prince on just about any indicator that you could mention: number of albums sold, number of #1 hits, amount of money made from concert ticket sales, etc. Today, though, and especially over this last week, more of us might call ourselves Prince fans than Michael Jackson fans. Michael Jackson performed pop music, while Prince performed soul-infused rock and roll: music for adults. Even non-historians can see direct lines of influences from Little Richard (who so far has outlived everyone except Chuck Berry) to Jimi Hendrix to Prince. Perhaps many music lovers embrace Prince over Jackson today because while Jackson presented himself as innocent, childlike, and asexual (when clearly he was not), Prince presented himself in music as lustful and raunchy, when in his personal life, he was known to be considerate, and supportive of other artists. As Chris Rock put it in his 2004 HBO special Never Scared, “Remember when we was young, everybody used to have these arguments about who’s better, Michael Jackson or Prince? Prince won!”

My brother the journalist Oliver Jones has recently published a Prince remembrance that is going viral, or at least as viral as anything published on Facebook can go. In it he says that Prince “was the magical ingredient that could transform American things that suck — proms and halftime shows, sleazy hookups and soul wrenching break-ups — into beautiful, transcendent experiences.” I’m always impressed with Oliver’s writing, and will defer to him on the larger importance of Prince. I just remember all those times when I was out with friends, we would turn up “Let’s Go Crazy” and other Prince hits while driving the streets of DC, and just let loose. During that summer of 1984, Prince was everywhere, he was blatantly sexual, and we loved him. Although none of us ended up “going crazy,” he provided the soundtrack for our fun.

But was he a poet? In auditoria and after-parties, I have enjoyed talks by literary critics such as Sir Christopher Ricks, Helen Vendler, Joshua Clover and Joe Wenderoth as they reflected on the meaningful differences between song lyrics and poetry. Bob Dylan is regarded as the better lyric-writing poet, but in recent decades Prince has been the more productive lyricist, writing hit songs especially for women, including Cyndi Lauper, Alicia Keys, Steve Nicks, Madonna, and Sinead O’Connor. As with Dylan, perhaps this is one mark of a successful poet, that so many other performers can find success with his words?

As a lifelong poetry-lover and your Poet Laureate, I myself have read or heard perhaps 20,000 poems, including everything by Shakespeare, and a clear majority of the “hits” by Wordsworth, Whitman, Dickinson and Plath. But of all those million or more lines of poetry, the one that means the most to me was chosen by my wife Kate, a surprise wedding present presented on a day – our wedding day – when I could still slip off my new wedding ring and read the inscription on the inside. In addition to our wedding date, she had the jeweler engrave a single line of poetry that was written by Prince: “Nothing compares 2 U.” So to both Kate and Prince I will say thanks for the inspiration, and thanks for all the beautiful music.

Postscript: As you can see in the picture, above, yesterday I got to hear Stevie Wonder talk about the many talents we have lost in recent months. Stevie mentioned Glen Frey, Natalie Cole, Maurice White, and Prince. Introducing Stevie to my wife Kate reminded me how precious life is, whether it is that of a young Davisite killed on a Lake Tahoe ski slope (and the reason Wonder was performing in the UC Davis Arboretum yesterday), or that of a music icon who is beloved by millions. Our continued love and our familial and humor-filled conversations keep alive the talents, spirit, and humanity of these important and beloved friends who leave us too soon.

Tonight’s Pub Quiz, guest-hosted by my main man Jason, will feature questions on the following subjects: small boxes and big boxes, Julius Caesar, the extent to which Mick Jagger misses you, rich nations, Fords and Pages, Elihu Smails, fancy roadsters, robots, hints of fog, federations with French names, clocks, oak and mistletoe, poems about growing, fantasy football, unusual words, where the bodies are buried, annoyances, unpalatable-sounding food, people named Harris, babies, bat helpings, Princes and Queens, animals of various sorts, soccer, famous children whose names almost nobody knows, medical terminology, fashion, popular TV shows, Roseville, and Shakespeare.

I will be enjoying a show at the Mondavi Center while you enjoy tonight’s Pub Quiz. Happy National Poetry Month, and I look forward to seeing you on May 2nd.


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Internet Culture. The Prime Minister of what country evidently knows how to explain quantum computing?


  1. Four for Four. Which of the following B words are also shades of purple? Boysenberry, Buff, Bugle, Byzantium.


  1. Science. With regard to radio waves, what does FM stand for?


P.S. The next Poetry Night on May 5th at the Natsoulas Gallery will feature Matthew Zapruder, the new poetry columnist for the New York Times. Mark your calendar now!


Katehi on Picnic Day


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Oscar Wilde said “There is only one thing worse than being talked about and that is NOT being talked about,” while P.T. Barnum and others have purportedly said something along the lines of “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.” I know someone who might question these precepts this week, and her name is spelled K-A-T-E-H-I. Saturday my wife Kate happened to be sitting behind the Chancellor during the Picnic Day Parade, across the street from where I was announcing, using my favorite Quizmaster inflections to enthuse the audience in yesterday’s student-run showcase of the best of UC Davis and the City of Davis. She took a picture of student protesters hoisting their “FIRE KATEHI” signs in which the well-coiffed hair of the Chancellor could be seen in the foreground. One wonders what the UC Davis Chancellor is thinking behind those dark sunglasses.

If it were me, in my head I would be replaying the objections to my decisions, and to my tenure, especially the concerns expressed by students. One can’t deny that in some ways the university has prospered in the years since Chancellor Katehi has come to power. Our endowment has surpassed a billion dollars, our Agriculture, Forestry, Biological Science, and especially Veterinary Medicine programs are ranked among the top in the world. And U.S. News and World Report repeatedly ranks the University Writing Program of UC Davis as “stellar,” the only UC to earn that distinction.

But in recent days, as we know, one can’t find mention of these accomplishments. It has even been hard to find articles celebrating last week’s terrific and relatively violence- and scandal-free Picnic Day (with credit going to the excellent team of students in charge, headed by my friend and former student, Grace Scott). By contrast, yesterday the BBC called us “Pepper Spray University.”

For the record, I agree with the approach of crowding out bad news with good. It makes sense that administrators in Mrak Hall would want to change the subject from the way that peaceful protesters were treated in 2011. But now people are asking, “At what cost?”

Those of us associated with UC Davis have accomplished much, and have much to be proud of. I look forward to seeing what steps the university will take to address the concerns that are now being voiced nationwide and even worldwide (UC Davis is the top trending topic on Facebook as I write this). If the university’s approach embraces accountability, transparency, and student-centeredness, it will most likely be more effective than what we have tried thus far.

Speaking of effective, tonight’s pub qui will feature questions on a variety of topics that you should know something about. This week they will include fast cars, antique firearms, catcher backups, big budget films,  Australian intrigues, the River Lethe, baby animals, years the international celebrities were born, big countries, Irish poets, overcoming the chimerical, laws of the jungle, recognizable characters, voicework for pinball machines and video games, shopping in Pennsylvania, Simon and Garfunkel lyrics, actresses with the last name of Kudrow, Herbert Hoover, unwanted fluid, remarks that cradle, trophy supermarkets, that which modulates, the number 538, birds that mesmerize, San Diego, viral inquisitiveness, Bugle and Boysenberry, movies, and Shakespeare.

It’s KDVS Fundraiser Week! My KDVS fundraiser show takes place Wednesday, April 20th, at 5. Please set an alarm on your smartphone now to call 530 752-2777 at that time so you can make a pledge. Many premiums will be available as thank-you gifts, and you can help my cohost and me raise $1,000 during that time. Thanks!

See you tonight.


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Food and Drink. Jams are made from fruit while jellies are made from what five-letter word?


  1. Pop Culture – Music. The acronym BOB refers to what Rolling Stones’ song?


  1. Science.   Some Louisiana alligators have learned how to balance sticks on their snouts during what particular season for egrets and herons? The answer is a seven-letter word.


P.S. The poet, essayist and really successful musician Nick Jaina will feature at Poetry Night on Thursday night at 8 at the John Natsoulas Gallery. Google Jaina to discover why you should join us.


Notifications for Dr. Andy

Notifications for Dr. Andy

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Some of my friends don’t even have Facebook accounts. Some such friends are elderly, some are busy authors, and some see what Facebook does to the rest of us, and just choose to abstain. I remember feeling the same way as a high-school senior. Even though the drinking age in my hometown of Washington DC was 18 when I was 18, I chose to abstain from drinking alcohol. Now I work in a bar.

According to an article in today’s Washington Post, “Facebook is slowly eating the rest of the Internet.” (As an aside, note that the Post is still capitalizing “internet”). Today the encroachment comes in the form of live steaming video. Here’s how the Post article begins:


You can now stream live to Facebook, and Mark Zuckerberg wants you to know it’s a big deal.

But Facebook’s latest feature is more than just the ability to post live video for your friends to see. There’s a map where you can explore streams from across the world. There are filters to use when broadcasting, and integration with the newly minted Facebook reactions.

It’s one of the largest product releases by Facebook in a while, but most of the bells and whistles sound like features offered elsewhere. By jumping into live video, Facebook is also replicating or, well, re-imagining live video done by Periscope, Meerkat and others. In an interview with Buzzfeed News last week, Zuckerberg addressed what makes Live different from Periscope — the video streaming company owned by Twitter.

His answer was simple, Facebook has the audience. The competitors don’t.

“If you’re a person that just wants to share with your friends, it helps to have your friends there,” Zuckerberg told Buzzfeed.


After imploring various constituencies to come of my SRO book release party Friday night, I myself took the weekend off from Facebook, spending time instead walking around town with my kids, and attending a barbecue in Central Park. Just now I glanced at Facebook and see that I have 74 notifications waiting for me. I’m sure many of those people are wondering where in addition to the Avid Reader they can find my book.

I can see why authors and other creative types take a break – sometimes a lifelong break – from the Facebook feed. I myself have just this morning graded a dozen essays, bike-commuted to campus, taught a class, written the Pub Quiz and, as you can see, written the newsletter. Perhaps my Facebook sabbatical has made me more productive. I wonder what such a break could do for you.

That said, I guess it’s now time for me to take a break from this blessed break, and thank some people for coming to my book release party. People like to know that they are “liked.”

Speaking of likes, Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature the return of my wife and her team, for which I am grateful. It will also feature questions on words (a favorite topic of any poet), couplets, endings, Latin mottos (remember last week?), Uber, hungry corporatists, the crown of Queen Victoria, Missouri households, new clothing, people born in 1970, collapses, dreams and trees, small ages, yogurt, world capitals, Roman culture, masks, comic books, Scrabble knowledge, tingly sensations, cheerful refusals, conjunctions, the financial burden of maintaining the British military, numbers of records, obvious prequels, recognized wizards, opinions in action, tall men named James, jams on it, light bars, Facebook, and Shakespeare.

Word on the street is that A) Mayor Dan Wolk is returning to the Quiz this evening, B) April 13 is National Scrabble Day, and C) I will be announcing at the beginning of the Picnic Day Parade. Perhaps I will see you there by the bandstand. Question: When do I get to ride (or, better, drive in one of those funny or eco cars IN the parade. Maybe they need me too much up front, pronouncing Jamima Wolk’s name properly as HA-MEE-MA, which is a lot of fun to say.

See you this evening!


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Mottos and Slogans. In the western world, mottos are usually written in what language?


  1. Internet Culture. Are the websites and progressive or conservative?
  1. Newspaper Headlines.   As part of the European migration crisis, Greece has started deporting migrants to what country?


P.S. The next Poetry Night on April 21 features Nick Jaina!


Francisco X. Alarcon

Francisco X. Alarcon

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

In most cases public speakers don’t like people following them onstage. Star musicians are used to backup singers. Some megachurch preachers are used to the presence of gospel singers. But public speakers want the unmediated attention of their audiences.

You can imagine how distracting it was when someone came out of the audience of the Cesar Chavez Day Celebration at Veterans’ Memorial Theatre here in Davis and mounted the stage after I did, standing either next to me or behind me, swaying a little bit, and making odd noises.

It was distracting, but not surprising, because the interloper was my son Jukie, and I have grown used to his antics for years. Jukie’s greatest strength is not impulse control. Saturday he saw a wood chip on a woman’s skirt, so he reached off to remove it for her. Yesterday at the Cesar Chavez event he couldn’t figure out what was causing the smudge on the knee of the jeans of the man sitting next to him, so he repeatedly tried to brush off the discoloration. After seeing what Jukie wanted to do, I reached out my hand in a fatherly way and held onto his, and then tried to stop him from straining mightily against my grip. If something is amiss, Jukie will seek to right it, to fix it, or to remove it. When obsessive compulsive disorder is mixed with autism, the result, I find, is many new apologies, and new friends.

Saturday was World Autism Day, so we dressed ourselves and Jukie up in blue, and ventured into the world. According to all the T-shirts printed for the occasion of the big campaign kickoff event in Central Park next to the bicycle-powered merry-go-round, Will Arnold and his supporters, some of them electricians and builders, were wearing a bright shade of blue. We felt at home there.

More strangers than usual knew Jukie and me at the Will Arnold event, proving to me a lesson I learned long ago from the late Francisco Alarcon: If you attend enough events as a member of the audience, sooner or later you will be asked to stand up to speak. Francisco was the subject of my prepared remarks, a fond remembrance, for Cesar Chavez Day. I was there with some context of Francisco’s important work as a bilingual poet, author of children’s books, and a scholar, while Jukie was there to personify Francisco’s exuberance and performative moxie.

Whether we are celebrating great departed friends like Mrs. Barbara Neu or the poetry maestro Francisco Alarcon, it’s important to give room for people to speak, and to consider which of their works – their poems, their students, their magnanimity – will live after them, and which of us will have the responsibility to remember, represent, and re-create those qualities that made our departed friends and leaders so important.

We have a special event tomorrow / Tuesday night at 8 for Pub Quiz regulars. Tomorrow night at 8 at the Irish Pub I will be sharing chapters of my new Pub Quiz book with folks who are willing try out some of the quizzes in groups, and provide joke answers and other hilarity while enjoying some free beer and appetizers. Send me an email or let me know in person if someone from your team will be joining us at this free event. The book will come out later this spring.

And my book release party takes place this coming Friday, April 8th, at 7:30 PM at the Avid Reader. Please join me!

Tonight’s pub quiz will feature questions on many of the expected topics, including motto commonalities, challenges in Europe, healthy rappers, engineering, small boons and big boons,  numbers that are divisible by three, master builders, the attraction of flecks, book genres, singing birds, Tuesday’s get-together at the Irish Pub, aging islanders, public holidays for particular publics, the question of Affleck, German culture, recognizable queens, primer, majestic dragons, fated marriages, new talent, Native American lands, incoherence that is huge and glitzy, red tails, Young rockers, Appalachia, migrants, and Shakespearean tragedies.

See you this evening! There will be new players, so come early.


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Mottos and Slogans.    According to the website “Funny or Die,” what U.S. state’s slogan is “Nobody Cares”?


  1. Internet Culture. According to John Oliver, what is the primary reason to have a landline phone at home?


  1. Pomeranians. Pomeranian is an adjective referring to Pomerania, an area divided between two countries. Name either country.
Odd bike in the Arboretum -- Photograph by Hillel Eflal

Photograph by Hillel Eflal

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Are you standing on a platform? If not, people may have trouble hearing you.

Once upon a time you did well to know some journalists if you had a message to share. There were limited media – newspapers, radio, television – and only people with a lot of money, or who were friends with journalists, could access the audiences who depended upon those media.

The media were an important part of my life as a child in Washington DC. My father appeared on local television most weeknights just before Walter Cronkite. TV station WUSA and radio station WTOP were his platforms. Looking for the most trusted man on television, Washingtonians tuning into CBS every night would incidentally encounter my dad as he reviewed a movie or play, and they would often be perplexed or amazed at his uniquely energetic yet substantive approach to discussing the cinematic and performing arts. No one else on TV incorporated magic tricks or torn up index cards into their movies reviews.

One devoted follower of Davey Marlin-Jones told me years later that he thought my dad must have owned the station, for why else would he be allowed to carry on like that at the end of Eyewitness News? His movie reviews were the primary reasons we owned a TV. Although he didn’t write a book during those years, my dad benefited from his platform of followers in DC and Detroit, the vast majority of whom he didn’t know.

Today people with platforms are expected to connect more personally and individually with their online friends, fans, and followers. And today those platforms have to be built, plank by plank, by the performing talents themselves, rather than being bestowed to a lucky few by the corporations who owned the media, or by who financed the media through commercial advertising. As my Austin friend Rusty Shelton explains in his March, 2016 book, Mastering the New Media Landscape: Embrace the Micromedia Mindset, each of us who has a message, service, or product needs to start thinking like media moguls, and hatch plans to control our small media empires. Costs and other barriers to participation have been lowered dramatically, for most of us could access the tools we need from home, though building a successful platform requires planning, consistency, investments of time and energy, and attention to detail.

But is every creative professional with a message or a product willing to do all that work? Not usually. I sometimes help authors and other creative thought-leaders with platform-building strategies. But like any of us, I also appreciate the attention of those older consumers of information that embody the occasional blessing of traditional media. Such was the case Friday (online) and yesterday (in print), for none other than the San Francisco Chronicle recognized and shared kind words about our de Vere’s Davis Pub Quiz. Here’s the final paragraph of the article titled “Davis a town of understated genius” by Peter Fish:

Evening entertainment? The Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, on the UC Davis campus, is a world-class venue for world-class musicians. This spring’s headliners include Aimee Mann (with poet Billy Collins) and Yo-Yo Ma. For a lower-key night out, hit the Varsity Theater, which boasts cool Midcentury Modern architecture and a neon pink marquee and shows art-house and indie films. Or test your mental acuity in a popular Davis evening event: the bar trivia contest. Numerous downtown watering holes run these, but the pinnacle is probably the Monday night contest at De Vere’s Irish Pub, led by UC Davis English prof Andy Jones. The good news is that if you lose, you can always find solace in a pint of Guinness.

I would have appreciated some mention of the highest-quality ingredients in the food at de Vere’s, the excellent wait staff, or the scintillating newsletter available via, but perhaps someone will mention those excellent parts of our Mondays together online in the comments section. I enjoyed reading online newspaper comments that sought to celebrate local resources rather than inflaming anger with a flame war. Check out the entire San Francisco Chronicle review of our hometown at, and thanks for helping me make our Pub Quiz noteworthy to that little newspaper with the big circulation to the southwest of our town of understated genius.

Speaking of generating buzz, I hope you will consider attending my Avid Reader book release party on Friday, April 8. My book In the Almond Orchard: Coming Home from War can already be found at The Avid Reader, and soon will be purchasable in paperback and online form for a mere $10. Money from book sales will fund The Charles Ternes Prize, a creativity award for Veteran Students at UC Davis.

Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions on spectator sports, video games, trips to Cuba, NPR, cynicism on stage, people named “Ryne,” metric measurements, summer hits, people who move to California to write books, understanding metals, the EU, doctor distinctions, unknown beasts, peaks and valleys, Pulitzer Prizes, circulation, green zones, local attractions, mathematics, Legos, Star Wars, vibrating pouches, ambitious rebuilding projects, the British spelling of “Baptise,” previous batches of TV shows that I have never watched, the ways that we talk about the word, missing youths, crime tales, Kris and Ernie, embassies, lightning strikes, living to 80, America’s sweethearts, percentages, odd takes on The Wizard of Oz, New England, shoes, and Shakespeare.

Attracted by the newspaper, will we have a bunch of newbies join us tonight? Or back for spring break, will we have former Blue Devils filling our booths and tables? And when will we see the return of Bob Dunning or Lucas Frerichs? These and many other important questions will be answered tonight at the de Vere’s Irish Pub Pub Quiz!

See you at 7. Bring an extra $10 if you want a signed copy of my new book.


Your Quizmaster


Here are four questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Four for Four.      Which of the following, if any, are among the California’s top-three most valued agricultural commodities for 2014? Almonds, Macadamia nuts, Pistachios, Walnuts.


  1. Pop Culture – Music. According to Billboard Magazine, Michael Jackson’s biggest hit of all time was a duet with Sir Paul McCartney. Name the song.


  1. Sports: Baseball. What switch-hitting all-time Major League leader in outs (10,328) recently signed a baseball to Donald Trump, inscribing the words “Please make America great again”?


  1. Science.   The section of the brain called the hippocampus was named after its resemblance to what small marine fish?


P.S. Enjoy your spring break. For those of you who are struggling, know that people care about you, and are willing to help.