Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

As I prepare poems to read at today’s celebration of Martin Luther King at the Sacramento Convention Center, I wonder what tone I should strike. Should I read something with the grain, benignly celebratory of shared values, or against the grain, drawing our attention to the social justice challenges that we continue to face? It’s not difficult to find antagonists to confront, politically or poetically.

Probably the most famous of the political and cultural antagonists of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was George Wallace. After Wallace was elected governor of Alabama as a Democrat (ouch!), with no Republican standing up to oppose him, he insisted on being sworn in standing on a gold start that marked the spot where Jefferson Davis had been sworn in as the President of the Confederate States of America. Wallace’s first speech as Alabama’s Governor in 1963 contained his most famous line, and one of the most prominent public pronouncements of racism in the 20th century: “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Later that year he used similar rhetoric when he himself physically barred African-American students from enrolling in the University of Alabama.

Ironically, Wallace had been endorsed by the NAACP when he first ran (unsuccessfully) for Governor in 1958, for in that campaign he talked about improving roads and schools, but had lost to a candidate who inflamed racist tensions and divisions in Alabama, promising to keep African Americans from participating in the political process. Wallace himself adopted this strategy in subsequent elections. Like many villains of American politics, Wallace not only heightened divisions, but villainized those he opposed, primarily African Americans. Using the power of his bully pulpit and the media, Wallace convinced voters that such villains were to blame for their own tribulations in life. In his book The Politics of Rage: George Wallace, the Origins of the New Conservatism, and the Transformation of American Politics, historian Dan T. Carter points out that Wallace’s supporters saw the civil rights movement as an indication of the “erosion of the cultural values that underlay the social system.” When he ran for President in 1968, Wallace won a slate of southern states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi. To this day, Wallace is the most recent third-party candidate to have earned pledged electoral college votes from any state.

I would like to say that our politics have changed significantly since George Wallace was earning votes. Certainly, today’s Democratic party would differ with Wallace on almost every issue, and the name of George Wallace the politician is not as well known today, with schoolchildren in many states learning about the racist former governor of Alabama only from Dr. King’s most famous speech, in which the segregationist is not even mentioned by name:

“I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today!”

But in many ways, there is much more work to be done. We still have lessons to learn from the man whose life we celebrate today. Reverend King’s words still resonate with us today because of their uplift, their hopeful message about Americans being defined by our shared ideals, rather by our divisions. Even in King’s lifetime, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited “recipients of Federal financial assistance” (including sheriffs and the police) from engaging in acts of “discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin.” Other protected categories have been added since then, thus writing into law the application of American egalitarian and democratic ideals. With King and other leaders as our examples, I look forward to seeing how we might continue to strive towards those ideals, in 2018 and beyond. Happy Martin Luther King Day!


Tonight’s Quiz will feature questions about some of the topics raised above. Even the Shakespeare question will have a MLK theme to it. Expect also questions about cities with revealed similarities, Special K, Johnny Depp, Capricorn and other astrological signs, median heights, tart fruits, 24 pins, collective joy, Machiavelli, Liam Neeson, Las Vegas, Nobels, answering calls, botany, Kirk Douglas, big grosses, birthday presents, Germany, small coins, people named Tobin, famous novels, cities named after counties, favorite vegetables, Gary Oldman, American sitcoms, anticipating feathers, authoritarians, continental electricity, baseball teams, songs about singing, northern California, fun with calculators, and, as has already been mentioned, Shakespeare.

This coming Thursday night is Poetry Night in Davis. Trinidadian poet and storyteller Angela Davis and reformed lawyer Laura Rosenthal will be the featured performers at the Natsoulas Gallery at 8. You should join us!

Thanks to everyone who came to my book release party Friday at the Avid Reader. I will have copies of the book Pub Quizzes: Trivia for Smart People with me at tonight’s Pub Quiz. See you tonight!


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:


  1. Mottos and Slogans. Found in Riverside County, Indio, CA uses the slogan “City of Festivals” because of cultural events held in the city every year. What is the most notable such festival?  


  1. Newspaper Headlines: New Laws for 2018. On January 1 of this year, which of the following became the last state in the nation where drivers are not allowed to pump their own gasoline around the clock? Is it New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, or New York? It’s true that people in Oregon now have to pump their own gas.


  1. Four for Four.  Which two of the following novels were written by Charlotte Brontë? Agnes Grey, Jane Eyre, Vilette, Wuthering Heights.  



Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Many people are making resolutions this January, but how many of us will keep them? I’m reading a new book on this topic: Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals. In it productivity and leadership researcher and guru Michael Hyatt explains what sort of beliefs and habits limit us, how we are often haunted by our pasts, why we need to reflect on the best and necessary qualities of the goals we set for ourselves (and then write the goals down), why we set goals in the first place, and what tactics best help us take action and achieve the results we wish.

With regard to goals, I’ve read about the need for SMART goals for years. Hyatt insists that we make “SMARTER” goals, goals that are specific, measurable, actionable, risky, time-keyed, exciting, and relevant. I appreciate the addition of risk and excitement to the typical productivity consultant’s review of goals, for I for one like to push myself, that is, to take risks, and nevertheless to engage in actions that I enjoy. I should have completed this process at the end of December, I suppose, but right now I am working on my list of ten or so goals for the year. Now that I own Michael Hyatt’s new book, I will also spend some time considering the extent to which I can and should apply his criteria to the goals I have set.

Happiness researchers—and wouldn’t you like that job?—have determined the characteristics of happy people. Often, they compile and explain these habits and attributes in books, compelling those of us who seek out happiness to follow up to see if, when we adopt the habits of happy people, happiness itself will soon follow. When I first started teaching undergraduates as a nervous 23-year old, long before I had inherited any of my father’s ties, one of my mentors told me to embrace the imposter syndrome, to “pretend” to be confident and successful in the classroom. Before long, I was convinced by my performances, and so were my students. It can be like this with happiness, the researchers say. Impersonate a happy person, and before long your smile will feel unforced.

I have set a goal of selling a bunch of copies of my new Pub Quiz book, and to come out with a follow-up text (that is, the second in the series) by November of this year. Because Michael Hyatt wants me to make my goals actionable, and because I enjoy spending time with all of you, I have scheduled a book release party at the Avid Reader this coming Friday, January 12th, at 7:30, and I would be pleased if you could attend. I will be reading from the introduction to Pub Quizzes: Trivia for Smart People, running a brief pub quiz right there in the bookstore, and then answering some questions that I did not write, including tricky questions about my early attempts to keep separate, or even hidden, the different personae that I adopt on different days and nights of the week. I will also have available some wine and fancy crackers.

If you have written down some goals for 2018, I would like to know what they are, especially the ones you consider RISKY and EXCITING. The title character of the new film Molly’s Game might point out that the Pub Quiz, like a game of poker, if a game of skill, not chance. That said, the smartest teams don’t always win. That must be why we don’t see so many of my UC Davis faculty colleagues: losing at the Pub Quiz, which has happened to just about every player I know except for Joshua Clover, can be a humbling experience. Humility, like failure, can be a path to nobility, which, I suppose, should be a goal for any of us in 2018. As Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions on at least one of the topics raised above, as well as the following: writing implements, productive Poping, that Amelia (who is always getting lost), a heightened loss of control, written names, spousal hires, generous blessings, so forths right up the middle, bombshells, numbers that end with 6, the need for pumps and pumping, misinterpretations of “Funkadelic,” Australia, metabolism, fair exchanges, accounting for meters, seats of federalism, pretty flowers, more counting, Irish women, monologues, Amazon reviews, coming in third, damnable seagulls, faded red/read pigment, 40-year achievements, textiles and fabrics, perfection, flammables, dork moths, American Kings (so to speak), billboard categories, contests with unusual vote-getters, people named Agnes, cowboys, the last of the new, gasoline, yearly festivals, riverside attractions, what ladies like, nine-letter words, highs and lows, Microsoft Word, elasticity, tabulations, transitions, last words, and Shakespeare.

I taught my first winter journalism class this morning, and Oprah has not yet announced that she is running for President of the United States. What’s new for you?

As was the case last week, one of the questions on tonight’s quiz will come from an early chapter of my new 350-page book, Pub Quizzes: Trivia for Smart People. They have copies at The Avid Reader, and there will be some for sale at the Quizmaster’s table at the pub. I have two left before the next print run arrives on Thursday. Although I hope you can join us on Friday, I also hope you will buy your copy at the Pub tonight so I can thank you in person.


Your Quizmaster


P.S. Here are three questions from last week’s New Year’s Day quiz:

  1. Internet Culture. Fill in the blank on this number one trending calorie-related Google query of 2017: “How many calories are in a BLANK Frappuccino?”
  2. Newspaper Headlines. Will and Jada Pinkett Smith have been married for years, though not as long as my wife Kate and me. How long have they been married? 5, 12, or 20 years?
  3. Four for Four. Which of the following civil rights leaders were born in Alabama? Ralph Abernathy; Coretta Scott King; Martin Luther King, Jr.; John Lewis.

New Horizons

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Happy New Year! The political opinions expressed in this newsletter reflect only those of your Quizmaster. If you want to review some comments from readers who challenge or support these opinions, review a version of this essay in this the January 1 edition of The People’s Vanguard of Davis, and via the iPinion Syndicate.

In 2016, David Bowie and Prince died unexpectedly, and I was crushed. In 2017, Chuck Berry and Fats Domino passed away, and I was saddened. These inevitable endings remind us of our mortality, and of our powerlessness. Your love for Prince could not have saved Prince. He walked a path independent of your path, no matter how many of his songs you may have downloaded. At the end of 2017, we learned that France will miss Johnny Hallyday, and Mayberry will miss Gomer Pyle, but there’s nothing you could have done for these musical stars who likely didn’t sing to you.

To my mind, the greatest losses of 2017 were not people, but bedrock American values upon which we had come to depend. In 2017, I lamented the loss of important abstractions, such as respect the United States had earned from other nations, executive branch adherence to the laws and guidelines in our Constitution, and, perhaps the most valuable of all, our hard-earned traditions of our democracy. Unlike with the final curtain calls of favorite singing stars, this loss was our fault. As a nation, we elected Donald Trump.

While voters in red states mistakenly thought they were electing a Republican, complacent voters in blue and purple states missed the warning signs. We know now that we had ignored the rust belt and the people who lived there, we underestimated the anger of low-information voters, we failed to understand the extent that resentment, racism, and nationalist anger had taken hold of people with whom we largely chose not to interact. We had failed to recognize or confront our nation’s new enemies, such as alt-right internet trolls, and Russians who had weaponized our national digital distractions of Facebook and Twitter.

We believed, normalized, or neglected to defy the central “political” and entertainment figure who kept the media busy, and thus we elected a liar, a huckster, a flimflam man, a charlatan, and a self-hyping bigot. We somehow believed him when he said, “I alone can fix it,” even though, as Luke Skywalker says in The Last Jedi, “Every word in that sentence was wrong.” As we examine our current era’s calculating army of storm-troopers — the media manipulators, necktie-wearing xenophobes, and Russian provocateurs — we see that Trump depended upon collusions with such allies in order to rip up the social conventions of truth-telling and decency, and thus has begun to dismantle our representative government.

The difference between the loss of our musical heroes, on the one hand, and American Democracy, on the other, is that together we actually can fix the latter. We can band together, open our eyes, understand our nation’s enemies, foreign and domestic, and we can make some different choices. In 2016, we as a nation took some terrible risks, with terrible and embarrassing results in 2017. In 2018, we can take steps to address our nation’s ills, to confront outside agitators and domestic bigots. Women are stepping forward to run for office, as are people of color, LGBT folks, and a great variety of resolved and sometimes enraged citizens who have awakened to the military and ecological threats to Americans, and to humankind.

The recently-passed tax bill reminds us of the ways that we are not protected by the bubble over Davis, or the bubble over California. By eliminating some of the deductions we enjoyed for the significant state and local taxes we pay, the crafters of this partisan experiment in political punishment have disincentivized the investments we make in local schools — Davis schools are some of the best in the state — as well as the contributions we make in local non-profit organizations that champion our Davis values and causes.

We awaken on the first of the year as if suffering a hangover from a party we did not mean to attend. We all have felt the ill-effects in 2017, but the morning sun can bring with it a hope for change, for correction of our grievous national error. I look forward to supporting–with rhetoric, with contributions, and with deeds–those leaders who share our concerns and our outrage, and who seek to forge a new path of action, of resistance. In doing so, we might return to the bipartisan American values that have emboldened us during our historical battles with tyranny and fascism.

At the beginning of a new year, we must take heart, for I believe we are ready for this challenge. As Winston Churchill famously said, “Never give in — never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”


Even though January 1st is a holiday, we are still meeting for the Pub Quiz tonight, and I hope you can join us. Those who participate will find questions about the following topics: sentries, spousal devotion, gas supplies, abandonment, regal responsibilities, 1.3 million Americans, April popularity explosions, prominent chairmen, geology, what smart people know, Dave Chappelle, undersea creatures, curious shadows, notable disappearances, Mars, oil reserves, folklore, holiday threats, theatrical west, the jobs of actresses, fantastic women, titles that are never explained, what must be shown to a gentleman, lucrative residencies, and Shakespeare. Do you subscribe to the Pub Quiz newsletter via email? The version that comes out Monday mornings in the mail will have a few more hints than what you find here.

One of the questions on tonight’s quiz will come from chapter one of my new 350-page book, Pub Quizzes: Trivia for Smart People. They have copies at The Avid Reader, and there will be some for sale at the Quizmaster’s table at the pub. I hope you will buy your copy at the Pub tonight so I can thank you in person.

I hope you enjoyed the holiday break, and I hope to see you tonight for the de Vere’s Irish Pub Pub Quiz! We start at 7, but I expect a New Year’s Day crowd, so you may want to come early to secure a table.


Your Quizmaster


P.S. Here are three questions from the Pub Quiz from December 21st, 2009. Adjust accordingly.

  1. Art and Art History. What is the subject of the most famous painting by James McNeill Whistler? I saw my favorite Art History professor in the Pub just yesterday!
  2. Sports. George Gipp, Johnny Lujack, Joe Theisman and Joe Montana all played football for the same university. Name the university. Joe Theisman was kind to me when I met him at the theatre.
  3. Science.  Starting with the letter H, what is the branch of zoology concerned with the study of amphibians? E.B. White said that “Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.”

P.S. Once about eight years ago I asked the local Andy Kaufman-style author and comedian Chris Erickson to guest-host the Pub Quiz when I was out of town. That experiment worked moderately well, and compelled some Pub Quiz regulars of that era to check out some of Erickson’s performances. Well this coming Thursday, Erickson is back, reading and performing characters from his fictional pieces as only he can. I hope you will join us for the January 4 Poetry Night featuring Chris Erickson. We start at 8 at the John Natsoulas Gallery.

Christmas Tree

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

I love the way that my wife Kate loves the music that she loves. She smiles, hums a bit, and almost shimmies with her shoulders, making me grateful as I watch her inhabit the music. In many ways, our musical tastes overlap. When she and I met 30 years ago this fall, we discovered that we shared a love of Bob Marley, Paul Simon, Aretha Franklin, and Suzanne Vega. Later together, and in person, we discovered Greg Brown, Mumbo Gumbo, and Too Many Zooz.

All that said, if Kate leaves the room while I am working from home, the music usually changes to some of my favorites that antedate our first meeting, including the music of Ray Charles, Rick James, Parliament Funkadelic, and James Brown. I often feel that I am kin with James Brown.

But on a recent evening when Kate ventured out to dine and catch up with a group of her closest friends, I did not switch off the Christmas choral music she was playing while preparing for her evening. The songs she had chosen were resonating with me, and they helped me refocus my thoughts on our family and our home this December.

Traditional holiday music, and for us that means primarily Christmas music, serves to connect us with rituals of yesteryear. When I was a child, we did watch some screens together, such as the yearly broadcast of It’s a Wonderful Life, the classic 1946 film that celebrates the end of World War II as much as it does Christmas, but mostly as families we actively participated in rituals together.

As a youth, I would walk with my mom to the Christmas tree vendor in our Georgetown neighborhood of Washington D.C., and then trudge back through the snow, dragging a Christmas tree that grew heavier by the block. Back home, I remember feeling the warmth of Christmas surround me, along with the smell of fresh pine. We would hang the same impossibly fragile ornaments that my grandmother had hung on trees in Pennsylvania when she was a girl. A few broke every Christmas, and by the time we sold our DC home in 1989, there were none left.

Those ornaments were unboxed as my mom sang along with the 1960 Nat King Cole album The Magic of Christmas. As I hear exalted choral voices share the magic of those carols now, and as I reflect on family Christmases of yesteryear, I realize that these were some of the few songs for which we knew all the words, even those of the obscure secondary verses about visiting angels:


Still through the cloven skies they come

With peaceful wings unfurled

And still their heavenly music floats

O’er all the weary world;

Above its sad and lowly plains

They bend on hovering wing.

And ever o’er its Babel sounds

The blessed angels sing.


Yet with the woes of sin and strife

The world hath suffered long;

Beneath the angel-strain have rolled

Two thousand years of wrong;

And man, at war with man, hears not

The love song which they bring:

O hush the noise, ye men of strife,

And hear the angels sing.


For lo! the days are hastening on,

By prophet bards foretold,

When, with the ever-circling years,

Shall come the Age of Gold;

When peace shall over all the earth

Its ancient splendors fling,

And all the world give back the song

Which now the angels sing.


Those angels still sing to us today. Whether you look for guidance from the unnamed angels in different versions of the biblical Christmas story, from what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature,” or, as I do, from James Brown, we all hope our holiday breaks provide inspiration and togetherness. Uplifted by music that might make us feel less weary and that might hush the “men of strife,” we should all get to work on creating or renewing holiday traditions with loved ones, the traditions that will garnish our future memories like so many unbreakable ornaments.


Tonight’s Pub Quiz is the one where I arrive with copies of my Pub Quiz book for sale, $20 each. More on that after the hints.

Tonight’s pub quiz will feature questions on issues raised above, as well as on wookies, Michael Jordan, oranges, lost daughters, hipsters, bewitched sisters, rivalries, food staples, the color yellow, librarian choices, cubic feet, face dots, P as in proton, the color blue, William Faulkner, birds of prey, self-propelled vessels, government agencies, prized absences, California raisins, satisfactory driving, coveted Oscars, wildness incarnate, swift prey, singer-actors, a chapter per character, the importance of titles, Old French expressions, Instagram, inclement weather island visits, indigenous people, representatives that deserve impeachment, arts and crafts, retail clothing choices, choices of the Irish middle class, people named Quincannon, gross registers, American slavery, large cats, and Shakespeare.

Copies of Pub Quizzes: Trivia for Smart People have been picked up at the printer and are now on their way to Davis. I hope you will buy a copy or three this evening at the Pub Quiz. At 350 pages, 33 full-length quizzes, and over 1,000 questions, Pub Quizzes: Trivia for Smart People will keep you and your fellow holiday revelers busy, especially if sharing trivia questions is part of what you call revelry, as I do. You can stop by to buy a copy tonight even if you don’t plan to participate in the quiz. I will also have a signup sheet for people who want copies delivered to Davis friends and family on Friday. While the delivery is free, holiday gift-wrapping and/or gift-bags, to be provided by my daughter who arrives home from college Thursday night, will be $3 extra (for I will have to pay her). Use this form to register your intent to buy a book.

I hope to see you tonight for the de Vere’s Irish Pub Pub Quiz! We start at 7, but I expect a crowd, so you may want to come early to secure a table.


Your Quizmaster


P.S. Here are three questions from the Pub Quiz from December 21st, 2009. Adjust accordingly.


  1. Mottos and Slogans. John Stossel recently revealed on “The O’Reilly Factor” the names of American retailers that were deemed to be “Christmas-friendly” by the American Family Association. One of the largest of these (1,416 stores) for years had as its slogan “Right Here. Right Now.” Name this company that merged with Sears in 2004.   
  2. Pop Culture – Music (Karaoke Question). What is the actual title of the song popularly known by its opening line “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire”?
  3. Anagram – Film Musicals. The seventh greatest movie musical of all time according to the AFI, and the only one film on the list whose title is a command, could have its title letters rearranged to spell SOMETIME UTENSIL. What is this 1944 film that introduced us to the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”?   



P.S. This coming Thursday, December 21st is Poetry Night – we are starting at 7 instead of 8, and on the third floor, instead of the second, of the John Natsoulas Gallery. Occasional Pub Quiz player Beth Suter will be the featured poet.

Beth Suter is a longtime Davis author, poet, naturalist, and teacher. Her work has appeared in The Yolo Crow, The Avocet, The American River Review, Tule Review, and The Snowy Egret. She has been a featured reader at The Other Voice and The Sacramento Poetry Center. Suter won first place in the 2013 Ina Coolbrith Poetry Contest, and in 2014 was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Beth Suter grew up in rural Missouri, living close to the land. Suter fell in love with poetry while studying environmental science at UC. Davis. Today she sees poetry as a way to commune with nature and share her love of place with others. She lives in Davis with her husband and son.


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

This morning people’s patience was being tested at the UC Davis Coffeehouse. The line was growing ever longer behind me as a woman who was hoping to pay for her coffee with a quick swipe was instead checking her bank app to determine why her credit card was not being accepted for her micro-purchase. When I offered to pay for her half-price coffee, the woman took back her credit card and then moved along. Eyeing the long line, at least the anxious barista thanked me.

Outside I saw a street preacher who hadn’t checked his academic schedule to confirm that students would still be attending classes this week. During the exam period in the winter, the quad can be pretty empty, but he kept preaching anyway, despite the lack of an even uninterested audience. The morning sun barely warmed the morning air. As I mounted my bike, two ROTC participants walked past the flagpole and then past me in full uniform. Like the coffee-drinker in line, they didn’t make eye contact.

It occurred to me that, like the evangelist and the soldiers, I wasn’t being appreciated for my service to the community this morning. Also like the preacher and the ROTC folks, I knew that a lack of thanks wouldn’t change my attitude or my practices. Sometimes we engage in service because we see it as our duty, and not because we need to receive thanks.

By contrast, this week I’ve been working on a project that will allow me to show my gratitude towards all of you, and, I suppose, vice versa. Yesterday I submitted my Pub Quiz book manuscript to the printers with special instructions to have a small print run be ready by next Monday, December 18th, our last Pub Quiz of the year. I wanted you to have a chance to buy the book before the holidays in case you needed some physical token to justify to your friends and family where you’ve been disappearing to on Monday evenings.

At 350 pages, 33 full-length quizzes, and over 1,000 questions, Pub Quizzes: Trivia for Smart People will be the longest book I’ve published so far. Unlike my bonus questions at the end of these newsletters, the book will actually contain answers, including a number of humorous incorrect answers with which your teams have amused me and others over the years. It’ll also include an introductory essay by me about the importance of playing games with actual humans in the same room, a preface on similar communal themes by the esteemed professor Keith David Watenpaugh, and an acknowledgements section that goes on and on with its expressions of gratitude, likely mentioning at least one person you know.

Pub Quizzes: Trivia for Smart People will be available at the Pub on the evening of December 18th, with the Kindle version downloadable from Amazon not long thereafter. The paperback retails for $20, or you can buy three for $50. My friend Cheryl said she wanted six copies, and it was her enthusiasm that compelled me to invest in the early run so that it could be wrapped and shared with all of you before we wrap up 2017.

If you really want a copy of Pub Quizzes, but can’t join us on the 18th, my son Jukie and I will be making some daytime delivery runs around Davis once he gets out of school. I will set up an online form for that by next week, so stay tuned. I also hope to deliver a stack to The Avid Reader bookstore before Christmas.

Meanwhile, if someone does something kind for you this month, or even “serves” you in a way that you weren’t expecting or requesting, consider how you might give thanks, plan to pay it forward, or treat others with loving kindness. As the Dalai Lama tweeted last week, “Peace in the world depends on peace within. If we have that we can approach problems in a spirit of compassion, dialogue and respect for the rights of others—always a better solution than resorting to a use of weapons and force. External disarmament depends on inner disarmament.”

That Dalai Lama really takes full advantage of those 280 characters. Maybe like me he’s using Twitter to draft his next book. And what are you drafting on this drafty day?

Tonight’s Pub Quiz may feature questions on some of the topics raised above, and will take on the following weighty issues, though perhaps not in the way you expect: balconies, Irish history, assassinations, wrestler inspirations, Virginia Woolf, people named Rupp, people whose name is not Obama, musical rules, NFL football, bee hives examples, job descriptions and co-workers, civil wars, the meaning of “pacific,” shared light, rediscovered industries, capital cities, the common era, musician rankings, cinematic investments that pay off, books that can be compared to Huckleberry Finn, presidential history, loyal sidekicks, ocean travel, shampoo objectives, Disney, religions of the world, dogs that closed quickly on Broadway, catchy cereals, whales, cue cards for comedians, KGO, World War II amusements, prime numbers, real estate, musical instruments, title roles, seven-letter total names, siblings, Rolling Stone, and Shakespeare.

I hope to see you this evening. If you know of Davisites who are returning to town for a break, perhaps from college, please invite them to join us tonight, on your team or with new friends that could be made at the pub. We always have more fun with a greater variety of people. The louder the better!

See you tonight at 7.


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

  1. Books and Authors. Authors Elie Wiesel, Eugene Ionesco, and Andrei Codrescu were all born in the same country. Name the country.  
  2. Sports.  Russell Wilson is the fastest player in the Super Bowl era to reach the 150-touchdown pass mark and rush for 3000 yards (91 games). For what team does he play?
  3. Shakespeare.   Duke Orsino is a primary character in one of Shakespeare’s most-performed comedies that is not named A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream. Name the play.


P.S. Poetry Night with Beth Suter on December 21st starts at 7 instead of 8 at the John Natsoulas Gallery. Happy December to you and yours.

Walker Creek with Deer in the Background

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

This week’s Pub Quiz Newsletter comes to us courtesy of my favorite local blogger, my wife Kate. Published recently at Kate’s blog, Thriving in Holland, this essay recounts reconnecting with our son Truman after his schoolweek-long adventure at Walker Creek, a nature education facility near Point Reyes in Marin County. Kate always does a better job writing about our kids than I do, and I’m grateful to her for sharing these thoughts with me, and now with all of you. Enjoy.


My 12-year-old Truman is a kid who sets his hopes high and feels passionately about everything he does. Before leaving for a week of outdoor education at Walker Creek, he ranked his expectations of the adventure as “up there with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Christmas.” In a letter he sent home, he described his cabin arrangements, bunking with his best buddies, and the photos he had taken. He ended it, “I want to tell you how happy I am here.” I knew he’d love it at Walker Creek, but it still felt great reading that. And at the end of the week, I could not wait to throw my arms around Truman and hear all of his stories.

When I arrived early to pick him up, I had time to explore the bucolic setting. At first, I saw no children, just a family of deer watching the parents assemble, as parents must do every week, anxiously awaiting reunions with their happy campers. Then a group of kids slowly began gathering in the outdoor amphitheater. I scanned the crowd looking for Truman’s face, silently reminding myself for his sake not to make a showy scene of affection whenever I did spot him. A dad approached me and introduced himself as the father of a girl in Truman’s class. “We’re hearing a lot about Truman at home this year,” he told me with a smile. Ah, I’ll file away this girl’s name, and causally ask about her later, I thought. As we stood there watching a sea of excited parents and kids hugging and talking, we looked for our kids and swapped stories of the week with the “babies” of our families away. “We went out to eat a lot,” he confessed. So had we — every night! We laughed. And then I noticed that nearly every bench seat was filled, but still no Truman…until I turned my head and saw a familiar red jacket in the distance, running directly at me, waving and calling to me. And I forgot all my composure and ran toward my boy. With our arms still around each other, he said, “Mommy, I missed you SO MUCH — how’s Dilly?” Dilly is our bulldog. Then Truman talked a mile a minute. “I got to try new and exciting foods I’ve never eaten before. Like tater tots!” How has he never had exciting tater tots, I wondered. He raved about the food. “The dining hall did smell really good, but our kitchen just has a special Mommy smell.” Even without tater tots, I thought.

Truman described his cabin group’s teamwork, and was particularly impressed with the group’s behavior toward a boy who is a wheelchair user. “I love how compassionate and understanding my friends are,” he said as he relayed tales of taking turns pushing his wheelchair and brainstorming ways to include everyone in every activity. Truman was struck by how such a wheelchair user must trust those who push him up and down hills. I agreed and thought about this for the rest of the day. As Truman took his seat for the closing ceremony, I noticed his rosy, sun-kissed cheeks. And had he actually grown an inch or two, or was it my imagination? Perhaps he was standing a bit taller.

The Walker Creek principal had explained in the opening ceremony that the week’s theme was “connection.” And now I noticed evidence of connection everywhere I looked. Kids had their arms around each other’s shoulders, talking excitedly to new friends that had met that week. Truman told me later that kids had bonded with each other and their cabin leaders, the naturalists who lead their outdoor adventures, and the teachers from home. The Davis students stood and shared during the ceremony how they had been changed by their week. Many described a new-found connection to nature and to each other. They expressed gratitude for the week, for the food, and for help when they needed it. They talked about what they had learned, about nature, botany, and wild animals. One child said, “I learned I like poetry.” Thinking about his group’s day-long hike to the top of Walker Peak, Truman offered, “I learned I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.” Reflecting on his solo nature hike, he said, “I felt scared in a good way, and independent in a good way.”

And then the ceremony concluded with guitars and bongos and everyone singing the Bill Withers song “Lean on Me.” Glancing around at other adults, I saw plenty of parents wiping tears, and was glad I wasn’t the only one. From my experience with our daughter Geneva’s Walker Creek experience eight years earlier, I knew that this week changes lives. Geneva still calls her time at Walker Creek a highlight of her childhood. Kids learn to push themselves beyond limits, and out of comfort zones. Many hadn’t ever spent a day hiking or a night away from family until then. They discover strength and independence. And apparently tater tots.

I left the music off on our drive home, and my four boy passengers filled the space with tales of creeks and wet socks, deer and foxes, and girls peering into their boy cabin windows. They talked endlessly about the food, raving about its quality, “…and you could get seconds and thirds!” a boy yelled. My favorite cabin story: one (high school aged) cabin leader brought his ukulele, and softly played it each night at lights out as the kids fell asleep. The kids named him UkeDude.

It’s a delight and a wonder to have my boy back home. The night of his return, he and I cooked a big celebratory meal and decorated our Christmas tree. Truman has thrown himself into his annual tradition of making every family member stacks of gifts, like our own family elf. Grateful for every cinematic tradition, we know that The Last Jedi is right around the corner!


Thanks, Kate!

Sometimes the Pub Quiz attendance drops a bit during the final week of instruction at UC Davis, when the smartest students at UC Davis sacrifice all worthy distractions in order to focus on their final projects and final exams. Good luck, ingenious students! Speaking on behalf of a shaken and grateful nation, we look forward to being led by you. Sorry about the debt.

Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions on the following topics: real and metaphorical snakes, dwarves, graduates, states that are not Alabama and Louisiana, emerging threats, UC websites, where we look for light, spices, life expectancy, world heritage sites, people named Meredith, what Alexa says when she speaks for herself, California, ionization, gossip, female protagonists, various accounts, a lifetime of multiplication without a clear result, dukes, the question of religion,  leaders with insufficient armies, 40 year jobs, European countries with recognizable accents, the absence of convection, Beverlies, local bodies of water, uneven distribution of wealth, westerns, surveys, and Shakespeare. The pub quiz was already to press by the time I found out about presidential candidate John Anderson, who died yesterday at the age of 95.

I hope you can join us this evening for the most fun you can have in public on a Monday evening. Happy December!

Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from a 2016 quiz:


  1. Pop Culture – Television.  Alex P. Keaton was a character on what 1980s sitcom
  2. Another Music Question. What is the name of the mother of Blue Ivy Carter? 
  3. Stones. How many pounds are there in a stone?


P.S. Poetry Night is this coming Thursday night at 8 at the Natsoulas Gallery. Traveling poets Bill Gainer and Anna Marie will be our features. Check out the Facebook event to learn more so you can add it to your calendar.



Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Last week George H.W. Bush was in the news for a reason he would want – he became the oldest-ever former President of the United States – rather that the reason he was in the news the week before – reports of his fondling six different women during photo opportunities. The Weinstein reckoning continues.

Many people recall that the senior Bush as being one of the few 20th century presidents to have failed to be re-elected for a second terms (joining Carter, Hoover, and Taft), whereas others with shorter memories think of his ranking among other Republicans. He was not as bad as his son, George W. Bush, who in turn was not as bad (who could be?) as President Donald Trump, or so I would opine. People who were paying attention in the 1980s remember his uneventful years as vice president under Reagan, and then his “Read My Lips: No New Taxes” pledge leading to an unsuccessful challenge from Pat Buchanan, and then a successful challenge from Bill Clinton. In recent years the senior Bush has joined with Clinton on disaster relief projects, garnering respect in his twilight years.

Having grown up in Washington DC, I got to know executive branch political figures glancingly. My Uncle Roy worked in the LBJ White House, my parents were invited to a fancy dinner at the Ford White House, I skated (holding hands!) with Amy Carter a few times, and I got to shake the hand of Vice President Mondale at our local sandwich shop one day after school. And because my dad participated as a celebrity judge at the annual White House Easter Egg Hunt, we received White House Christmas cards every year during the Reagan presidency.

But our closest family relationship was with Vice President George H.W. Bush. My family home on Tunlaw Road in Glover Park was a half-mile walk from the United States Naval Observatory, also the location of the Vice President’s residence. And both the vice president’s home and mine were a five-minute drive down Wisconsin Avenue to Video Unlimited, the videotape rental place where Vice-President Bush and my dad were constant customers.

Back in the pre-internet 1980s, one had to go into your local video store to see the selection of videotapes available for rental, no matter how famous you were. This is why these two men, well known in DC for radically different reasons, would have frequent unintentional meetings in a video shop that held 300 titles. The Vice-President was a big film buff, and my dad was the best-known film critic in Washington DC. Although the two men were the same height at 6’2”, they did not see eye-to-eye on political matters. Nevertheless, Vice-President Bush was always happy to encounter my dad, for inevitably he would ask for a film recommendation, thus sparking a conversation between the two Washingtonians.

One afternoon in 1982 I asked my dad whose films he recommended the future president rent. He quoted his own words: “For you, Mr. Vice President, I recommend the films of Clint Eastwood!” Eastwood had only directed a dozen or so films back then, none of them nominated for Best Director, but they did emphasize a law-and-order approach to domestic issues that would have appealed to Vice President Bush. Bush said he would take my dad’s advice.

He may have taken that advice further than anyone could have anticipated. In 2011, several years after my father’s death, we learned from interviews with (former Secretary of State) James Baker and others that Mr. Eastwood, the former Republican Mayor of Carmel By the Sea was on Vice-President Bush’s short list for candidates to be his own vice president. Was it my father’s suggestion that brought Mr. Eastwood to Bush’s attention? Could Bush have beaten Clinton with a more formidable wingman, one with star power, in Mr. Clint Eastwood?

Who knows? I don’t regret the turns that history has taken. With his focus on disaster relief in recent decades, Bush Sr. has been an effective ex-president, more so than his son. The latest allegations will tarnish his legacy; they also represent part of the “great reckoning” which many men are confronting, one that is long overdue. I only regret that I no longer have my father to ask about these films, and about these Hollywood and Washington notables. The time for a widespread assessment of the elder Bush’s life and career is not far off. For all his faults, I will remember that he was kind to my dad.


In honor of my dad, tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature film questions, though not about his favorite films (by a long shot). Expect also questions about Greek mythology, Demi Lovato, criminals, opening numbers, mercy, ropes, affirmatives, automobiles, gentle rains, the power to go forward, riots, U.S. presidents, the Pence Gallery, unbranched stalks, physics, the Middle East, cinematic McGuffins, lightning, Beyoncé, franchises, amusing shoves into the English Department, lonely hearts, complaints, medicine, Luke’s staying power, the letter B, sheep metaphors, big budget films, Coldplay, Irish authors, sustained beauty, odd calendars, luxury, and Shakespeare. My former Video Unlimited boss, David Simone, will not be appearing in the Quiz this week.

Speaking of great narratives, I will be a featured actor at Stories on Stage, Davis on Saturday, December 9th at 7:30. I invite you to come by for story-time, something we rarely get to enjoy as adults. We meet at the Pence Gallery.

Tonight, we meet at de Vere’s Irish Pub, my favorite restaurant, and my favorite place to encounter friends. I hope you can join us.

Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from a November Pub Quiz that some of you completed in 2012:

  1. Pop Culture – Music. “Diamonds” is the name of the hit single by the recording artist who has achieved a total of eleven number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming the youngest solo artist to achieve the feat. What is her name? Hint: She’s two years older than Taylor Swift.  
  2. Sports.   Albertin Aroldis Chapman de la Cruz, who is also older than Taylor Swift, is a Cuban-Andorran Major League Baseball pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds who holds the record for the fastest recorded pitch speed in MLB history. With a three-MPH margin of error, how fast was that pitch?  
  3. Science.   To what continent are bandicoots endemic?  


P.S. My Pub Quiz book will be released before long, perhaps even before Christmas! If you have something to say about the sort of questions you are asked in the quiz every week, and would like the chance to see your kind words appear in the book, please email them to me at




Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

Elephants are easy to love. Our largest land mammals, these momentous tanks of seeming muscle and love have inflamed the imagination of zoogoers for decades, representing superstar animals that can sustain the attention needed for a struggling zoo. The elephants in such zoos struggle, living much shorter lives in captivity than in the wild, due usually to disease and muscular problems resulting from their captivity. At least we no longer use them for warfare, as Alexander the Great did when growing and controlling his demesne, or the Carthaginian general Hannibal when guiding elephants over the Alps in his attacks on the Roman Empire.

Elephants’ greatest threats are poaching, the ivory trade, and loss of habitat. As a National Geographic article from last year reveals, elephant counts across most relevant African countries (18 in all) reveal their number plummeting in recent years, and that “Africa now has 352,271 savanna elephants left in 93 percent of the species’ range.”

The article continues: “The census was funded by Microsoft founder Paul G. Allen and took just under three years to complete. Led by the nonprofit Elephants Without Borders, which is based in Botswana, the survey involved a team of 90 scientists, six NGOs, and two advisory partners: the Kenya-based conservation organization Save the Elephants and the African Elephant Specialist Group, made up of experts who focus on the conservation and management of African elephants.”

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, my dad and stepmom lived within walking distance of the National Zoo – on Sundays we woke to the sound of howler monkeys. My mom moved close to that same zoo in 1989. During both of those eras, I remember walking over to the Zoo to watch the elephants, huge lumbering creatures that seemed so playful and affectionate with each other. As I did before writing these words, today one can watch these beasts on an Elephant Cam; the six Asian elephants are named Ambika, Shanthi, Bozie, Kamala, Swarna and Maharani. From perches above the possible fray, volunteers follow the enormous beasts with cameras, just as student staff members of Academic Technology Services at UC Davis do when using remote cameras to lecture-capture faculty who sometimes move about as slowly as elephants.

As with that last sentence, usually elephants come up as metaphors or symbols, whether they be two-syllable named elephants such as Babar, Horton, or Dumbo, or the unnamed elephant that has stood as a symbol for the Republican party since 1874. My favorite Disney historian and youngest son Truman tells me that that the first U.S. president to visit Disneyland, Harry S. Truman, would not ride with his family in the Dumbo ride, for he didn’t want to be photographed inside a representation of the Republican party. Such partisanship!

Speaking of Republicans, last week I shared some unkind words about Trump’s party online when Trump’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proclaimed that it would overturn the Obama administration decision disallow hunters from bringing ivory tusks and other elephant parts from Zimbabwe or other African countries into the United States. I saw this as yet another thoughtless act that would benefit (?) only a few wealthy hunters, as well as a great number of increasingly cruel poachers, some of whom have taken to hunting elephants with drones.

I called the White House the morning this decision was announced, but just waited endlessly on hold to offer my comment. Evidently others were calling, too to register their outrage. Today’s LA Times has an opinion piece by Carla Hall that commends Trump for finally stepping in. The headline reads: “Trump’s best decision so far: He doubles down on banning elephant trophies.” Some would see this decision as merely symbolic, and perhaps another distraction from more significant concerns, but at least now we can take heart that our government is not actively exacerbating a heartbreaking problem, and another generation of schoolchildren and conservationists can imagine hordes of elephants living and socializing unmolested in our world’s few remaining wild places.

Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions about World War II, networks, subterfuge, losing pounds, Vincent Price and other actors, night vision, requested favors, world capitals, gold medals, succession, overwhelming offense, favorite vegetables, remnants of evil, British rockers, literary antagonists, the deal with protein, floating Welshmen, a break with a 300-year tradition, record numbers of escalators, unlikely flight, short titles, blurbs from Faulkner, misled Germans, religious programming, bargemen who wake the sleeping residents of riverside hamlets, the distance from Davis, the need for badges, small numbers of digits, civil rights, thousands of leagues, going back to school, and Shakespeare.

I hope to see you this evening. When I was a kid, we got two days off for Thanksgiving. Now schoolchildren seem to have the entire week to lollygag. We will find out tonight how this shift in school schedules will affect Pub Quiz participation, but I recommend coming early to claim a table. Either way, enjoy the holiday.

And if you are considering holiday gifts, I hope that my first Pub Quiz book will be published and for sale a month from today. Decide now who on your list deserves a copy!

Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

  1. Gun Statistics. Compared to the United States, only one country has a higher rate of mass shootings among countries with more than 10 million people, and it comes after the US in the alphabet. Name the country.      
  2. Science.  The chemical element with atomic number 19 is known in Latin as Kalium. By what English name to we know it?  
  3. Shakespeare.   In the play Hamlet we learn from Polonius that “brevity is the soul of WHAT”?  

P.S. Poetry Night in Davis returns on December 7th with Bill Gainer and Anna Marie!

John Hillerman

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

My godfather passed away last week.

John Hillerman knew my dad when they were both struggling actors in New York City, John served as best man at my parents’ wedding, and then he was active in the Washington Theatre Club when my dad took the job of Artistic Director there in 1965. Although he was born in Texas, Hillerman was appreciated by theatre and film directors for the great variety of accents he could adopt, having played more than 100 roles during those years in the big cities on the east coast.

His New York Times obituary quotes Hillerman as saying that, despite all those years of theatre work, he only had $700 to his name when he eventually moved to Los Angeles to find better roles. I believe the stories of his penury, for my grandmother once told me of John visiting the family cabin with my parents, and not having brought anything to sleep in. Evidently he borrowed one of my grandmother’s nightgowns. During that same time period John lived in the basement of my family’s Tunlaw Road home, the same basement that I moved into years later as a high school student.

In California, Hillerman was cast in supporting roles in three of my favorite movies of the early 1970s: Paper Moon in 1973, and in 1974 both Blazing Saddles and Chinatown. My dad was a movie critic by then, and I’m sure he delighted in seeing one of his best friends cast in such strong films.

TV stints on The Ellery Queen Show and The Betty White Show helped to prepare him for his breakout role, and probably the reason you know him, if at all: Jonathan Quayle Higgins III on Magnum P.I. To me, this opportunity had two distinguishing features from his other TV series: 1) Magnum P.I. was a huge hit, and deservedly so, and 2) I was watching TV by then. You can imagine how many times I heard this exclamation in those days: “Wait, Higgins is your GODfather?”

I would have known John Hillerman as a member of the extended family if he hadn’t moved to LA, and then Honolulu during the relevant years of my childhood and young adulthood. While still in high school, I once wrote him asking about an internship on the set of Magnum, and he kindly wrote back with an explanation of union rules on TV sets. He visited the house on Tunlaw Road in DC in 1983 – his limo pulled up to the front of the house, and stayed there, with the limo driver not coming to the door – and he came in to talk to my mom, brother, and me for about an hour. He signed some photos, I shook his hand, and then I never saw him again, except on TV.

As a child, I opted not to go into theatre in part because I wanted to be my famous theatre director dad’s son, rather than one of his actors. Now, more than a dozen years after his death, I regret missing all the lessons about theatre and playwriting that he could have shared with me. Likewise, I sometimes regret not connecting with John Hillerman, and maybe even visiting him in Houston in recent decades, but I remember being told by family how private he was, including with his homosexuality. He was a great friend to my parents, a great actor, and someone I looked up to, if only from afar. Now, during the week of his passing, I wish that I had reached out to express such gratitude and admiration when he could have heard it. He could have shared some terrific stories. RIP, John Hillerman.


Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions on perhaps one of the topics raised above, as well as the following: Hamlet, Star Wars, U.S. states, streaks, platoons, shaolin pastimes, unusual names, Latin names, the French, alphabetical alterity, false surprises, countries you probably haven’t visited, hunger, Danishes, kites, firearms, amber, numbers, missing billionaires not named Thurston, finding it new, hills and valleys, narrow localities, the greener grass, accomplished singers, blows to Marxism, the question of feldspar, freshness, Google studies, and Shakespeare.

I have a lot going on this week, including a Tuesday, November 14th appearance on Insight with Beth Ruyak, a fall fundraiser on my KDVS radio show Wednesday at 5 (you should call 754-KDVS Wednesday afternoon to help me raise $500), a storytelling festival on campus at 4 on Thursday (want to hear how I met Kate?), a Lynn Freed reading at the Natsoulas Gallery Thursday night at 8, and then my own poetry reading Friday at 7:30 at the Unitarian Church of Davis. You are invited to all these events, either by phoning in or showing up. I would love to see you on a day other than Monday!

But mostly I want to see you and your team tonight at 7. We can raise a toast to all our favorite departed actors. Long may their voices echo in our ears, and in our hearts!


Your Quizmaster


To mix things up, here are three movie questions from a 2014 quiz:


  1.  Who played the central role of Remy the rat in the film Ratatouille?  


  1. Two of the top six credited actors in the Disney film Aladdin have alliterative first and last names. Name one of them.  


  1. Who gets to play Moses in the 2014 film Exodus: Gods and Kings?    


P.S. Find out more about Thursday night’s event with Lynn Freed at


P.P.S. Patton Oswalt just got married, and this new Twitter friend of mine seems very happy. For today only, November 13th, his film book Silver Screen Fiend is on sale on Audible for just $2.95. I’ve just added this book to my library, and not only because Patton devotes a paragraph to my dad.


Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

When engaged in writing tasks on Sundays, I have to think associatively, letting my brain wend where it will, in and out of the crevices of the useless facts I’ve accumulated, as it searches for topics for quiz questions, for poems, or for this newsletter.

Often I listen to instrumental hip-hop while doing this work. The beats and quick pace of the melodies energize me, but without lyrics that distract me with their unhelpful messages.

Speaking of hips, with its incessant twinging, my hip is itself sharing with me an unwelcome message, one that I am receiving a few decades sooner than one might expect. I’m only 50. Knowing that it can be replaced, perhaps my hip is planning its eventual exit? I had hoped to stay whole for longer.

In her 80s, my mother has had one hip replaced, and now the other one is acting up. Getting a hip replaced is much easier than replacing a knee, a friend recently explained to me. I see why some women don’t appreciate having things “mansplained” to them all the time. I told my friend that I really don’t need to see his drawings to understand the difference in the procedures.

I know a Zumba instructor in Colorado who had her knee replaced this year. Athletic, hearty, and full of grit, she probably heals from such procedures faster than the rest of us.

Speaking of grit, Vin Scully is back in the news this week. Once the venerable announcer said this during a Dodgers Game: “Andre Dawson has a bruised knee and is listed as day-to-day. Aren’t we all?” Scully did pretty well, providing play-by-play for the Dodgers for 67 years, more than 24,000 day-to-days.

By comparison, the Zamboni Company was founded in 1950, 67 years ago. That’s a lot of resurfaced ice! Leonardo da Vinci died at 67, and he accomplished quite a bit. One can see the infant John the Baptist taking a knee in Leonardo’s painting Virgin of the Rocks.

My wife Kate joked with me that she was thinking of taking a knee at the UC Davis Chancellor’s Investiture during the National Anthem, just to make a point. She had an aisle seat at the Robert Mondavi Center for that event, mostly so she could get pictures of me in my academic regalia (I was there as Master of Ceremonies). I followed University of California President Janet Napolitano out of the auditorium after the ceremony, with Chancellor May right behind me. He may have wondered about the beautiful woman in the third row with whom I exchanged the highest of fives.

Do we only take knees at sporting events? Vin Scully wishes we couldn’t. Blaming protestors for his diminished sales, the owner of Papa John’s Pizza wishes we hadn’t. The First Amendment largely lets us or even encourages us to protest where and when we would, without asking permission, with or without knees.

The timing of the knee-taking seems very important to some people, with some taking a knee before, during, or after the “Star Spangled Banner.” In one of the verses of that song, the word “brave” is rhymed with “slave.” Written in 1812, it was not an abolitionist anthem. The song inspires patriotism especially in Americans who do not read the fine print.

Not everyone loves baseball, or even football. When on Halloween I pointed out to my wife Kate the difference between Pirates and Bengals, she told me that she doesn’t care for sports. Cincinnati was once home to a rare white Bengal tiger, while more than 100 years ago a Pittsburgh baseball team poached a player from a nearby team, and thus were called “piratical.” They adopted the name with glee: Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island had been published just a couple decades previously.

We had some pirates come to our door last Tuesday, some of them dressed in knee breeches. Amazon sells “Distressed Black and Brown Pull On Knee High Pirate Boots,” helpful should you wish to protect your knees from opposing cutlasses. Whether it’s my hip or my knee, I myself would rather be sliced open by a surgeon than by a pirate.

And so it goes.

Now you know how I think when writing the Pub Quiz. In addition to topics raised above, tonight expect questions about the following: the pleasures of walking, that which cannot be relinquished, another word for trouble, multiples of seven, prehistoric iron men, currencies analyzed, typical symptoms, wickedness on the move, Italian marriage rituals that don’t involve sub-standard pizza, Mexican wrestlers, Mueller time, alternatives to games and runners, Jared Leto, quantifying valleys, Argentinian rice, sea-level journeys, runners, comparisons to Clinton, McKinley’s extended reign, Neanderthals, the queen who died of grief (spoiler), enormous synonyms, the aroma of TV actors, that which separates, one thousand words, metals and the God of Hammers, accomplished drummers, Hispanic surnames, terminal degrees, imaginary stipulations, reimagined heroes, boxed republics, notable rivers, and Shakespeare.

Please join us tonight at 7. We could use your help.


Your Quizmaster


Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:

  1. Science.  What 1962 Rachel Carson book about the chemical pesticide DDT helped to launch the modern environmental movement?  
  2. Books and Authors.    Fill in the blank with the title of this young adult book by Sue Townsend: The Secret Diary of Adrian BLANK, Aged 13¾.  
  3. Current Events – Names in the News.   Counter-protestors drowned out speeches by American Nazis with recordings of a song ranked number 354 on Rolling Stone magazine′s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. What is this only song on the list that is sung in a language other than English?  

P.S. Lynn Freed performs on the 16th at 8 PM at the John Natsoulas Gallery, and I myself perform on the 17th at 7:30 at the Unitarian Church of Davis (with Traci Gourdine, one of my favorite local poets).