The Machiavelli Scores a Touchdown Edition of the de Vere’s
Irish Pub Pub Quiz Newsletter

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

A friend and colleague looked at the halftime score of the
Super Bowl yesterday and then remarked that he “can’t help but worry that even
though the Atlanta Falcons will score more points, the New England Patriots
will still win the game.” He was half right. His comment made me think about
how much Donald Trump has been talking up the New England Patriots, predicting
that the team owned by his good friend Robert Kraft would win by eight points.
He was pretty close.

Like Trump, The New England Patriots and their coaches are
known for their underhanded play, such as for underinflating footballs or
videotaping and learning opposing teams’ signals to their players. Despite this
proclivity towards cheating, the Patriots should nevertheless be congratulated.
Donald Trump says the Patriots are an honorable team.

Nevertheless, I got to thinking about a great number of
current, historical, and even fictional (literary or cinematic) villains that
also deserve congratulations for the Machiavellian ways in which they
accomplish their goals. With the hopes of offending no one, I’ve created a list
for you.

Here goes:

Congratulations to the New England
Patriots, under-inflator of footballs.

Congratulations to Bill Belichick
for using video to help your team win games, such as by videotaping the New
York Jets’ defensive coaching signals.

Congratulations to Donald Trump,
who evidently has called in favors with friends in leadership roles, that is, in
the Kremlin and in the FBI.

Congratulations to Barry Bonds,
still our home run king in Major League Baseball, despite the asterisks.

Congratulations to Ty Cobb, who
sharpened the spikes on his cleats in full view of the opposing infield,
intimidating players from tagging you out as you stole home 54 times.

Congratulations, Lance Armstrong,
for all that time spent wearing the yellow jersey. I hope all that blood you
dosed was your own!

Congratulations Tonya Harding for
clubbing the opposition. You raised the profile of ice skating, and almost got
away with it!

Congratulations, Nero, for being
the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. You are one of the ones we remember!

Congratulations, Michael Corleone,
for surviving both the notable Godfather films!

Congratulations, Imelda Marcos, kleptocrat,
on your mountainous collection of shoes. It’s hard to believe that you are
still alive!

Congratulations, Emperor Palpatine (AKA
Darth Sidious) on the execution of your order 66. You really plan ahead.

Congratulations, J. Edgar Hoover,
for your devoted work intimidating sitting presidents with what Harry Truman
called our own American “Gestapo or secret police.”

Congratulations, Thug Behram, for
inspiring so many two-bit thugs to be named after you!

Congratulations, Kim Jong-un for
distracting us from the work of your crazy father!

Congratulations, William Rehnquist,
for your work choosing President George W. Bush for us. Sometimes democracy
needs some help.

Congratulations, Ivan the Terrible,
for your work as Tsar, and for turning a state into an empire full of hungry
and depressed people.

Congratulations, Mr. Potter, for
not letting on that you had pocketed that $8,000 you found in Uncle Billy’s

Congratulations, Dutch Shultz, for
your excellent aim.

Congratulations, Vlad the Impaler,
for your incredible technique, and for retiring the title “impaler.”

Congratulations, Nurse Ratched, for
finally calming Randle Patrick McMurphy.

Congratulations, Hannibal Lector,
for being both the villain and the hero in a film that swept the major Oscars!

Congratulations, Iraqi Information
Minister Baghdad Bob, on your comical press conferences and alternative facts!

Congratulations, Tyler Durden, for your
successful campaign against consumerism!

Congratulations, Keyser Söze, for limping
right out of that police station!

Congratulations, Chris Christie!
Everyone but you has paid the price for Bridgegate!

Congratulations, Andrew Jackson,
for your divisive campaign to remove Native Americans. Whereas the Cherokee
nicknamed you “Sharp Knife,” we put you on the $20 bill!

Maybe you have others to nominate for inclusion on this
list. Drop me a note or a tweet.

Meanwhile, on to clues. In addition to what we’ve covered
above, tonight expect questions on associations, carmakers, Bowling Greens,
multimillionaires, nutcases, marathons, Marvels, Oscar-winners,
African-American history, competitive basketball, the Super Bowl, birds’ nests,
ramen fuels, a plane full of pilots, musical westerns, Japanese statistics,
intense appetites, Aristotle’s ideas about falling objects, animation,
countries that start with vowels, little Irish, James Blake, differing opinions
on the same film, famous villains, President Obama, sustainable eco musketry in
Last of the Mohicans, making money, alternatives to football, famous
paintings, consequences, photography, Stan Lee, the pride of Europe, and

Leave extra time to get to the pub tonight. Sometimes
Californians drive a little nutty in the rain.

Your Quizmaster

Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

  1. Books and Authors.  Name the third woman to
    win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (back in 1923), and who also wrote the
    following poem “First Fig.”


My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my

It gives a lovely light!

  1. Current Events – Names in the News.     Today
    Google honored on its front page a Japanese internment opponent after whom
    a Davis elementary school was named. It’s not George Takei. Who was it?

  1. Sports.  John Lynch has a new job with the San
    Francisco 49ers. What is his new job?

P.S. Poetry Night on February 16th will feature
Dorine Jennette! Join us that night at the John Natsoulas Gallery.

Tofu Scramble from Kate



Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

As much as I love the food in our favorite Davis restaurants, especially de Vere’s Irish Pub, sometimes my family and I eat meals at home, even though cooking for my family is a tricky business. If you count the dog, four out of the six of us are vegetarians, my daughter Geneva has deadly food allergies, my son Jukie has a metabolic disorder requiring him to consume more cholesterol than an average kid, and our youngest Truman has what one might call a selective palate. Whenever we can find a meal that pleases everyone, we feel both surprised and victorious.

Despite these challenges, most mornings Kate makes me a delicious egg and tofu scramble with about five different kinds of vegetables and fungi (i.e., mushrooms). Because I share this daily morning delicacy with Jukie, and because of my love of greens, Kate mixes into the stir-fry all sorts of vegetables that Jukie enjoys too, including about a half-pound of spinach. When that meal is placed before me, I feel as joyful and territorial about my food as Dilly our bulldog feels about her kibble: breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.

Yesterday I came into the kitchen and smelled the most aromatic tofu, veggie and egg scramble that you can imagine. The room was filled with a full-blast banjo rendition of “You Are My Sunshine,” a love song that is appropriate to share over breakfast. Kate told me that she hoped that I like the music of Pete Seeger, “because that’s all we’re listening to for the next four years.” This was as much a political proclamation as it was a musical one.

Pete Seeger is finding new audiences, and not only with our kids at mealtime. One can also hear Seeger’s music at protests, marches, and demonstrations, such as those that took place at the State Capital a week ago Saturday, and in Sacramento International Airport yesterday, probably with a number of your Facebook friends participating in one or both. Protest songs have always sustained those who sought peacefully and collectively to confront immoral authorities. As novelist Nicholson Baker put it, “The nice thing about a protest song is that it takes the complaint, the fussing, the finger-pointing, and gives it an added component of sociable harmony.”

Kate reminded me that, as the daughter of a progressive minister in suburban Chicago, she often found her childhood home filled with guitar-strumming reformers, leftists, and parishioners who sought to confront the racism, bigotry, and other acts of intolerance that they encountered in their neighborhood and in their nation during the Nixon years, the war years. She remembers being upset by stories of people in her mostly-white neighborhood turning their hoses on new arrivals’ African-American and immigrant children as they walked to or from school, communicating that they were not welcome.

Whether they were listening to Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, or Malvina Reynolds, those progressives who practiced protest songs, constructed posters, and made plans in living rooms across the country didn’t want visitors, new immigrants, and people of color to think that their entire community embraced or even accepted that sort of intolerance.

One can only imagine how it might feel, coming of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s, to be seen by other countries as bigots and racists just because a plurality of our white voters supported a paranoid and authoritarian U.S. president’s plans to implement policies targeting minorities and immigrants, policies that were condemned internationally and domestically as short-sighted, immoral, and un-American. In retrospect, I have great admiration for the friends of Kate’s parents who chose to act – even if merely by singing a Pete Seeger song to a bunch of protesters standing at a police line – rather than watching silently as history passed them by.

Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions on one or more topics raised above, and on the following: short candles, new jobs, speaking roles for women, sun kings, names in the news, Dorothy Crawford, the BBC, home, tempered wildness, prominent women, peninsulas that are visited by people from two countries, people named Murphy, mismatched protectors, gay icons, sunshine, famous artists, big religions, mutagens, a tent in which you would find cowards, Sherlock Holmes, anthems, notable villages, maritime weapons, raids, the reason that Curious George earned his medal, ornamental rope, auto-repeaters, bones we depend upon, expatriates, clock towers, conglomerates, and Shakespeare.

We start at 7, but it’s always good to arrive early to chat with your friends before the carnival barking begins. I will be wearing black.

Your Quizmaster

Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

1. Books and Authors. Emily Dickinson lived all her life in the same western Mass. town with a current population of 38,000. Name the town.

2. Sports. What MLB pitcher has the records for the most wins and the most losses?

3. Shakespeare. The cube root of the even number of Shakespeare’s sonnets is 5.3601. How many sonnets did Shakespeare publish?

P.S. Speaking of sample questions, did you see which quizmaster has a new weekly column, if you can call it that, in the Davis Enterprise? I will tell you. It’s your quizmaster.

P.P.S. Poetry Night takes place on Thursday.

Poets Patrick Grizzell & Geoffrey Neill
Read at the John Natsoulas Gallery
February 2nd at 8PM

The Poetry Night Reading Series is proud to feature poets Patrick Grizzell and Geoffrey Neill on Thursday, February 2nd at 8 P.M. They will be performing at the John Natsoulas Gallery at 521 1st Street in Davis.

Geoffrey Neill is a Sacramento-area poet, as well as the founder of little m press. Little m press has published around twenty chapbooks for Sacramento poets who, for the most part, don’t have previous publications, and provides local poetry to local readers. Neill’s work has appeared in several anthologies including Late Peaches and Sacramento Voices. Neill has performed his work throughout California and hosts Joey Montoya’s Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Café in Sacramento the second Thursday of each month.

Patrick Grizzell is a poet, songwriter and visual artist. His books include Dark Music, Chicken Months (about which Robert Bly wrote, “… the poems have a sweet spontaneity and tenderness”), Minotaure Into Night (with sumi paintings by Jimi Suzuki), and the more recently published chapbooks, 13 Poems, and It’s Like That. He has a new full length collection, Writing in Place, under way.

A founding member and previous director of the Sacramento Poetry Center, Grizzell was also editor of On the Wing, an arts magazine, and is an occasional contributor to ArtWeek and other publications. His interviews include conversations with Helene Pons, Fernando Alegria, Robert Bly, Aline Comisky Crumb, Gary Snyder, Ruth Bernhart, Will Durst and others. Grizzell has performed poetry and music with, among others, Allen Ginsberg, Leon Redbone, Jim Ringer and Mary McCaslin, Ed Sanders, Taj Mahal, Shizumi Shigeto, William Stafford, Robert Creeley and Anne Waldman. He studied art and literature at CSUS with Maya Angelou, Dennis Schmitz, Eugene Redmond, Kathryn Hohlwein, John Fitzgibbon, and others.

Grizzell’s band, Proxy Moon, will released a CD early this summer and are at work on another. John Lee Hooker once said he “sounds pretty good” on the dobro.

An open mic will follow the readings by the featured poets. Please bring your poems, short stories, and songs. Participants will be asked to limit their performances to five minutes or two items, whichever is shorter. The Poetry Night Reading Series is hosted by Dr. Andy Jones, the poet laureate of Davis. All are welcome.




Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

One of my favorite passages from Jane Austen’s Persuasion is a single conflicted sentence from a love-letter written by Captain Frederick Wentworth: “I am half agony, half hope.” Persuasion was the last novel that Austen completed before her death, and it is considered by critics to reflect a more mature style, and a more mature heroine in Anne Elliot, than we found in her earlier books. Therefore, we find more room in Persuasion for paradox, contradiction, and radical ambivalence, exemplified by this phrase “half agony, half hope.”


Friday in Davis was blustery, even stormy. I came across standing water and downed trees on the bike path during my ride to work that morning, but almost no other bicyclists or dog-walkers. Was Davis deserted? Back in my hometown of Washington DC, people must have felt the same way, with fewer Metro riders than on a typical weekday. In both cities, as the clouds in the sky and in our moods darkened, people were choosing to stay away.


Saturday was different. At least in Sacramento, the sun came out, and so did more than 20,000 marchers, eager to read each other’s smiling and determined faces, our warm but outrageous outfits (with evidence of pink knitting and crocheting projects everywhere), and especially our signs. The wit! The candor! The puns! The insults! The outrage! The resolve! Some of the more flavorful signs signs included artwork, caricatures, double-entendres, and the faces of heroes such as Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Eleanor Roosevelt. My favorite read simply “YOU THOUGHT I WAS NASTY BEFORE?  WELL BUCKLE UP, BUTTERCUP!”


While I was despondent on Friday, after Saturday, I felt like Captain Wentworth: half agony, half hope. After Saturday, the country I know and love looked more familiar to me, if only for the rampant kindness and politeness I saw on display on the Sacramento streets. One woman offered my wife her husband’s cloth handkerchief when she saw Kate struggling with our son Jukie’s runny nose. And a few dozen smiling people apologized and said “excuse me” for bumping into me at the march and, later, at the rally. Word on the street is that there were no arrests at any of the major rallies. Reading this, someone on Twitter said, “Well, yeah. Because women.” The cops must have loved the peaceful vibe despite the massive size of the crowds. An Atlanta TV station has been replaying footage of police officers giving high fives by the hundreds to protesters as they file by, everyone cheerful with their hands raised. Imagine by how much accident rates and crime rates would fall if 100,000 women would march through every big city every day of the week. The bonhomie was contagious, and lightened my mood from the day before.


And then yesterday we learned that a woman with an ice pick visited the Islamic Center of Davis to break windows and doors, slash tires of the bikes parked out front, and, most reprehensibly, leave bacon on the door handles of the center. Somehow I bet the perpetrator of these hate crimes did not participate in the peaceful and inclusive Women’s March the day before.


As I write this, the LaunchGood fundraising project website seeking to restore the Islamic Center has already surpassed its goal, meaning that Davis citizens and others have stepped forward to donate the funds necessary to repair the damage. I hope that further acts of goodwill and mutual understanding will result from this awful and ignorant act, just as I hope that malicious and threatening comments made by our new president have helped to spawn a new civil rights movement. Although citizens in our divided nation may feel a mix of agony and hope as we consider the Trump era, those who marched Saturday and who have been organizing since also know that anyone who would seek to trample the rights of the excluded and under-represented had better just buckle up. This is just the start.


Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions on one or more of the issues raised above, as well as the following topics: Astronomy, western Massachusetts, interactions with the press, wins and losses, civil wars, DVDs, new doctors, biogeographies, motorcycles, polyglots who never learned Braille, civil rights, coastal cities with archbishops, famous conferences, undergraduate haunts, mealy justices in Los Angeles, hot Jamaican exports, Susan Lucci firsts, living biographies, angry words, the deep south, aviators with unexpected friends, historical dating, winning formations, women named Ingrid, Academy Awards, heroic librarians, inhabitants of Ireland, a Constitution worth defending, a ticking biological clock, numbers of titles, prominent artists, sounding better, and Shakespeare.


Two of the most prominent authors in Davis have books coming out soon. Pub Quiz irregular John Lescroart’s FATAL will be released tomorrow, January 24th – I’m really excited about this book, for it introduces a new female protagonist that will stir up further interest in Lescroart. Meanwhile, Kim Stanley Robinson’s new book, New York 2140, will be released in March. Let’s see if we can woo Stan to the Pub Quiz before he begins his book tour.


You should also consider yourself wooed. See you tonight at the de Vere’s Irish Pub Pub Quiz!


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Mottos and Slogans.    The Motto of Raley’s Supermarkets is “to infuse life with health and happiness and to make shopping easier, better and more personal.” What Yolo County city is the home to the headquarters of Raley’s Supermarkets?


  1. Internet Culture. What did CNET recently call “our favorite phone, bar none”? Was it the Apple iPhone 7, the Blackberry Passport, the Google Pixel, or the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge?


  1. Newspaper Headlines.  The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is shutting down after many years of performances. Which of the following is closest to the length of the run of America’s most famous circus? 50, 100, 150, or 200 years?


P.S. Speaking of ups and downs, let’s remember what James Joyce said in a letter to a friend when the great Irish novelist himself was struggling with difficult challenges: “All things are inconstant except the faith in the soul, which changes all things and fills their inconstancy with light.”


Flooded Basement

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Yesterday I bought a sump pump, and I don’t yet know how to use this contraption that usually lives in a basement. I remember basements. While I know a certain Davis pen collector who has an impressive collection of chilled wines in his completed basement, the vast majority of homes in Davis don’t have much going on beneath the first floor. I guess one expects people to build up and out, rather than to dig down, in one of the flattest places on earth.

Back in Washington DC, I lived in a basement throughout high school, and I felt like the luckiest kid I knew. Many of my friends were wealthier than my family, but almost none of my peers had his own bachelor pad with a private entrance, kitchenette (which I never used), and laundry facilities. I also had my own phone number: 202 965-1086. I stopped answering that ring in about 1985, so finally I feel comfortable sharing it. Anyway, I loved that basement pad, and never seemed to mind how dark it was. I used to listen to Bob Dylan down there.

Basements in pop culture, especially the movies, are where one finds (or contacts) ghosts or weirdos. Audiences of horror films recognize that one never goes down to the basement, but characters in such films never learn this lesson. From over-telegraphed schlock like The People Under the Stairs to the Hitchcock classic Psycho to the Oscar-winner The Silence of the Lambs, we’ve learned to fear the basement and to expect the most dramatic scenes in the film to take place there. As R. L. Stine says, “Most fears are basic: fear of the dark, fear of going down in the basement, fear of weird sounds, fear that somebody is waiting for you in your closet. Those kinds of things stay with you no matter what age.” Luckily, most of us don’t have basements to fear.

One group of students at Ohio State University wondered why their cabinets and sometimes even their microwave would be open when they arrived home to their off-campus apartment. What an industrious ghost they had! In our house when someone leaves all the doors of the pantry open, Kate makes a joke about the Sixth Sense. But for the Ohio State students, there was an actual non-ghost living in their basement. A search of their home revealed a locked door that they got the realtor to open up, only to find therein that a guy had been living in their house, for months.

I’m not sure how that worked out, plumbing-wise, and fortunately, none of the news reports provide any of those details. Perhaps a sump pump played a part. I hope you don’t need a sump pump to help you deal with our wet weather, for yesterday I bought the last one at Davis Ace Hardware.

Normally here one finds a clever segue to the hints for tonight’s Pub Quiz, but this week I used up all my cleverness discussing the unexpected topic of basements. Tonight expect questions on the following: bunnies, Golden Globes, bagel-related injuries, speedy science basement roaches, targets, favorites, tenacity, Trump critics, attorneys, best-selling authors, inventors, well-paid TV prognosticators, six-syllable words, John Kerry, a bridge too far, Dublin, Gene Wilder, Schopenhauer, mammal hunting, western ecosystems, above-ground mishaps, gestation periods, rodents that deserve to be bathed by cavemen who don’t use articles, Genius, the variety of colors of different animals and albums, essential meanings, Princess Diana, D verbs, psychoactivity, long drives from Davis, multitalented singers, Billy Bob Thornton, smartphones, and Shakespeare.

Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Mottos and Slogans.    Starting with the letter O, what brand name for a line of household cleaners uses the slogan “powered by the air you breathe, activated by the water you drink”?


  1. Internet Culture. Apple’s new wireless cord-free Bluetooth earbuds, called AirPods, retail for which of the following? $16, $76, or $160.


  1. Newspaper Headlines.   What S-word completes this sentence? Last week UC Davis was named the most BLANK university in the world.


P.S. Until about midnight tonight, one can purchase the Audible audio book of the new Brian Tracy publication for two dollars. It is titled Get Smart: How to Think and Act Like the Most Successful and Highest-Paid People in Every Field. I bought my copy. Perhaps you want one? Brian Tracy says, “Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, “What’s in it for me?” This opportunity I present to you as my gift.



Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Yesterday while waiting in line to buy tickets to Manchester by the Sea (an excellent film), I ran into the local KDVS DJ and music promoter Bill Wagman. Bill was heading over to see Rogue One, and admitted that last year he reviewed all six Star Wars films in anticipation of watching The Force Awakens.

The new Star Wars movie and the untimely death of Carrie Fisher have lead many people to watch those films again. My son Truman’s room at age 11 looks somewhat like mine did at the same age, with Star Wars characters and posters festooned on the walls. Like most kids my age, Truman can speak about his favorite science fiction films with authority.

My wife Kate was the one who broke the news to him. She wrote, “I felt awful telling him this morning, ‘honey, I have some very sad news: Carrie Fisher has died.’ He looked so sad and finally said, ‘Mommy, is it okay if we don’t talk for a while?’ ‘I feel the same way,’ I said.” Reading this, I was reminded of the December morning when my Mom woke me with the news that John Lennon had been killed. He was important to me in part because of the causes that he espoused.

Other musicians aspired to improve the world, as well. After Prince died last year, we discovered that he had funded solar panel investments here in northern California. As Van Jones said, “there are people who have solar panels right now on their houses in Oakland, California that don’t know Prince paid for them.”

After George Michael passed away this past Christmas, we discovered that he had been donating proceeds from some of his biggest hits to British charities, and that he had volunteered time in homeless shelters, all while requesting that the charities and beneficiaries keep his kindness quiet. For example, as NPR reported, George “Michael donated the royalties from ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,’ his 1991 duet with Elton John,” to the London-based HIV-awareness organization Terrence Higgins Trust.

Speaking of HIV awareness, Debbie Reynolds hosted benefits for HIV/AIDS research two years before President Reagan ever publicly acknowledged that AIDS existed. When Reagan was California governor, the two of them chatted in the green room while waiting to appear on the first ever episode of the Joey Bishop Show. 15 years later, they were worlds apart on the most important emerging medical crisis of the age.

Reagan was running for president against Jimmy Carter in May of 1980, the month that I met Carrie Fisher at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, for the world premiere of The Empire Strikes Back. Even though she was in conversation with Harrison Ford, she was momentarily kind to me by making eye contact, signing an autograph, and telling me that she hoped I would enjoy the film. None of us knew about her private battles with substance abuse and mental illness, causes that she would champion with her writing and her celebrity. Fisher earned the Kim Peek Award for Disability in Media in 2012, in part because of her willingness to share details about her battles with bipolar disorder.

Rather than Star Wars, we watched Singing in the Rain on New Year’s Eve. As I delighted in Gene Kelly’s ambitious choreography, I was reminded of having been introduced to that film, and especially its soundtrack, for years before sitting in the AFI screening room with my Dad to watch Star Wars. The deaths of so many stars and heroes in 2016 might make all of us feel a bit nostalgic and melancholy this new year. I hope that tonight’s Pub Quiz will lift our spirits.

I will close with part of a poem by David Meltzer, the San Francisco beat poet and acquaintance of mine who passed away Saturday night, on the last day of 2016, at age 79:


The veil


existed before he was born

and between his arising

shadowed the world he moved through

reaching for dim forms he thought

brought light


Tonight’s Quiz will feature questions on some of the topics raised above, as well as on Apple, Inc., household cleaners, new year’s resolutions from garrulous fathers, new jobs, Miles Davis in 1962, atypical plants, Marie Curie, Africa, Stanley Steamers, musical instruments, Toy Stories, Mel Gibson, French authors, Browns, Ireland, Harrison Ford’s smoking habit, ingénues, cities in Texas, the mordantly wealthy, New Zealand, the coming night, Darryl Strawberry, ordained ministers, crosses in New Mexico, chased Mafiosi, Gerald Ford, intransitive two-syllable verbs with several meanings, Mitch Richmond, Saddam Hussein, joints and trusses, franchises, summer hits, Martina Navratilova, music consumption, soaked stagnancy, Michael Richards, swords, and Shakespeare.

Happy New Year! Please join us tonight for our first de Vere’s Irish Pub Pub Quiz for 2017!


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from a quiz I presented on December 28, 2009:

  1. Books and Authors. Who wrote A Child’s Christmas in Wales in 1955?
  2. Pop Culture – Music (Karaoke Question). About whom did Miles Davis say “You can’t play nothing on trumpet that doesn’t come from him”?
  3. Sports. Two-time consecutive World Cup winner Lindsey Vonn left a competition today after seriously injuring her arm. In what sport is Vonn considered one of America’s greatest competitors?


P.S. “You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world.” James Baldwin


The UC Davis Arboretum

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Despite the cold, this morning and this afternoon my wife Kate and I walked the UC Davis Arboretum loop. We were still buzzed with joy and musical cheer after seeing LaLa Land at the Varsity Theatre last night. Fans of the rare well-made modern musical, we could see why the film made so many top-ten lists for 2016 films, including being voted the top film by critics at Rolling Stone and All Things Considered (NPR), among other media outlets. Tom Hanks said, “When you see something that is brand new, that you can’t imagine, and you think ‘well thank God this landed’, because I think a movie like La La Land would be [anathema] to studios. Number one, it is a musical and no one knows the songs.” Peter Bradshaw of the British newspaper The Guardian gave the film five stars, calling it “a sun-drenched musical masterpiece.” It is heart-wrenching and heart-warming in all the ways that work.

Kate loved the soundtrack so much that she downloaded it on Christmas night, and played it during her two walks around the Arboretum loop (about seven miles total). So that I could hear, during the second loop Kate unplugged her earbuds, sharing the tunes with me and the occasional smiling and quizzical passersby. Feeling like we were in our own musical, Kate proposed that we learn some dance moves like those used by Sebastian and Mia in the film. Excited about our Boxing Day project, we are now searching for choreographers, and may have to turn to our friends at the Davis Shakespeare Ensemble for help.

In any event, I was dancing in the park this morning instead of writing newsletters for the pub quiz. Like you, I have been on vacation. In her book, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now, Maya Angelou writes, “Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”

I hope that our Pub Quiz can function this way for you, as a two-hour sanctuary from your cares and woes. I expect a crowd tonight, so I hope you can join us by 6! Happy holidays and happy new year.

And here are the hints. In addition to what was mentioned above, tonight also expect questions about Christmas carols, drones, cards, Hebrew words, the entertainers, chambers, important dates in history and mythology, my latest writing projects, speech-writers, wooing with rough strife, rivalries, popular people, life and comedy, sicknesses, nutrients, Academy Awards, states of peace, journalism, Ireland in the movies, Judds, fountainheads, columnists, structured information in the news, beating China’s record, mayday flowers, successful athletes, top-ranked neighbors, halls of fame, hitters, domestic enhancement, candles, crackpot conspiracy theorists who are not actually related to me, places of the heart, data, and Shakespeare. Did you know that I often stick in additional hints here that one won’t even see in the newsletter? Don’t ask me why.

See you tonight.


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Pop Culture – Music. With four letters and two words in its name, what band’s video for “Here It Goes Again” won a Grammy Award for Best Music Video in 2007?


  1. Science.   What two-syllable M word completes this definition of “Spectroscopy”? “Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between BLANK and electromagnetic radiation.”


  1. Unusual Four-Syllable Words that will Never Appear in a Donald Trump Tweet. What C word, a noun, means “deception by trickery”?


P.S. “The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” Mary Oliver


P.P.S. Thanks for your support of the Pub Quiz in 2016. I hope you can join me in looking forward to completing meaningful creative or philanthropic projects in 2017.

North Sumatra

North Sumatra


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

As I write this, an authentic frost has blanketed Davis. Our house this early morning reminds me of my childhood home in Washington DC, where temperatures below 32 degrees were typical for this time of year. As I did in the 1970s, today I hear the coffee-maker percolating, I smell the aroma of Sumatran coffee (which Peet’s Coffee calls “Rustic and satisfyingly earthy”), and feel the cold on my bare feet – it encourages me to sit cross-legged in my writing chair to conserve warmth. I associate all three of these foreign sensations with my mom, Mary, who is visiting from DC this week. Neither Kate nor I is a coffee drinker, and the severity of this cold seems more Mid-Atlantic than Yoloan.

Up late last night working on writing projects for you and for other audiences, I reflected on the ways that we would have coped with such cold 50, 100, or 200 years ago. Poetry might give us some indications. 50 years ago, in his 1966 Collected Poems, Robert Hayden published his most famous poem, “Those Winter Sundays,“ which begins


Sundays too my father got up early

and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,

then with cracked hands that ached

from labor in the weekday weather made

banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.


Whenever I reread this poem, I remember my grandmother starting an early-morning fire at our rural Pennsylvania cabin, enticing us to venture out into the cold and up the gravel path to the outhouse. I hope I thanked my grandmother for making my bed before I returned to it, thus redirecting me to the fireplace and the start of my day.

100 years ago T.S. Eliot imagined the deserted-street streetlights talking to him on a cold evening in his 1917 poem “Rhapsody on a Windy Night”:


The lamp said,

“Four o’clock,

Here is the number on the door.


You have the key,

The little lamp spreads a ring on the stair,


The bed is open; the tooth-brush hangs on the wall

Put your shoes at the door, sleep, prepare for life.”


And 200 years ago? Perhaps the most famous frost poem not written by someone named Frost was Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Frost at Midnight,” published in 1817 in his book Sibylline Leaves. In that poem, Coleridge meditates on the small blue flame of his fireplace keeping him warm while he writes poems next to his sleeping infant son, Hartley:


The thin blue flame

Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not;

Only that film, which fluttered on the grate,

Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.


With Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos keeping time with Mr. Coffee in the kitchen (thanks, Alexa), the bulldog snoring in the laundry room, the low hum of I-80 traffic, and our neighbor’s garrulous dog wondering why he has to spend so much time outside on such a frosty morning, here in south Davis I may never know the absolute silence that Coleridge suggests a poet needs in order to reflect and to create:


The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,

Have left me to that solitude, which suits

Abstruser musings: save that at my side

My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.

‘Tis calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs

And vexes meditation with its strange

And extreme silentness.


Nevertheless, reflecting on such silences, and the cold starts and ends of our days during this season of frost, I grow all the more ready for the holiday break that starts for many of us in a few days, with the warmth of our families safeguarding us against the day’s chill, and the sound of uplifting music filling the silence of a mid-winter’s night.

In additions to topics raised above, tonight at the Pub Quiz expect questions about Christmas in Melbourne, the Amu river, German Christmas traditions, French words with multiple accents, south divisions, anniversaries, stimuli coping mechanisms, Readers Choice Awards, swords, Oscar nominees, the health benefits of heating up the leftover Chinese food, loud title characters, the snow in Alaska, birch-log fires, paradoxes, escaping consumerism, minty oval sciaticae, people born in Russia, family tales, Bruce Springsteen, U.S. Presidents, active NBA players, short names, physics, journalism, Chaplin and Welles, Redd Foxx, vegetarian likes in a Christmas tree, map features, redefining the unexpected, and Shakespeare.

Tonight’s is our last Pub Quiz before the Christmas holiday. Enjoy the upcoming time with family and friends, and I hope you and your team can join us this evening. We have confirmed an appearance by the unduly confident team Trivia Newton John, so the competition and the fun will be significant.




Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Great Designers. The man who designed the logos for ABC, IBM, and UPS shares a monosyllabic first and last name with a current U.S. Senator, only in reverse order. Name the designer or the senator.   


  1. California History. Who on this date in 1995 defeated incumbent mayor Frank Jordan to become the first African American mayor of San Francisco?   


  1. Science. When one alphabetizes the common names for sea snails, what name comes first?


P.S. Doris Lessing offers this advice regarding your creative projects: “Always the same advice: learn to trust your own judgment, learn inner independence, learn to trust that time will sort the good from the bad – including your own bad.”



Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

As seems always to be the case, I am working on a new book project. Up to 40,000 words as of this morning, my new writing textbook includes four sections: explanations of marginal comments that I share on student essays, lessons that I typically offer in literature and writing classes, enumerated collections of advice from notable authors, and other quotations by such authors.

As a rushed example, please find below some writing wisdom from just the “George” section of the book:

  • “Take on new influences without fear and you need not fear what is new. Change the people around you by changing the people around you.” George Clinton
  • “Blessed is the man, who having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact.” George Eliot
  • “Out of my entire annual output of songs, perhaps two, or at the most three, came as a result of inspiration. We can never rely on inspiration. When we most want it, it does not come.” George Gershwin
  • “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” George Orwell
  • “For a creative writer, possession of the “truth” is less important than emotional sincerity.” George Orwell
  • “To write or even speak English is not a science but an art. There are no reliable words. Whoever writes English is involved in a struggle that never lets up even for a sentence. He is struggling against vagueness, against obscurity, against the lure of the decorative adjective, against the encroachment of Latin and Greek, and, above all, against the worn-out phrases and dead metaphors with which the language is cluttered up.” George Orwell
  • “Good prose should be transparent, like a windowpane.” George Orwell
  • “What we’re doing in writing is not all that different from what we’ve been doing all our lives, i.e., using our personalities as a way of coping with life. Writing is about charm, about finding and accessing and honing one’s particular charms.” George Saunders
  • “If you haven’t read you don’t have the voice. The lack of voice eliminates experience.” George Saunders
  • “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw
  • “Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.” George Bernard Shaw

As these are just 11 of the 559 writing quotations currently found in the book, you can imagine that this has been quite an undertaking. Now I have to decide how many “books” to divide my currently 110-page manuscript into. I have much to research yet, and thus expect that the final document will be closer to 150 pages once I have included all the citations. Which part of such a book, if any, might be helpful to you? I am also curious to know which George quotation is your favorite.

Meanwhile, we have a Pub Quiz tonight! In addition to topics raised above, expect questions on the following topics: Liches, New Zealand, thunder and lightning, ruminants, either-or choices, significant streams, the Midwest, Facebook, U.S. Senators, flags, curls, captains, big mayors, the Russians, Santa Claus, silver, sea creatures, naval ships, a bunch of dudes named George, sandwiches, stretches, roadside discoveries, mindless pop, flabbiness or disorganization, U.S. presidents, favorite films, office holders, cauldrons, astronomy, flags, football, people who died in 1977, people named Maria, a straight line to Dublin, volcanos, erasers, shared names, and Shakespeare.

This coming Thursday night at the Natsoulas Gallery will be Poetry Night! You should join us on December 15th for a special event of poetry and prose, including works read by the pre-eminent Davis poet, Sandra McPherson. Occasional Maven Naomi Williams will also be performing. Consider it a holiday present from the authors and me to you and your families.

And I expect to see you tonight. It’s mid-December! Happy holidays!


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Books and Authors.   What author of The Woman Warrior said, “the writer writes for herself”?


  1. Film.   Two of Bill Murray’s highest-grossing films were Ghostbusters in 1984 and Ghostbusters II in 1989. What film with a one-syllable title, the second highest-grossing PG-13 film of 1988, was also a Bill Murray movie about ghosts?  


  1. Irish Culture. What is the name of the daughter of actors Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin? Dublin Baldwin, Ireland Baldwin, or Kilkenny Baldwin.


Letter Writing

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


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


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


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


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


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

An Elephant in Africa

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,


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


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


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


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


All the best predators

Had their fun before we got here, takings risks

And eating creatures with long memories


Who seemed eager to avenge the pain

Upon us, screaming brachiators,

Until the elephants knocked down our trees.


We stumbled blinking upon the savannah,

Many of us to be quickly eaten so that

A few, you know the ones, could


Express an analogous hunger, an urge

To imagine, to create, to make,

As they say, something out of our lives.


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


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


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


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


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


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


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


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


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


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



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