Sunday, April 29, 2007

Answers to last week's reduplicative questions

1) "Cherry Cherry"
2) Aku-Aku

3) "Louie Louie" - see "obscenity" documents
4) Bishop Desmond Tutu

5) Sing Sing

6) Ling Ling
7) beriberi
8) Pago Pago
9) Ian Fleming's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - and here's the recipie

10) "Yummy Yummy Yummy" and "Chewy Chewy" - check out the Classic Bubblegum Music Page. It's worth noting that "Yummy..." had high praise from none other than The Who's Pete Townsend.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Greetings Estonians, Russians and others...

Hello everyone!

After several weeks of blogging about my pub quizzes in Philadelphia and a few other notes on happenings elsewhere, I finally seem to have struck a chord (or more likely nerve). My previous post was about the recent fatal Estonian riot in Tallinn, the capital. Since then I've had heavy visitation from Estonia, their neighboring country and ethnolinguistic relatives Finland, and Russia itself. I wish I had this kind of traffic from Philadelphia!

First off I want to make clear that I had a great time in Estonia, that people were very nice to me, and although I was there during a cold winter month I'd highly recommend the country to anyone looking for a very interesting experience. Estonia is a fine place, and most of the time much safer to walk around in than many parts of my own country.

That said, I think some of the comments in the previous post are by some folks from that small country who don't want to hear certain things. Part of the country did in fact side with the Soviets during the war; this seems to argue against rather than for removing a Soviet war monument. I don't follow the logic of how removing the monument and especially the bodies of people who fought the Nazis and died doing it has anything to do with the Soviet occupation after they died.

I'm sure some Estonians were, for whatever reasons, active members of the Communist Party during the period that it was the Estonian SSR. Perhaps these people should get as much or more blame as ethnic Russians for people being sent to Siberia. You'll notice that a good number of Russians were anti-Soviet and were sent to camps regardless of where they lived, in or out of Russia. This is an ethnic dispute and trying to make it a referendum on whether or not the Soviet Union was a moral country that treated Estonians well doesn't sound very honest to me.

Battles over historic markers, monuments, etc. are always really about the present and future rather than the past. If you didn't have a large Russian ethnic population right now who are largely poor, more heavily involved in crime (as most poorer people are) and regarded as criminals and intruders in the country where most of them were born - in the case of younger people through no fault of their own - this wouldn't be an issue. The monument and bodies would still be there I suspect. I think this was a move to remind the local Russian population that they're not fully welcome, and they responded in the same spirit.

I should point out that my translator when I was in the country, who was very nice to me personally, had many negative things to say about Russians as an ethnicity. I heard similar comments from other Estonians, who warned me to avoid going out alone at night because Russians, specifically, might try and rob me. I began to think of Russians in Estonia the way that African-Americans are regarded by some in the United States. None of this makes the rioting and looting OK, I'm not saying that.

The big thing that no one seems to want to discuss is that Estonia's Jewish population disappeared during the war. It seems to have gone from about 20,000 or so to "less than 12." Not 12,000, I mean a dozen people. Twelve people. There was a Nazi death camp in Estonia and I think pretending that ethnic Estonians weren't a part of that is very selective. The Nazis probably killed more Estonians than the Soviets did, but they were Jews and also looked at as outsiders. There's no one left to mourn for that population.

I have ancestors myself from Poland, and frankly I think the behavior of most Poles and Eatern Europeans when the Nazis moved in was shameful. People throughout the region weren't too upset about the Jews being removed. In many, many cases they helped - in far more cases than the SS was resisited. For all the bad the USSR did, the inconvenient historic truth is that the country did more than any other to defeat the Nazis. More than the USA, more than anyone. If it weren't for those Soviet soldiers most of the people reading this blog over the past two days might be speaking German now. Maybe you wouldn't mind that..?

I don't buy the argument that people "make you" help invaders. Millions of people died resisitng the Soviet Communist Party, millions more decided to go along and not suffer as much. You can see right now in Iraq that dedicated people would rather die than accomodate. None of us need to make excuses for our ancestors when they made poor decisions.

Surely we realize that if you have an ethnic minority who now feel like second-class citizens, and if you dig up soldiers of their ethnicity who died removing the Nazis from your country, they're going to be upset. Of course they are.

Now I imagine that I'll get some angry comments from Estonia, Poland and who knows where else. I'm probably one of the only people in America to make any comment at all about this, most people don't know and don't care. Maybe some Russians will make me some sort of hero now too - you shouldn't, I think there's been some bad behavior on that side too. As is so often the case with ethnic battles, both sides are mostly wrong, but both sides are also accurate in accusing the other of being asses.

UPDATE: Estonia to relocate statue, remains
FURTHER UPDATE: I've learned that the Estonian government paid to erect a monument to Estonian Nazis which was later moved to a museum after pressure from a number of countries

Friday, April 27, 2007

Recent rioting in Estonia

The fellow looting to the left is likely part of Estonia's 1/3 ethnic Russian minority. There have been riots in this small, typically frozen and usually safe/mellow country recently owing to the removal of a World War II monument to Soviet soldiers and the disinterment of some of their remains. So far one person has been killed.

I've been to that monument, having done a short period of contract work in Tallinn, the capital, back in 1999. It's a strange and incredible little corner of Europe. The old town is a thousand years old and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It "looks like Europe" more than anywhere else I've been.

The issue has brought a number of uncomfortable social forces to a head. A lot of ethnic Estonians sided with the Nazis during the war. There were thousand year old ties with Germany, and frankly the average Estonian, who is related to Finns, probably thought of themselves as better people than your average Russian. Many still do. When the Soviets kicked the Nazis out of the Baltics, they incorporated the Baltic States into the USSR whether people liked or not. (For the most part "not.")

Ethnic Russians moved to the port cities of Estonia, which shares a border with western Russia, and although a minority everyone had to learn Russian to get ahead in school and in careers. Resentment ran high. When the USSR fell apart, about a third of Estonia became an ethnic minority overnight. Laws were changed to make Estonian the official language and the language of school and commerce. Suddenly the Russians became disadvantaged, and ended up with the crappier work and salaries. I noticed that my Estonian phrasebook wasn't always useful; there's a good chance that your bus driver or waitress speaks Russian.

Now we come to deciding to remove a monument to the people who liberated Estonia from the Nazis... and incorporated the country under Soviet/Russian control. You can understand how the mutual resentment has boiled over.

Hopefully this will blow over at some point, and you can visit this cool little country some day soon when the tear gas clouds dissipate.

How to break a Guinness world record

In case you had a world record in mind for breaking, you should really check out the Guinness page on applying. It appears a good number of the records recently broken are a bit on the lame side, such as Largest Simultaneous Stretch and Largest Parade of Mercedes Benz cars.

I'm more a fan of the older school weirdness, such as fattest twins and longest fingernails. But I'm just a foolish ol' sentimentalist I 'spose...

Next week's quizzes and themed rounds

Last week's bar attendance was a bit thin at both venues. Hopefully we can get more people out this coming week. Here are your temporal/spatial coordinates for the upcoming quizzes:

Tuesday, May 1, 9pm
Ray's Happy Birthday Bar
1200 E. Passyunk St. (near 9th & Federal Sts.)
Subject Round: MAY DAY

Wednesday, May 2, 9pm
Dirty Frank's
13th & Pine Sts.

This week's reduplicative questions

The Subject Round at this week's Frank's quiz was Reduplication, in which all the answers had the common element of repeated syllables (for example Walla Walla, Washington or Lulu). Here's the whole round, how many would you have answered correctly? The winning team answered nine, the second-place team eight, and only one of the questions was not answered correctly by anyone in the room (#9). I'll post the answers in a few days. By the by, the duplicate soldiers were photographed by yours truly in Puebla, Mexico, the city that most of the people who cook your food in Philadelphia restaurants are from.

1) What 1966 Neil Diamond song was his first Top 10 hit single?
2) What Thor Heyerdahl book (1958) examined the origins of Easter Island's giant stone heads?
3) What rock'n'roll standard, first recorded by Richard Berry in 1955, became the subject of an infamous mid-'60s FBI obscenity investigation?
4) What South African bishop won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984?
5) What famous New York prison was known as "Mt. Pleasant" when it opened back in 1828?
6) What character on the cartoon Drawn Together is a caricature of Pikachu from Pokemon?
7) What disease of the nervous system is caused by a Vitamin B1 deficiency? Hint: it's the Sinhalese for "I cannot, I cannot."
8) What's the capital of American Samoa?
9) What well-known children's book ends with a recipie for Monsieur Bon-Bon's Secret Fooj?
10) The Ohio Express had two Top 20 hits in 1968 with songs with reduplicative titles. Name one for 2 points & both for 4.

Frank's quiz - now 25% more stupiderer for gud 'Merkins!

It's been brought to my attention that there have been complaints that my Wednesday night quiz is too challenging for the masses here in George W. Bush's America. A dumbing-down request has been made.

The irony here is that the people reading this blog are not the complainers. I know that. It's a shame that those of you who like a good quiz have to read this, but I have to explain to you why the quiz will be changing. I suspect the complainers are the sad barstool jockeys who add nothing to the quiz but loudmouthed witless heckling and extra background noise.

Setting aside for a moment the issue of complaining about a free entertainment service provided by a bar which is giving out free certificates for goods and on top of which I'm handing out free prizes, even for last place [!], we're left with the issue of the quiz itself. Is it that hard?

Let's review: 6 rounds, 51 questions.

The first round of 10 is the Easy Round, in which I already basically give away 9 or 10 points in an attempt to make the poor teams feel better about themselves.
You've been doing something wrong to this point in life if you don't get 8 right. Seriously. Recently I've asked about Gilligan's Island and the number of quarts in a gallon. It's the Special Olympics of trivia - "Yay, we all win!"

The second round is Before/After. It's a 50/50 proposition; you can sit at home right now, not having heard a single question yet, guess randomly 10 times and the Law of Averages says you'll get 4-6 right. Try it out; pick 10 answers this moment, come in Wednesday and stick with them. I'm handing you a good 10 points, people.

Thus far we've covered 20 questions, and you can't possibly answer less than about 13 of them correctly if you have a command of English, grew up in this country and can grip a pen.

The Speed Round is third. That's a slight bit trickier, but the answers are always things like names of states or major newspapers or members of City Council (in your own city mind you), or other categories of common nouns with which adults are generally familiar. There aren't only 10 correct answers in the Speed Round, there are usually 12-20! Getting all 10 correct is tough, but if you can't hit 3-5 answers out of 12-20 vaild ones most weeks I have to conclude that, again, you have been pissing your intellectual life away, and this really isn't my fault.

Consider this past week's question about the states that have legalized medical marijuana. There are 11 correct answers, you pick 10 states out of 50. If you even write the names of any 10 states in a totally random fashion, your odds of not getting any correct are about the same as your winning the lottery.

To this point I've essentially handed you somewhere in the neighborhood of 33 points just for showing up.

The Subject Round is one I announce ahead of time! I tell you what the subject is days in advance on this blog and if you have the slightest bit of interest in winning you can study up. Even though these are 4-point questions I always make sure at least a couple are gimmies so that people don't get turned off. That's 8 more free points even if you don't study the subject! That's a good 41 points for being baseline literate.

Granted, the fifth and sixth rounds are hard, If I didn't have these rounds the non-knuckle-draggers (if you're reading this, that's you) who come to the bar specifically to play the quiz wouldn't show up. The market for growing this quiz and for any decent pub quiz in Center City are the people who can't be bothered with 30 or 40 unchallenging questions.

The Secret Theme Round has a... wait for it... Secret Theme which is a bit of a riddle/non-linear brain teaser. No, it's not always simple. It's not supposed to be simple, it's a riddle with bonus points for the teams that should win on merit. The hard questions are hard because they're worth 6 points each. This lets the more savvy people beat the less savvy people in a game that's designed around being savvy. It's comparable to letting the faster people win track events. Once a week there should be a reward in some aspect of American life for not being a "moran."

I'm keeping the same format, I'll just notch down the intellectual level. This is the funny thing to me; the people who complain about losing the harder quiz are going to lose easier ones by wider margins! The mob has spoken; enjoy the consequences. Here's a question: if it's embarrassing to get blown out of a decently challenging quiz, what does it say about you if your ass gets smoked in an easy one? Will people feel better if Group W kicks your ass by 70 points instead of 40? Because that's what's going to happen, I guarantee it.

Here's a link to the best thing Ned "Carlos" Mencia ever did, the Dee Dee Dee Song. Toward the end there the lyric captures the zeitgeist of America:
This test is too hard! (So they lower the standards)
I’m not good at sports! (So they give them all trophies)
My dad used to spank me (So they lower the standards)
I’m too fat for this seat (So they widen the standards)
They say no cause I’m black (So they lower the standards)
They say no cause I’m white (So they lower the standards)
They say no cause I’m Asian (So they lower the standards)
No habla ingles (So we all become Spaniards)
And you wake up one day and you don’t have the skills
To get a better job so you’re stuck on the grill
You’re wondering why Julio took your job
But you forget to see, you’re as dumb as a knob
Your ass is too fat to get out of the house
While you’re eating more food trying to figure it out
So they outsource your job to some guy named Habib
Cause he works harder than you and he’s got 5 degrees
And you’re asking yourself how could this happen to me
I’ll tell you why, homie! Cause you’re….dee dee dee

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Week in review

The big news of the week was Group W's nearly record-setting performance at Frank's. They scored a ridiculous 171 in one of my harder quizzes, blowing away the field. Note at the right side of this page that that's the second-highest score in the history of this format. W is almost impossible to photograph, kinda like getting decent footage of mating sharks. Again, you just need to come out to Frank's on a Wednesday night and see them in action. I'm using this photo to represent them, it's a male and a female with a ball. Group W are a male and female, and this week were joined by the similarly purposeless-but-fun Mr. Ball. It's a visual pun, and taken in Iraq to boot. Am I going to Hell yet..? Dave from Group W was also awarded a hardback copy of Dirty Dave's 101 X-Rated Jokes as a spot prize, which is oddly selling for more than $37 Canadian on Go figure. It's not even funny.

Team Mike finished an honest last place and therefore won a used-but-intact edition of the game Adverteasing. It's a trivia game focused on advertising, and unfortunately if they play it as a group some of them will still lose. Thanks for coming out, guys! They almost screwed things up by getting 2 right in the Unreasonably Difficult Round too. Last by 3 points!

I'm happy to report that we had our second consecutive week of no shouted answers at Frank's. Thank you. The scores for this week follow...

Champs: Group W 171
So-So Silver: Suck Gas Evildoers 134

Shameful, Shameful Bronze: Prufrock 117


Holding Alli's Hair Back 75
Team Mike 73

We can only hope Alli gets better!

Over at Ray's on Tuesday night, a smaller version of our old friends Frankenberry Harvest won by a comfortable margin. The team walked home with some free drinks and another darn Adverteasing game! What can I say, there they were, they're cheap, they're trivia, I snagged a couple when available as prizes.
In second we had Machete, only one member of which was willing to appear on camera:
This fellow appears to be indicating that he's willing to commit as many as 5 lewd acts for $3. At least that's how I interpret that. Your scores:

Champs: Frankenberry Harvest 108
So-So Silver: Machete 92
Shameful, Shameful Bronze: Cosine of 4 (Minus 2) 89


It's a Shame About Ray's 76
Shakes 43

There was light bar attendance this week. Hopefully things will pick up next week. Remember that you can play one or both quizzes as a completely new set of questions is written for each. I'll be posting the most challenging questions of the week and a whole lot more in the coming days. See you soon!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Weekly sound-off

If you have a question, comment, complaint or what have you that doesn't seem to belong anywhere else, stick it here. I'll respond to any that need response. Thanks.

Dude, what the #*{@ is reduplication?!

As noted in my post below on this week's upcoming quizzes, the Frank's quiz this week will feature a round of reduplication (link to scholarly explanation) questions, in which all correct answers will have a reduplicative element. This is the result of me having taken too many undergrad linguistics classes.

Simply put I'll be looking for answers that round in which there's a repeated linguistic element. Think Walla Walla, Washington or Bang Bang, My Baby Shot Me Down. Or think of it as the spoken equivalent of this photo I took in Mexico City a few years back.

Sometimes I wonder if the word isn't an in-joke from some linguist. I should think duplication covers the issue and reduplication might mean "repeated thrice."

Do you fancy Schmancy?

I'm a sucker for anthropomorphized corporate logos. I love a duck house with a maniacally smiling duck logo or the Michelin Man, that sort of thing. So imagine my delight in discovering the plush meats and other anthropomorphic foods of Schmancy, a hipster knitting outlet that will let you cuddle with your all too human breakfast. This is completely unnecessary wonderful stuff that I'd be buying if I had unlimited disposable income and display space. Who doesn't want a plush roast beef toy?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Answers to last week's tough questions

Here are the answers to the questions in this post.

1) Partners in Kryme
2) Porthos, Athos, Aramis
3) The Eagles' Greatest Hits
4) Class
5) San Bernadino
6) "All Along the Watchtower," which Bob Dylan said was his favorite cover of his work

Secret Theme Round from Frank's:

The theme was stops on the Market-Frankford el. I'll use the format Answer (Stop).

1) 30 (30th St. Station)
2) York (York-Dauphin)
3) Allegheny National Forest (Allegheny)
Goody Two-Shoes (2nd St.)
5) 11 (11th St.)
6) W. Somerset Maugham (Somerset)
40 (40th St.)
Eighth Amendment (8th St.)
Bridgetown (Bridge-Pratt)
10) Margaret Mead (Margaret-Orthodox)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Two totally awesome quizzes coming next week!

Are you totally pumped for the two quizzes this week? Well, are you, punk?! You darn well should be!

A reminder that each quiz is unique, so you can play and win both.

The temporal and spatial coordinates follow:

Tuesday, April 24, 8:30pm
Ray's Happy Birthday Bar
1200 E. Passyunk St. (near 9th & Federal Sts.)

Wednesday, April 25, 9pm
Dirty Frank's
13th & Pine Sts.

Week in review

Group W handed the rest of the Frank's crowd an Ike Turner-level beating this week, and Alkie Bartokemous had to squeak out a win at the inaugural Ray's Happy B-Day Bar event in a tiebreaker, my first ever for first place in this format. Quite a week!

Above is a representative p
hoto of the mighty Group W, whose win I've had to symbolize with another treasure-bearing W as my camera equipment continues to be foiled in my feeble attempts to photograph them. It's uncanny and mysterious. You'll just have to come to Frank's yourself on a Wednesday night to see them in action in person.

The formidable W slapped around their opponents like a killer whale bashing a line of seal pups, and cruised to the largest margin of victory I've ever had in this format, missing the All-Time Top Ten list by 1 point. This is even more incredible considering that they were completely blanked in the Speed Round, in which I asked for the names of 10 USFL franchises.

Coming in a distant second were rookies Shithawks!, who played a much better game than their name would suggest. Here we see the group enjoying their winning
s at a cozy booth at Frank's:

Lil Roy Screamed used the Spinal Tap-inspired nom de guerre Tonight We're Gonna Rock You Tonight and finished 2 points out of second, or if you see it their way tied for second. Hopefully they and you will return next week and try to fend off Group W.

I gave away a last place prize to a deserving team this week, Pot Luck Dinner scored an honest 41, stayed through th
e whole game and were good sports about it. That earned them not one but two copies of the soundtrack to Black Spring Break. This fine piece of cinematic delight was a vehicle for the mellow sounds of Tupac and the always positive 2 Live Crew among many others. The team asked me if I was going to make fun of them, and I'm not. The idea of the last place prize is that there should be a reward, however odd and cheap, for anyone willing to stick it out and learn something. Here the kids are, preparing to get as nasty as 2 Live Crew wants 'em to be:
"Word up!"

Frank's scores:

Champs: Group W 156

So-So Silver: Shithawks! 94
Shameful, Shameful Bronze: Tonight We're Gonna Rock You Tonight 92


Neo-Falafelites 86
Piece of Piss Conspiracy 72
Too Dirty Teen Hunger Force 60
Pot Luck Dinner 41

I'll also note that these scores are out of 212 for the first time as the crowd
was extremely cooperative and for the first time no questions were scratched owing to shouted answers. Thanks for that, it makes the night 100% better.

Over at the inaugural Ray's event on Tuesday we had a great turn-out despite the last minute notice. For the first time in my format it came down to a tiebreaker question for first place (I'm going to score that as 1 additional potential point out of 213 for both teams), and Alkie Bartokemous edged out a team who kept changing their name but started as Others Not 40 Yet. My tiebreaker was to guess closest to the number of chapters in the Old and New Testam
ents combined. The answer is 1,189, and Alkie guessed about 600 chapters closer for the victory. Congrats, guys!

Others Not Yet 40, who appended their team name to note that they had all original body parts, finished second with a very respectable 150. Here we see them with the prizes I cobbled together at the last minute, not knowing what to expect at the hastily prepared Ray's quiz (next week there will be a bar tab at stake). Note that the swag included a Coke magnet, a paperback copy of Growing Up Brady and two watch-battery-driven oddities called the "Eros Keychain."

The Engrish packaging on the keychains promises "ROMANTIC APPETANCE!" and "EROTICISM LAXWHOOP!" I have no idea what that means; a Google search turns up nothing. I found these things in a dollar store in Camden (best not to ask how or why.) Insert 3 watch batteries, push any button - any one, they all do the same thing - and you get the high-pitched Asian vocalist-style sound of a woman having an orgasm. I have no idea why they have MAD printed upon them either.

Your scores:

Champs: Alkie Bartokemous 151
So-So Silver: Others Not Yet 40 150
Shameful, Shameful Bronze: Cosine of 4 (-2) 147


No Violence at Quizzo, or Pub Quiz or Whatever 146
... [team called themselves "ellipses"]* 65
Shakes 43

* indicates team arrived late &/or quit

Hope to see everyone again next week!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Surrender to this week's toughest questions

Surrender to the popular will of righteously harmonious quizzing or be trampled underfoot like a running dog imperialist's lackey! Here are some of the toughest or most interesting questions from the two quizzes I ran this past week, plus the whole Secret Theme Round from Frank's. I'll post the answers in a few days.

1) What New York rap duo was a one-hit wonder with their 1990 hit "Turtle Power!," from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles soundtrack?
2) Not counting D'Artagnan, name the Three Musketeers.
3) According to the Recording Industry Association of America, what's the best-selling album of all time in the US?
4) In the zoological hierarchy, what comes between Phylum and Order?
5) In what California city were both the McDonald's chain and Hell's Angels founded?
6) What was the only US Top 40 single for the Jimi Hendrix Experience?

Secret Theme Round from Frank's

1) In the sci-fi cult classic Logan's Run, at what age are people put to death in the future?
2) What was the original name of the city of Toronto?
3) The largest National Forest east of the Mississippi is in Pennsylvania. Name it.
What sappy children's story about a poor girl was first published in 1765 and is generally credited to Oliver Goldsmith?
5) How many players play defense on a cricket team?
6) Who wrote "Of Human Bondage?"
How many rods are in a furlong?
Which amendment to the US Constitution forbids excessive bail, excessive fines and cruel and unusual punishment?
What's the capital of Barbados?
10) What famous anthropologist wrote Coming of Age in Samoa?

... and what's the link to those 10 answers?

Answers to last week's most interesting Qs...

... from this post, below.

Unreasonably Difficult:

1) Euclid (read his proof here)
2) University of Iowa, Iowa State, Oklahoma State
3) Actinium

Theme Round:

The theme was RED. Why?

1) Dawn, as in the film Red Dawn
2) Bono, he of the (Red) campaign
3) Cincinnati (home of the Reds), and here's the story of how the name came about
4) Eric Robert Rudolph; hence Eric the Red or the Red-Nosed Reindeer
5) Mars, the Red Planet
6) Harum Scarum, and the link being the Red Scare
7) Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia, who was a Red leader
8) Greg "The Bull" Luzinski - via Red Bull
9) Fox in Socks; Redd Foxx or Red Sox
10) Fez, and they're usually red

Ray's Bar now a stable Tuesday night venue!

I'm pleased to announce that Ray's Happy Birthday Bar in South Philly is now our new stable Tuesday night venue! I'm shooting for an 8:30pm start. I have to add the "pm" because Ray's opens at 7am, and trust me those folks don't want no pub quiz.

Ray's is a link to South Philly's past, having been owned by the same family at the same location since 1938. A new crop of cool kids has recently discovered its under-bar pee trough (no longer connected to plumbing, please use the bathrooms) and Ladies' Entrance, but it's still a great place to watch the locals. I grew up (assuming I have grown up!) with bartender Paul E., and I think we'll make a fine team. I'm looking forward to this. Come on out! The more support we get, the longer the bar keeps the event going.

Those pesky 78s

This week at Frank's I asked a Before/After Round question about when 78 rpm discs were "discontinued from mass production." I maintained that in the American market they were basically done in 1958-9, almost exactly 10 years after the introduction of the LP format. My target year that round was 1960, thus the answer I was looking for was "Before."

One member of the team that frequently changes their name but is basically
Lil Roy Screamed argued the answer, claiming that he was a 78 collector and had Elvis and other records on 78 that were released well into the 1960s. I appealed to a member of this week's winning team, Group W, who makes a living as a record dealer and owns tens of thousands of records, to sort out the issue. He agreed with me that the 78 was basically done in the US by 1959.

I let the scores of that round stand as is, and told the plaintiff that he if produces a 78 of a song that came out after 1960 I'll credit his team with 2 points this coming quiz at Frank's. Well, he likely will produce such an article and I'm more than happy to credit the team as I s
aid I would. Why do I now think he has late '60s 78s? I did some internet research.

There was a foreign market for 78s long after the market in the US died off in favor of the 33 1/3 and 45 market. Record players were far more expensive for people in many economies and you couldn't just dash out and buy a new one. Apparently in India this ex
tended as far as hand-cranked models in places where electricity was touch and go. Thus we have such apparent anachronisms as Indian 78s of Beatles songs into 1968. Some of these records were also favored by US servicemen who needed to adapt to the local standard. These are now very rare and in certain quarters are highly collectible.

Thus Lil Roy will get their 2 point boost next week as a gesture of goodwill on my part; I said "mass produced," I didn't specify US market or that sort of thing. The letter of my question was flawed in a technical sense but the spirit was correct. You simply won't see ma
ny American 78s for an American market after 1959 at the latest, I'll stand by that statement. Seeing as Group W scored 62 more points than Lil Roy this past week I'm not sure that this will affect standings much either.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

NEW VENUE - Ray's Happy Birthday Bar

In light of the last-minute cancellation of the Tuesday night quiz by Finn McCool's, I've managed to secure a replacement venue at Ray's Happy Birthday Bar in South Philly, tonight at 8:30.

Ray's Bar - "The Happy Birthday Bar"
South Philly
1200 East Passyunk Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Telephone: (215) 365-1169

Be especially nice to the bartender, Paul E. We grew up in close proximity in the lower NE. Obviously there's something bad in the water pipes up there.

Although the technical address of Ray's is 1200 E. Passyunk, the bar is located between 8th & 9th Sts. on Federal, on the same block as the tasty La Lupe Mexican restaurant.

This will be a normally formatted quiz, and we'll figure out prizes as we go. At the very least I can promise a couple of cool board games. I have no idea yet if this will be a weekly event; I now have the night open and we'll see what interest there is.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Worst shooting incident in US history? Hardly!

Much coverage of the unfortunate killings at Virginia Tech is using the phrase "worst shooting incident in U.S. history" or something similar (link to, which is currently displaying the wholly inaccurate sentence "It is the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history.") This isn't true unless we do some major modification, and throw some of our less fortunate national incidents down the memory hole. What's the point of this post? Simply that if I can recall these incidents and link to them on a quiz blog, the people who make a living writing the news should be able to recall them as well.

We appear to have an accurate claim for "greatest one-day spree killing total by a lone American civilian on an American school campus." This isn't nearly as good a headline, and it avoids the multiple-hundred-year-long context of mass violence as a means of "solving" problems. Clearly and obviously there have been much worse shooting sprees in our history. Note that we also have to modify the phrase to include "American," seeing as at least one other sick individual did worse in Australia, and that the worst a civilian American did in one day to this point was in a mosque in Israel. Those are just off the top of my head.

If we look to American "shooting rampages" against civilians abroad, we can of course point to My Lai...
As the "search and destroy" mission unfolded, it soon degenerated into the massacre of over 300 apparently unarmed civilians including women, children, and the elderly. Calley ordered his men to enter the village firing, though there had been no report of opposing fire. According to eyewitness reports offered after the event, several old men were bayoneted, praying women and children were shot in the back of the head, and at least one girl was raped and then killed. For his part, Calley was said to have rounded up a group of the villagers, ordered them into a ditch, and mowed them down in a fury of machine gun fire.
This is, of course, just what we know about. There was also the American shooting rampage in the Philippines:

For its part, the U.S. Army was determined to crush further resistance in Samar by sending a veteran of the savage Plains Wars against the American Indians, General "Roaring Jake" Smith

Arriving on Samar, Smith, 66, tells his men: "I want no prisoners. I want you to kill and burn. The more you kill and burn, the more it will please me."

Asked the age limit, the general replies: "Ten years and older. The interior of Samar must be made a howling wilderness."

In the ensuing months, hundreds of villages are burned, all crops and livestock destroyed. Thousands of Filipinos are shot as suspected rebels. Other civilians are rounded up and put in "concentration camps" -- so called because they are "concentrated" into a small area making it easier to guard. ... Exact figures of how many Filipinos were killed in Samar were never made public. But it is estimated that 10,000 were killed or starved to death over a two-year period following the massacre, the majority women and children.

Other notable American rampages by those not in uniform would include the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre, in which about 120 non-Mormon white settlers were killed by Mormons who blamed "Injuns," with about a third of them merely bashed with rocks instead of shot, which should please those not wild about the 2nd Amendment. We could note the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, in which it is claimed as many as 301 people were killed, mostly African-Americans shot by whites, although some non-gun lynching and burning occurred as well, and thousands of African-Americans were driven from their homes.

For domestic extermination of "subhuman" tribals we could point to the 1863 Bear River Massacre ... in fact, let's do just that:
Approximately 250 Shoshoni were slain, including 90 women and children. After the slaughter ended, some of the undisciplined soldiers went through the Indian village raping women and using axes to bash in the heads of women and children who were already dying of wounds.
It'd do us well to review the long record of mass killing sprees on both sides of the conflict; here's a list of some major Indian massacres, both against and by the Native population. Note that over 300 people were killed at Wounded Knee alone.

More recently we could review the 1992 L.A. riot, in which more than 50 people were killed. Could we forget that already? This sort of thing has happened frequently enough that there's a two-volume Encyclopedia of American Race Riots. Some of them had hundreds of deaths, such as the Wilmington (NC) riot of 1898.

Even limiting ourselves to individual killers, we must categorize this outburst with spree killers and not serial or mass killers, many of whom claimed far more victims as a cursory examination of the facts displays.

Finn McCool's unceremoniously pulls the plug


... on less than 30 hours' notice. Thanks a lot, guys. Thanks for nothin'. Don't let me know before I send out an email, post things online or write the damn quiz. It's best to wait until the last minute, right? I mean, it's only my labor, right? There will be no quiz at Finn McCool's, neither this Tuesday nor evermore. The good news is that I'm already talking with a bar in South Philly (basically Bella Vista) about replacing FM's as soon as tomorrow night.

The bar never did a damn thing on their end to promote the quiz, I had to call and badger them even to get the event on their own sandwich chalkboard outside on the sidewalk. They never advertised having the quiz. I'd put a sign up in the day, they'd take it down by evening. I came to them with a proposal to get the Fergie's cast-aways, they pussyfooted around but ultimately did nothing. I'd come in with fliers for the regulars, they wouldn't give them out. The last few weeks I was also the sole prize provider, which obviously does nothing to draw a crowd. That leaves us with the "regulars," not that there are many there on a Tuesday, who approached the possibility of winning free booze via answering trivia questions the way a person might approach a free offer of alien anal probing. Not a bright group, really, but at least polite for the most part.

These guys couldn't even talk with me directly, they had the bartender give me a ring. Nice touch.

I'll let people know ASAP what the status of the Tuesday night quiz is via this site and email. Thanks for your continued patience.


Welcome to the FAQ page. This was actually posted in November 2007, once I realized I'd not yet posted one, but I put an artificial date on here to prevent the post from appearing chronologically when that wasn't necessary.

I'm going to abandon the tradition of doing the Q&A format for all but one question, as there's really only one true frequently asked question I get to be perfectly honest. Everything else gets a declarative title.

How to get me to run a quiz at your party or bar

Just contact me using the info on the upper right-hand portion of this page; call or email. We can work out a very reasonable payment, or I'd consider doing your event pro bono or at cost if you have a darn good cause.

"Where do you get the questions?"

... is the only genuine FAQ. More commonly this is rendered Where'dya get the questions from? I have an extraordinary collection of a few hundred reference books, and most questions are drawn from those. A minority are things I check up upon on the internet, but as we all know that becomes dodgy and often takes more time than a book as I feel the need to double-verify almost everything. More often than not the reference book has things correct, what with editorial procedures and such. Even then books sometimes get things wrong. Even with two or more sources, they can all be flat out wrong or technically incorrect, although this is extremely rare. When in doubt I drop it and write another question.

Some sources I only trust for surface information and others for more detailed or technical information. I'd trust Wikipedia to tell me how old Ted Danson is, but I'll stick with with a college biology textbook for the biology (unfortunately high school texts are sometimes shady). Just about anything that raises your eyebrows in The Book of Lists series or The People's Almanac series needs verifying. Trivia question books that ask for the "only" someone or something to do or be something else are usually wrong or outdated. Anything statistical usually needs to come from a trusted source on the web (for currency) that also publishes stats on paper (for reliability). You get to know these things after a while; you can also read about my research-oriented day job life below.

Just about everything I ask has roots in a need I feel to include a certain amount of questions from a particular topic. I'll say to myself, "I need an easy TV question," or "I need a hard 6-point science question," and then I go find it. Rarely I read something cool in a magazine or see a particular movie on TV and figure that'd be good fodder for a game, but this doesn't happen often. Of course I have to "work backward" from Secret Theme rounds, and need to find questions with at the very least 12 correct answers for the Speed rounds. Sometimes I go after info on Speed round ideas only to find that there aren't even 10 items on the list and I drop it. Most of the time I generate a Subject round subject almost randomly, with no preconceived notion of what its questions will be. Some weeks of course they are holiday-related and that's just automatic.

I believe I've made outright errors in questions 3 or 4 times in thousands of opportunities, and most of those were in not accepting enough answers to questions which have multiple correct answers.

The main reason I don't do as many visual identification rounds is that usually those end up being poor photocopies of half-toned images in an already dark room. No fun at all. When I have done this, it was with sizable icons or when having unfettered use of someone else's photo-quality color printer.

How I became a quiz host

The simple answer is "from being a quiz player." I've been playing Philadelphia pub quizzes for 12 of the 14 or so years they've existed, with regularity for various periods of time in 6 different venues. I now run the quizzes in two of those, in one case because the old quizmaster got lazy and got fired, and in the other case because I resurrected the quiz in a venue that had one on and off for years but never had a firm commitment to a particular day, time or strong promotion effort.

I played the first quiz ever at Dirty Frank's in 2000, played there over 200 times over the next 6 years, and dropped out of playing when I no longer found it enjoyable.
I was a natural replacement when they made the switch. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say I've played other people's games over 500 times. I've even played quizzes in California, Guatemala and Estonia; one gets to know what one likes.

My qualifications as a researcher and quizmaster, such as they are

The primary qualification, to be honest, is the pathological interest in trivia/facts and the will to do the prep work regularly. Most people could do this job, most people aren't driven enough by the material itself to do it well consistently. I also lack a fear of public speaking, which is half of the battle.

I'm a native Philadelphian and speaker of English who grew up here watching TV, following the local sports teams and so forth. I'm in my mid 30s, and attended Philadelphia public schools. Most of my audience is similar and therefore I can assume that the pop culture stuff I grew up with, much of which, especially on TV, was Baby Boomer hand-me-downs, is also what you were passively exposed to.

On the academic end, I attended a science magnet program in high school and ended up with a Poli Sci degree from Penn. I'm the kid who always tested well without having to work too hard, as facts stick in my head easily. I grew up with the self-generated notion that all adults knew much of the content of any given reference book, and set about reading all the ones I could from a very early age. My lower-middle class upbringing included sets of Time-Life and Reader's Digest reference volumes that lower-middle class people bought for Christmas and stuck on shelves in hopes that their progeny would therefore eventually drop the "lower-." Unlike most of those kids, I actually read them, with the absurd belief that I'd eventually appear stupid if I didn't know the flag of Panama, atomic number of oxygen and year Alaska joined the union. What's more, I enjoyed it.

It wasn't long into my formal education that it became apparent that I'd read more than I'd need to get into (and even through part of) college. In fact most of what I'd read never even came up. Not until I found the pub quizzes in my mid 20s did much of that darn work pay off.

I've held several jobs as a professional researcher. Setting aside the time spent autoclaving pipette tips in a botanical physiology lab, the first was as a fact-checker for Dr. Ed Herman's defunct magazine Lies of Our Times. I was hired a year out of college as the Research Manager for the now-defunct NGO the World Game Institute, the all-encompassing, "Dymaxion" mother of all generalist information clearinghouses. There I put together the world's largest database of economic, environmental, military, energy, food, industrial and other data which was used in Microsoft's CD-ROM atlas product and was later released as a WGI CD-ROM. I also annually updated and later conducted dozens of the Institute's global simulation games. These featured 200 people simulating humanity on a laminated world map the size of a basketball court. I ran probably about 80 of these, mostly throughout the US, but also in 5 or 6 other countries.

When WGI went under I worked as an educational video writer for Fabian-Baber Productions, writing video series about worldwide cultural differences, the Bill of Rights and contributing to a series on "History Through Literature." When they laid me off, twice (the second time they were furiously busy making duplicates of thousands of video tapes they didn't own the rights to!), I became research manager for (the site appears to be getting squatted upon by a weird hybrid of the actual site content and a spamming email address collector's drug ads), a for-profit spin-off of ICOM (still with us), heading a team of 40 putting together a database of information on about 40,000 cultural institutions. When they laid us all off, I became a trolley tour guide in Philadelphia, a job from which I was eventually fired after the seventh written complaint about my sense of humor. These thing happen. I spent one and a fraction seasons as a tour guide at Eastern State Penitentiary, where sense of humor was a better fit. ESP eventually replaced us all with near minimum wage earners handing out digital listening wands that didn't work well. Progress marches on.

I also worked on gathering social sciences links and content for (now the property of some Christian homeschooling people), which sought to replace textbooks. You'll note textbooks are still with us, as is evolution. Shortly before they laid everyone off, which they did, I wised up, quit before I could get canned, and went to work as an English teacher in the Arabian Gulf. By sheer coincidence my contract there ran out September 12, 2001.

Sometimes I do research and writing work for the Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis, a Philadelphia based think tank/consulting firm which uses human culture and biology to help improve and sell products and services.

Somewhere in there I also worked as a pharmaceutical study translator (German and French to English), a dead boring job I left to do a stint as an election coordinator in Bosnia. In total I've visited almost 40 countries, few of them comfortable to poke around in, and can and will assault you with stories about the Sahara or the Andes or some monkey, llama or camel. Somewhere else in there I also badgered my friends into helping me collect over 3,000 signatures to attain ballot access for the 2004 US Congressional race as an independent, won a court battle with Pennsylvania over my right to be on the ballot, then got trounced at the polls.

In short, I've done a lot of different things, some of them well, and I think you need that sort of generalist to write some heap good trivia. I also own a practice guitar amp and a microphone.

How well I would do on my own quiz

Let's call this an infrequently asked question, as I have actually been asked it. Short answer: "Pretty well."

Long answer: I'd get a 10 every Easy round because it wouldn't be in there if I didn't already find it easy myself. I figure that, everyone having different interests than everyone else, a team comprised of a few reasonably intelligent people should get 7-10 of those right. Believe it or not that's the hardest round for me to write; what does "easy" mean in a room of 50 people? Obviously, at some level, anything is easy if you know it and hard if you don't. Perhaps the round should be called "Things I Think You Should Know."

I'd usually get a 9 or 10 in the 50/50 round because I likely wouldn't have chosen a category I know nothing about. The Speed round is usually something I have a hunch about, and sometimes is something I was just curious about and looked up, so I'd get 5-10 right depending on the week. The research on the answers to those always surprises me the most. The Subject round is dependent upon the subject in question. I try to stick one or two hard questions in there every week, and two creampuffs to balance that out and let people earn points. I'll say I'd get 7-8 right administering the quiz to an unprepared self, 9-10 if it's one of those subjects dear to my heart.
Usually 2-4 of those questions are things I learned in writing the game.

I have no way of evaluating whether or not I'd figure out the Secret Themes. That's my mind at work in a non-linear fashion and I can't stick myself in someone else's. I do know that it's rare for no team to get that correct any night, and also more rare for all teams to get it correct, so I figure that I'm doing a decent job with the round based in that. The Unreasonably Difficult round? I'd probably average 4-6 correct if I played by myself. That's because it's a mixture of things I knew already, things I could give a decent educated guess for and things I just researched which I doubt are common knowledge to people without a deeper interest in subject area of the question. Usually 5-6 of those questions are things I learned in writing the game.

What's up with the hat

I live around the corner from a Mummers String Band HQ. They were going to toss a glittery top hat a few years ago and I asked to keep it, sensing it would someday become necessary. When I started doing quizzes I drew the question mark on it (blame Matthew Lesko and the Riddler) and the rest is history.

My favorite question

Thus far it's one from the Unreasonably Difficult round I asked recently. "What are the three huge words on the Wizard's hot air balloon in The Wizard of Oz?" I love that because we've all seen the movie many times, the words are massive, they're on screen for a few minutes so you won't miss it if you blink, yet no one even recalls them ever being there. I'm afraid you'll have to look that one up...
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Sunday, April 15, 2007

This week's most interesting questions

As a sample of what you might expect at one of the quizzes I host, here are a few questions from my final, 10-question Unreasonably Difficult Round at Dirty Frank's last week. Each question is worth 6 points, and this round comes last. Following that is the entirety of my Secret Theme Round, ten 5-point questions which are not directly connected, but with answers which form a non-linear theme which a team earns 8 extra points for figuring out. Good luck! Answers to all will be posted in a few days.

1) What Greek mathematician was the first to figure out that there are an infinite number of prime numbers?
2) For 2 points/@, what 3 American universities have dominated the NCAA wrestling championship since its inception over 40 years ago (few other schools have won championships)?
3) If you arranged the Periodic Table of the Elements alphabetically, which would be first?

There were seven other Qs of this calibre... moving on to the Secret Theme:

1) In the original (British) series The Office, what's the first name of Tim's love interest?
2) What famous Irishman was recently named a Knight of the British Empire?
3) What midwestern American city was named in honor of George Washington by way of a Roman emperor?
4) Who was convicted of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic bombings?
5) What planet in our solar system has the tallest mountain?
6) What 1965 Elvis Presley movie features the King having Arabian adventures?
7) Who was Josef Broz better known as?
8) What rotund Philadelphia Phillie outfielder was on the 1980 World Championship team?
9) What was Dr. Seuss' only vulpine book?
10) What variety of hat gets its name from a city in Morocco?

... and what's the theme that links all of these answers? Only one Frank's team managed to get the 8 bonus points last week!

Study hard for this week's upcoming quizzes

Another week, another two big quizzes here in the City That Never Stops Shooting. As usual I'm posting the weekly recitation of dates (stable), times (stable), locales (stable) and Subject Round subjects (wildly varied). Be sure to study up and bundle up, you'll be exposed to some cold, hard facts this harsh April.

Your mid-week evening social calendar looks like this:

Tuesday, April 17, 8:30pm
Ray's Happy Birthday Bar, 9th & Federal Sts.

Wednesday, April 18, 9pm
Dirty Frank's, 13th & Sansom Sts.

It'd be great to see as many people as possible at one or both; there are two entirely different sets of questions. I'm planning on working with the staff at both bars to try and secure the normal quiz atmosphere one can expect at more established games in Center City. Thanks for your patience while the kinks are worked out.

There will be last place prizes for deserving teams (i.e. you must play the whole game and appear to me to be actually trying to do well) at both.

Now featured on

Some positive news in an otherwise frustrating week quiz-wise for yours truly! I am now listed on

Be sure to click on the link to add your ratings of my quizzes at both venues (go, do it now, the blog will still be here when you return!), and to check out a short bio of me which I assure you is accurate despite its apparent unlikely nature.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

R.I.P. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Rest in peace, Mr. Vonnegut! I'm not a big fiction reader, but I have read most of his books. A World War II vet and decided secular humanist, Mr. Vonnegut belongs to a generation of peace-seeking public intellectuals who are now shouted down and disrespected by America's new ruling class of of chickenhawk pseudo-intellectual pseudo-patriots. We are diminished as a nation every time that someone of Vonnegut's stature dies and every day that someone like George W. Bush lives. "So it goes."

You should check out these posts of Vonnegut mp3s on the WFMU blog, or visit his official site.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Week in review

Group W edged out Moose & Squirrel at Frank's on Wednesday night in a low-scoring shoot-out, 143-141. I'm having the usual problem getting a photo of the winners, what with the rays of the visible spectrum wrapping around them, but so far as I know moose and squirrels are generally stymied by folks who look like the pair above. Moose & Squirrel is the Lil Roy Screamed a.k.a. Off the Wallers team, and I hope that one of these days they finally prevail. They play every week, they always contend and they're good sports & good customers.

I think the American Indian tribes Speed Round helped hold the scores down considerably. This marks the first week that no team changed the composition of the Top Ten All-Time Scores list. Also these scores were out of 211 instead of 212 because a weasel-faced alcoholic troll with a Napoleonic complex had to try to be a big man by screaming the answer to the first question of the Easy Round.

I gave out the first-ever last-place prize at Frank's this week. In order to be
eligible you must play the whole game and appear to be genuinely trying to win. Before you get too excited, keep in mind that this week's prize was a VHS copy of Vanilla Ice's Ninja Rap. Unopened, mint condition. Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1991! Here's your winner/loser, I'd Pee in Her Butt:
The scores:

Champs: Group W 143

So-So Silver: Moose & Squirrel 141
Shameful, Shameful Bronze: Schuessels 124


We Not Think About It 100
Jim South Philly 72

The Clap* 62
Big Baby Butt* 53

Alex, I'd Like to Buy a Vowel for $200 52
I'd Pee in Her Butt 46

* indicates team arrived late &/or quit

I'd love to see Big Baby Butt and The Clap again. Both teams were well-behaved, good natured and were scoring quite well until the general idiocy of a loud minority drove them away. Please come back! If there are enough of us who want to be there who stand our ground we can build a decent quiz.

Note that I'd Pee... satisfies Randolph's Law; sex-related name, last-place finish.

It was Sheila's b-day at Frank's, and a merry time was had by all in celebration. Happy birthday, and many more! When do you turn 28?

I'm working on better sound solutions at Frank's, as well as ejecting answer shouters and other jackasses. I don't know of any other host in Philadelphia who has to put up with the disruptions that we have to at Frank's, and I plan to end that crap one way or another. I haven't done a single quiz there yet in which I didn't have to trash one or more questions because of shouters. Decent, paying, tipping, well-behaved customers who bring their business into a bar shouldn't be chased out by a minority of idiots. You can all help things along by asking the people around you who aren't interested in playing to keep relatively quiet and by invoking some serious peer pressure if they do behave disruptively. Don't be shy about telling people to shut up, or lodging a complaint with your bartender or the bouncer. It's not a public space, it's a private one. People can and should be removed if not behaving like sane adults.

This past week we had Long Dick Johnson a.k.a. Switchblade Willie edge out Imballer by a score of - and I swear this isn't a typo - 46-33. This is the low-hanging fruit, folks. Show up and win. In theory this violates Randolph's Law, yet we had but two teams and both names are a touch risque, so I'm looking the other way on that one. Here members of both teams display their winnings from the Finn McCool's quiz:

Hope to see you all next week at one or both quizzes!

Send me your email addresses

Did I ask anyone to throw away my Frank's answers sheets tonight? No, no I did not. Did that happen? Yes. Why is this irritating beyond all reason? Because I made space on the answer sheet specifically for the collection of email addresses for the update list, and one lone person filled that out this evening. This was the only answer sheet I needed to take home tonight, and someone tossed it. In addition to never having learned to use indoor voices indoors as children, some Dirty Frank's patrons have also not learned anything about not screwing with other people's stuff. If you're that person who wanted updates, please contact me. I'm not ignoring you, I'm being stymied in my organization attempts by the aggressively dim.

If you want to be added to the mailing list or know someone who does, please send me email. We'll never be able to grow the quiz among the curious if I have no way of contacting people.