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