Monday, May 28, 2007

Eastern State $ell$ out even more, pulls wool over the nation's eyes for cold, hard ca$h

You might be aware that my former employer, Eastern State Penitentiary (yes the initials happen to be "ESP"), has a 7-hour live broadcast upcoming this weekend on the Travel Channel. Shame on both of them, because the broadcast isn't history-related at all, but instead consists of a 420-minute wild goose chase for "ghosts."

Eastern State truly is "America's Most Historic Prison." It held inmates from 1829 to 1971, was the first institution on Earth to call itself a "penitentiary," and had a corrections method and radial design which influenced prisons and similar institutions all over the world. De Tocqueville, Dickens and Lafayette visted the site; Al Capone and "Slick" Willie Sutton were held there. If you want to study penology, criminology, sociology, even architecture, if you want to gain some sense of how America came to hold 2 million prisoners, or what we might do now that we're there, this would be a prime place to study.

Or at least I should say it should be a prime place to study, if the management were composed of history professionals with the slightest interest in the importance of the place in Phil
adelphia's history, and that of the larger world. The site could and should be an internationally recognized center for the study of criminology and penology, but instead it's known on the web mainly as a place to take "ghost tours." This should be of special concern to Philadelphia residents, as although access to the site is run by a private non-profit corporation, the fact is that the site itself has been owned by the City of Philadelphia since 1970. It's ours, and we should have some say in how it's run.

A few years ago an entire generation of tour guides, of which I was one, was let go in favor
of hiring lower-paid workers with less education hand out a for-profit corporation's pre-recorded audio tours to visitors. Admission prices went up and the quality of the experience went down. One of the features of the "audio tour" (a name which never made sense to me, as our human-led tours were naturally always spoken aloud as well ...) is a section on "haunting" which takes no overtly firm position while dropping heavy hints (the fact that this page is extant on their website should make ESP's staff the laughingstock of Philadelphia's historic community) that workers have experienced strange things on-site. When we worked there we weren't encouraged to say the place was haunted, but people were discouraged by management from stating to the public that it certainly wasn't haunted, and/or that we didn't believe in ghosts.

Have I heard noises at ESP? Sure. There are pigeons, cats, rabbits and other critters living there. The roof leaks, plaster drops and everything echoes. Seen weird things? Distances can be hard to judge and the eye is forced to readjust frequently. It's a friggin' prison built in the 19th century; what would be paranormal would be if it were just like your living room.

Yet think about this for a moment, the management of a historic site which should be used to shed light on our society instead is playing into unscientific, irrational fear. Why might that be? The Almighty Dollar!

ESP's biggest annual fundraiser is turning this historic buidling filled with 150 years of very real painful memory into a goofy Halloween attraction called Terror Behind the Walls. This and not historic content is management's main priority, with the blessing of the board of directors, as it's easy money. This prime event on the prison's calendar has featured such noted historians as Insane Clown Posse. I was a tour guide at ESP for all or part of two seasons, and I can assure you that the place has a "creepy vibe" based in the fact that an abandoned 4-acre maze of cells, cellblocks, bars and walls does play off of natural human fears of confinement, solitude and the unknown.

What is not particularly frightening is having a heavily made-up art student jump out at you in the same building you were working in 3 hours earlier with an awful rap-metal soundtrack. Irritating? Yes. Does it play off of my fears... for the future of America as a rational nation? Yes, you bet. But is it creepy like ESP on its own on a quiet night? No, not by half.

Let me state that after having spent well over 150 days and at least a few dozen nights at ESP, I have never experienced anything remotely "paranormal." Nothing. I've even signed up for overnights as a tour guide supervising "ghost-hunters," (the prison management rents the place out for cash to people who want to play ghost hunter at night, and needs staff to sho
w them around and make sure they don't get hurt in the ruins; it's a large, crumbling complex) and the only abnormal things I've seen have been the ghost-hunters themselves.

These chuckleheads bring cameras (digital and film), tape recorders, thermometers and flashlights as their "paranormal" equipment, and we weren't allowed to make fun of them. I had a hard time keeping a straight face. The first time I signed up I was half interested in the extra cash (tour guides being paid hourly) and half interested in what sort of "ghost equipment" a person might buy.

One hardly expects the Tandy Ghostometer X-3000 (although if Radio Shack sold one, these folks would buy it), but I also expected something better than the crap you'd take to record a Cub Scout camping trip! The best/worst has to be the interpretation of every bad photo as "orbs." ESP is dusty as only an abandoned prison complex can be, thu
s there do tend to be "orb-like" objects in the air when you take flash photos at night. Duh.

Just Google "EASTERN STATE ORBS" though, and you'll be treated to more bad photos of the prison than you can shake a black cat at. Each and every one its own little miracle of the paranormal. Of course.

These people will hold a stud finder to a stone wall and get "readings" all over the place. They'll note a temperature change of -1 degree Fahrenheit while standing over the grate to a stone basement and note a "presence." For cryin' out loud, people, visit the Bad Physics site early and often!

Thus ESP collects a few hundred bucks from each self-deluded "ghost tour," it makes tens of thousands on the Halloween haunted house shtick and they rent the place out for classy events like the Emeril Lagasse Halloween special. With crapola like this bringing in the long green, who has time for real history?

One would hope the staff of an important historic site would, instead of inciting the public with tales of supernatural madness to turn a quick buck, use it as a major interpretive center. This route is the history pr
ofessionals' equivalent of malpractice. I'm forwarding this to the good skeptics over at the James Randi Educational Foundation in the hopes that the site management and our absentee landlords in the City of Philadelphia get the wider audience of ridicule they so richly deserve. Something stinks on that hill in Fairmount, and we need to take out the trash.

By the way, the photos of the site itself are mine. Give a guy a digital camera and few thousand hours to while away and a few good photos will amass.

Yours truly referenced on random message board ...

... as a Trivia Titan! Check out the next-to-last post.

As well it should be, else I'd be a sorry QuizMaster, no? For the record, I'm not technically a bastard, the parents were married during conception and delivery if not much longer. So there!

Speaking of bastards, the Grover Cleveland "Ma Ma, Where's My Pa?" thing gets trotted out every campaign season when some editorial writer, presumably on a slow day, makes note of the long history of dirty tricks in presidential campaigns (this one should get more press) in response to the notion that that cycle's are particularly bad. For reasons I've never understood this is supposed to make us reassured that things are going well, and the nation is in good hands.

Answers to last week's Secret Theme rounds

The answers and themes to last week's Secret Themes follow. As always be sure to click the links for maximum infotainment. But be sure to hie yourself back here.


The theme I'll tell you right up front; Pennsylvania counties. County names are indicated in italics.

1) John Adams
2) Lebanon
3) Wyoming

4) Warren G. Harding
5) T. E. Lawrence
6) Wayne's World
7) John L. Sullivan
8) Indiana
9) For(r)est Gump
10) Washington


The theme is European capitals; some were puns.

1) Sophia Loren (Sofia, Bulgaria - the tourism site is down!)
2) Buddha (Buda is half of Budapest, Hungary)
3) Athens, Georgia (Athens, Greece)
4) Jack London (London, UK)
5) Stockholm Syndrome (Stockholm, Sweden)
6) Copenhagen (Copenhagen, Denmark)
7) Paris (Paris, France)
8) The Helsinki Accords (Helsinki, Finland)
9) Berlin (Berlin, Germany)
10) "Burning of the Midnight Lamp" (Bern, Switzerland)

Take that, Hamilton Tiger Cats!

These pretty damn funny photos are of visiting Canadian Football League fans watching their respective teams getting crushed by the British Columbia Lions. It's a peak into an alternative universe gone horribly wrong.

Hey, was anyone aware of the fact that the CFL had several American teams in the mid-90s in an attempt to double the size of the league and make it fully half American? No? I wasn't either; never knew this before tonight. That's how poorly that attempted invasion failed... we didn't even know.

What's with "Tiger Cat" anyway? Are any tigers not cats..?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Girls Rock Philly needs your help

My friend Aimée is working with the new organization Girls Rock Philly, who are looking for all sorts of different help with their program this summer. Check this out, help if you can ...

Girls Rock Philly (GRP) is an initiative to bring Philadelphia a girls-only, week-long summer day camp serving junior rockers ages 10-18, to be held August 6 to 11, 2007. Led by a team of all female instructors & band coaches, girls in the program learn how to play musical instruments, write songs, make their own band merchandise, discover other women in rock & finesse their on-stage jump kicks.

Want to get involved? We need the help of reliable, dedicated people like you to make camp happen & appreciate your skills time & enthusiasm. Some positions require musical experience, but there are many positions that do not. All positions are available to female & female-identifying volunteers, with opportunities available for men as well!

Girls Rock Philly enjoys tax-exempt status for donations, thanks to fiscal sponsorship from Girls Rock Chicago. You can make a donation to GRP in a variety of ways.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Our next two quizzes - hooray!

These two should make you happier than a clown with two full boxes of adhesive bandages. And that, my friends, is mighty happy indeed. Note that each quiz has a separate set of questions, thus you can play both!

Tuesday, May 29, 9pm
Ray's Happy Birthday Bar
1200 E. Passyunk St. (near 9th & Federal Sts.)
Subject Round: 1967- THE YEAR IN MUSIC
(audio rounds are a hit, thus they continue!)

Wednesday, May 30, 9pm
Dirty Frank's
13th & Pine Sts.
Subject Round: VISUAL ARTS

Frank's has a new champion

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant,
and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
- Ecclesiastes, 3:1-8.
There's also a time for a team that shows up every single week, with a good game and a good attitude, only to finish in second place serially, to take down the feared 900 pound gorilla of the Dirty Frank's Pub Quiz. Congrats to Jumpin' Jesus on a Pogo Stick, who took a lead in the Speed round and held off Group W through the next 3 rounds to win with a snazzy 177-159 margin. Both scores make the All-Time Top Ten List at right.

Jumpin' Jesus... changes their name almost every week, but is essentially the team known to long time Frank's regulars as Lil' Roy Screamed. What will they do with the new-found power and glory? Will it go to their heads? Will they use the gift certificate for good or for evil? Will they repeat, or will Group W come back to win the 9th time in 12 attempts? Or shall a new champion emerge from the shadows? Tune in next week, same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel, Frank's at 9pm on Wednesday night...

In the Place of Rob Who Is Peeing in Somebody's Butt, which is, as you could guess, I'd Pee in Her Butt minus Rob, fulfilled Randolph's Law (naughty team name, last place finish) and again won the Last Place Prize, this week a copy of Boggle which looked to be an immediate hit. Enjoy.

I had something happen that hasn't happened before in a game - and I'm not likely to give points away for this again so don't get any ideas! - but this was just too good and I had to give the team a point in the Easy round. I asked who the mayor of McDonaldland was, and the answer of course is Mayor McCheese. Younz Guys couldn't recall the name, but they did recall what he looked like, so one resourceful member drew a pretty darn good likeness of him on the answer sheet! That was awesome, so I awarded a point which had no effect on the standings. Compare and contrast - is that great or what!

We had the second straight week of high participation as a percentage of patrons, and that makes for the perfect quiz atmosphere. I'll note that the team Turtle Spaz Wranglers did not include any members of my old Wranglers team (Note the low score! Take that, gals!), and use of the name was officially unauthorized. We're not franchising. Scores follow.

Beautiful Gold: Jumpin' Jesus on a Pogo Stick 177
So-So Silver: Group W 159
Shameful, Shameful Bronze: Dude, There's a Beverage Involved Here 91


Alex, I'd Like to Buy a Vowel for $2000 73
Younz Guys 73
BG's House 68
Turtle Spaz Wranglers 65
In the Place of Rob Who Is Peeing in Somebody's Butt 62

Break up Cosine! Threepeat at Ray's

After going something like 0 for their first 8 attempts, Cosine of Four (-2) no longer seems capable of losing the Tuesday night quiz. After a poor start they staged a comeback and edged out Edward James Almost - who'd been leading the entire contest - by one question in the final round, 94-89. It was a tight contest, as the third place Johnny Gloryhole finished with an 88.

Gloryhole violated Randolph's Law by not finishing last, and it was good to see recent transplants and new faces New York Defectors lose their pub quiz virginity.

Again the audio round went well technically but with poor scoring, as E.J. Almost had the only strong round, identifying 9 of 10 classic TV theme songs. Here we see the one-man team hard at work, which is just how the work release program likes to see him...

This was the third straight week at Ray's that a team inexplicably blew a question that they had specialized knowledge about. Two weeks ago a team with a Mexican national screwed up a Spanish language question, last week a German was overruled on a correct and probably game-winning answer of "Germany," and this week a person who has written songs for the guitar apparently forgot how many strings a (non-bass, non-12-string, non-weird in any way) guitar has. Your standard guitar has 6 strings, as witnessed by the slang "six-string."

The Ray's quiz is moving in the right direction, we're picking up steam and we're becoming a nice competitive good time in a great atmosphere. Stop by Tuesdays at 9pm!

I gave out the usual complement of offbeat CDs and boardgames to our winners, including the famed Last Place Prize.


Beautiful Gold: Cosine of Four (-2) 94
So-So Silver: Edward James Almost 89
Shameful, Shameful Bronze: Johnny Gloryhole 88


NY Defectors a.k.a. Donkey Punch a.k.a. Requiem for a Beer 42

Thursday, May 24, 2007

This week's Secret Theme round questions

This was a poor week for the Secret Theme; only one team figured it out precisely enough to get all 8 points at Frank's, and no one sussed the other one out at Ray's. How well would you have done? Answers will be posted in a few days.


1) Who was the only one of America's first 5 presidents to lose a reelection bid (i.e. to serve only one term)?
2) Which Arab nation has a constitution which specifically requires the president to be a Christian?
3) What is the least populous state in the US?
4) What 20th century American president defeated Democrat James M. Cox to win the office?
5) Who wrote Seven Pillars of Wisdom?
6) What recurring Saturday Night Live skit took place in a basement in Aurora, Illinois?
7) Who was the first heavyweight champion of the world in modern boxing (he retained the title 1882-1892)?
8) In which US state will you find Tippecanoe Battlefield Memorial Park (of Tippecanoe and Tyler Too fame)?
9) What highly successful box office film (#35 all-time) also won the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director in 1994?
10) Which US state is the Evergreen State?

... and what's the Secret Theme linking all 10 answers?


1) What actress and sex symbol won the Oscar for Best Actress in 1961 for her role in Two Women?
2) Who is Siddhartha Gautama better known as?
3) What college town gave us R.E.M. and The B-52s?
4) Who wrote The Call of the Wild?
5) What's the two-word term for the psychological phenomenon of captors identifying with their kidnappers?
6) What Broadway play featuring scientists won the Tony for Best Play in 2000?
7) What legendary Greek figure was portrayed by Orlando Bloom in the 2004 film Troy?
8) What's the simple two-word name for the 1975 Final Act on the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe?
9) What band had a #1 hit on the pop charts in 1986 with the song "Take My Breath Away" from the film Top Gun?
10) What Jimi Hendrix song contains the lyric "Loneliness is such a ... drag?"

... and what's the Secret Theme linking all 10 answers?

Weekly sound-off

This is your space for comments & questions about the quiz, or anything else you'd like to post that doesn't fit elsewhere.

We never forget who we're work- ah, screw it...

Lockheed Martin is the world's largest and most profitable weapons manufacturer. That's some heavy karma to deal with on the face of it, but you factor in the global bribery, shoddy workmanship leading to scores of deaths, hiring the Japanese mob to pressure customers, almost comically evil environmental damage, general scumbaggery on a grand scale, even suing a head shop over its name, and you have to wonder if Satan isn't a major stockholder. Some 80% of their business comes directly from the federal government (with some additional revenue that technically flows as "foreign aid" first), meaning that you and I pay their bills, mostly on borrowed money that our grandchildren will still be paying off after they retire. Don't expect the corporation to help out by paying taxes either.

In short, these are precisely the people that President Eisenhower warned us about.

The company's tag line is
"We never forget who we’re working for," which seems open to some interpretation, but on a good day in theory means the military (ours, Turkey's or Israel's depending on the contract, much of which we foot the bill for in any event.) A more pollyanna-ish interpretation would be that they work for you and I (as the military does in theory), but this lacks supporting data. Either way, you might hope that that might mean the American people at some level, the people making do without health insurance or functional literacy by the million so that our Masters of War can have their megabillions.

Considering all of this, if I were Lockheed, and if I were giving out American flag pens at a job fair, I might take the time to make sure that the pens were made in the US (nosediving in decent manufacturing jobs) instead of by Chinese prisoners and/or children. Or at least that the wrappers didn't read MADE IN CHINA in larger letters than our web address. Or, failing all of this, that the MADE IN CHINA tags weren't situated to cover the American flag logo. But I seem to expect too much. "Forgive me in my lack of gratitude, O Glorious Overlords!"

When you get the chance, check out the motherlode of dirt on this Mother of All Weapons Contractors.

Don't Miss the Great Snatch

Explanation and some fine mp3-based amusement on the high quality weird music site Dinosaur Gardens.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Know your Shmoos: Muslim dress and sloppy reportage

When I taught English in Qatar, my Canadian housemate Mike came up with the nickname "Shmoo" for any given Qatari woman we didn't know, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the amorphous creatures first presented in Al Capp's Lil' Abner comic strip back in 1948. It was a funny reference, if decidedly non-PC, which was drawn from the traditional (or at least claimed traditional, another argument for perhaps another post down the line) abaya (black over-covering uniformly worn by Gulf women) and shayla (headscarf covering only the hair, again black in the Gulf) worn by all Qatari women. Sometimes you just couldn't tell who was who or what was going on in there, which is of course precisely the point.

The whole proper Islamic get-up for the ladies is often referred to as hijab.
A fellow gets to know his abayas from his shaylas pretty quickly, and I'm always surprised when major media outlets just don't get these things right.

Just tonight I came across an AP article titled Mermaid statue draped in Muslim dress about an apparent Danish protest over Turkey joining the EU. If you want to get some attention in Denmark, you screw ... with the ... mermaid statue. (I've been to the statue myself, and was most struck by the fact that it really is little, which was not what I expected. This drew a comment from my
Danish host that they told us in the title of the darn thing that it was a Little Mermaid, and only an American would expect that to mean a large statue of a mermaid who was in fact little "in real life.")

In any event, this article stated that the mermaid was draped in a "burqa, the head-to-toe Islamic robe." Wrong, wrong and wrong...

This is the mermaid in her protest outfit:

Sorry, AP, that's no burqa! A burqa is an industrial-strength Afghan/Pakistani woman-sealant tent of clothing involving a mask-like netting and entirely too much cloth. The burqa is what the Taliban was requiring in Afghanistan, what is still preferred by many Afghani (and some Pakistani) families, and is considered entirely too much by the average Muslim woman. Look at the statue; see a face? That ain't no burqa. Sloppy, AP, sloppy!

This is the best segue I'll ever have to link to video of the bizarre funky underground Eur
opean club hit by the genuine article Afghani-German music project Burka Band - "Burka Blue." It's worth it to sit through the German anchorman's spiel, trust me on this.

This is an accurately described photo of a woman in a burqa, either in Afghanistan or Pakistan but I'd be willing to guess in a Pashtun region of either:
There are few or no Islamic women in Europe wearing burqas, although you might encounter the niqab, the more reasonable (as these things go) facial veil favored primarily in the Arabian Gulf. And those look like the picture to the right. These days you don't see the niqab all that much in comparison even in the Gulf, unless you're in Saudi which has a corps of mutawa'een enforcing these things. This headgear is also favored by a number of African-American "reverts" to Islam who seem to have mistaken themselves for wealthy Wahhabists:
Bloom and Blair also write that the Qur'an doesn't require women to wear veils; rather, it was a social habit picked up with the expansion of Islam. In fact, since it was impractical for working women to wear veils, "A veiled woman silently announced that her husband was rich enough to keep her idle." - Bloom, Jonathan; Blair, Sheila (2002). Islam: A Thousand Years of Faith and Power. Yale University Press.
Your average Gulf woman isn't veiled these days either; I could never get a shot of my own students in Qatar but the majority of them looked like this every day, at least while wearing the abayas in front of my prying male eyes:

Note the matching bag and heels. Some of the younger girls wore the wildest eye and lip makeup and manicures/pedicures imaginable, and would often wear very high heels that suggested going out clubbing more than English class. At home and in all-female situations the ladies are said to be quite modern and stylish, trying to out-fashion each other when the abayas, which are outer garments, pop off when the men are gone. I believe it. This photo is courtesy the Muslim woman who runs the blog Precious Modesty, which is keeping tabs on what outfits are at once halal and chic. And good luck with that...

The original Danish protestor isn't even apparently aware of what Turkish women actually wear these days, which ranges from this to this and beyond. I think Denmark can deal with that just fine.

It looks like the mermaid was cloaked in more of an Iranian chador, although many Iranian women don't wear those either whenever possible.

The article also slipped up in the fact that there are any number of men's "Islamic robes" as well, ranging from your Gulf Arab thaub (this dapper fellow on the right looks to be wearing his at a wedding) to your South Asian salwar kameez.

Answers to last week's Secret Theme rounds

If there's a more infotaining group of links on a quiz blog on the web, I'll eat my... um, lunch! Your answers to these questions follow.


1) Wilson
2) Brian
3) California
4) theremin
5) Rhonda (Lee)
6) Dennis the Menace
7) Love
8) Ivy Mike
9) The Dick Van Dyke Show
10) safari

... and what's the theme? The Beach Boys.


1) Thelonious Monk
2) The Manhattan, developed at the Manhattan Club
3) Alexander the Great
4) The Dreyfus Affair
5) "New York"
6) Leo
7) Philadelphia's own St. John Neumann
8) Silly Putty
9) Babu (the link's not the wrestler at all, but 100x better)
10) NBC

The theme was Seinfeld.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Welcome 1000th visitor

Greetings visitor #1000!

We've now had 1,000 distinct visitors to this site from at least 31 countries.

Latest world record news

Scanning the web for the latest world records, we find an outbreak of yawn-inducing feats. Where are the beards of bees? Where are the rocket cars on the Bonneville Salt Flats? This is just lame...

Group W comes from behind to win at Frank's

Group W have won at Frank's for the 8th time in 10 attempts, nipping a great effort by Dwayne & the Main Brain McClain by 9. W also grabbed the slightest toehold on another position on the All-Time High Scores List, their 158 tying 3 other teams for the final slot.

I tried to take a photo of the pa
ir, but this time it came out looking exactly like the original Avengers, no doubt owing to the peculiar physics of the anti-photo aura they emit.

The quiz ran very smoothly, and we had nearly a 100% participation rate among the bar patrons
with a number of large teams, which is ideal.

In last place, but with their highest score ever, I'd Pee in Her Butt both fulfilled Randolph's Law by finishing last with a naughty team name and fulfilled their own goal of earning the last place prize, which they missed last week by playing too well.

This week's last place prize was, and I swear I'm not making this up, a copy of the 'N Sync Backstage Pass board game, which as you can see from the photo they wer
e entirely too happy about. They suggested a drinking game, which sounds appropriate as I don't expect people to play that sober.

The final scores:

Beautiful Gold: Group W 158
So-So Silver: Dwayne & the Main Brain McClain 149
Shameful, Shameful Bronze: Peglegs 120


Thinking Partners 92
Team Martin 89
I'd Pee in Her Butt 78

This game featured 3 lead changes, which is also what I like to see... a little competition, a little excitement, that sort of thing. See you next week, folks!

Cosine of 4 (-2) ekes out another win at Ray's

Cosine of 4 (-2) did it again at Ray's, and have become the first team to repeat victory there. Neither venue has a new champion this week.

Cosine's slim victory was helped along by an incredible lapse of judgment on the part of second-place Schluessels, who had a player from Germany on the team. In the final round I asked which country has the world's highest rate of paper and cardboard recycling. The answer is Germany, and the German suspected as much, but yielded to the team's American contingent to change the answer to Sweden. This 6-point unforced error cost them the game.
(Last week we had a team with a Mexican ignore him on a Spanish question - people, listen to your migrant workers!) The team is pictured here mocking being poor sports about it all.

Although people scored poorly in the audio One-Hit Wonder round, I thought the technical end worked very well and people in the bar who opted out of playing had their curiosities piqued.
I'm going to run with this and make an audio-driven music round a regular feature at Ray's. Once again, the venue is excellent and we have a room to ourselves, but continued wretched attendance might kill the quiz. If you're interested in checking the quiz out, or would like to have the option of attending at Ray's in the future, now's the time to come on out.


Beautiful Gold: Cosine of 4 (-2) 103
So-So Silver: Schluessels 99
Paul E.* 70

* indicates team arrived late &/or quit

Thursday, May 17, 2007

This past week's Secret Theme rounds

Every team that played at Ray's this past week figured out the Secret Theme in their contest. Only two of the Frank's teams - the first and second place teams - did the same. How would you have done?

For the new visitor, the Secret Theme round consists of 10 questions worth 5 points each which can be on any topic. There is a theme running through the 10 answers known only to me at the beginning of the quiz, and if you figure out the thread those ten answers have in common, I award you 8 additional points. Remember that if you figure out the theme you can often use that to work out answers to questions you missed the first time 'round.


1) In the movie Cast Away, what name does Tom Hanks give his volleyball friend?
2) Name the martini-drinking dog on the TV show Family Guy.
3) In Inyo National Forest you can see bristlecone pines believed to be the world's oldest living creatures. In what US state is this forest?
4) What eponymous electric musical instrument, used to make spooky sounds in movies, was invented in Russia in 1919?
5) On the show Laverne & Shirley, when the girls move out to California what is the first name of their new ditzy blonde neighbor?
6) What long-running newspaper comic was created by Hank Ketcham in 1951?
7) What '60s American rock band, fronted by Arthur Lee, released the critically acclaimed album Forever Changes in 1967?
8) What was the code name of the nuclear fusion weapon first tested by the US in 1952?
9) What classic '60s sit-com revolved around comedy writers for the fictional Alan Brady Show?
10) What word associated with travel in Africa is from the Swahili word for "journey," which in turn comes from the Arabic verb to travel?

... and what's the theme?


1) What jazz legend composed the song "Round Midnight" and the album Brilliant Corners?
2) What cocktail, when first invented in 1874, was a mixture of sweet vermouth and rye (there are now a number of variations)?
3) What famous figure of ancient history had a horse named Bucephalus?
4) What political scandal involving anti-Semitism famously divided France in the 1890s?
5) Tiffany Pollard is a very famous woman these days - by what name do we know her better?
6) If your birthday is August 1, what astrological sign are you?
7) What American saint is considered to be the father of American parochial schools?
8) What toy was accidentally invented in a General Electric lab in 1943?
9) What WWF wrestler was paired with Tiger Ali Singh in the late 1990s?
10) What TV network is 80% owned by General Electric?

... and what's the theme? It's coincidental that two of the questions mention G.E.; that's not what I'm looking for.

The upcoming quizzes are well nigh upon us!

Scott the Anthropomorphic Scone is mighty pumped for the coming week, because he knows what all the other anthropomorphic baked goods don't - he knows the times and locations of the two great Quizmaster Chris quizzes coming up next week! Yaaay!

Tuesday, May 22, 9pm
Ray's Happy Birthday Bar
1200 E. Passyunk St. (near 9th & Federal Sts.)
Subject Round: TV THEME SONGS
(last week's audio round was a hit, thus it continues!)

Wednesday, May 23, 9pm
Dirty Frank's
13th & Pine Sts.
Subject Round: NAME'S THE SAME

Weekly sound-off

This is the weekly blog feature in which I ask for questions, comments, suggestions, etc. about the quiz, or for any comments about anything at all that might not fit elsewhere. That is, at least, Phase I of the post.

Phase II comes a few days later, when I post the lone comment here as a test to see if the darn thing works, seeing as no one else makes any comments at all.

Phase III goes into full effect about 6 days later, when I check in on that week's post one last time, and ponder the eternal question of trees falling in forests which no one hears.

How the Top Ten All-Time Scores List works

Over on the right side of the page I've posted a Top Ten All Time High Scores List. Just to briefly explain how the list is compiled:

If any team ties or beats the lowest score on the list, they earn a place on it. Right now that lowest of the high scores is 158 points earned out of 212 possible points, which is written 158/212. The potential points vary because sometimes people shout out answers to questions, which invalidates them, I toss the question from scoring and this lowers the total possible score.

In the event of a high-scoring tie, I'd credit the team that wins the tiebreaker one additional point, which would give us a score out of 213 points. This hasn't happened yet and in all the quizzes I've hosted thus far we've had only a tie, for second place, once.

If two teams score 180 points, but one does it with 211 available instead of 212, I'll rank the 180/211 higher than the 180/212. If scores and available points are identical, I simply use chronological order (dates indicated). You earn the score earlier, you get ranked higher.

The asterisk indicates a team won the game the night they made the All-Time High Score List; note that this doesn't always happen.

Also note that we have 4 teams tied for the 10th slot at the moment with 158 points, therefore we have 13 teams on the top "ten" list at the moment. This is the way it shall remain until someone hits 159 or higher, at which point all 4 team names/dates will be scattered to the four winds. Fame is a harsh mistress.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Fuck you, Jerry Falwell!

The NNDB had his number pretty well.

I'm participating in Googlebombing the bastard to help his name live in infamy:

Jerry Falwell
Jerry Falwell
Jerry Falwell
Jerry Falwell
Jerry Falwell
Jerry Falwell
Jerry Falwell

He was an intolerant, racist, anti-working class, apartheid-supporting piece of shit and his death made me happy. Yes, happy. Sometimes the world adds by subtracting. Through high school I had some solace in the realization that one day Reagan, Falwell and Robertson would be dead and I'd still be here. Two down from that group, anxiously awaiting the cosmic hat trick.

Let's not forget the parody ad in Hustler (larger version within the HTML link, scroll down some) that pitted Larry Flynt and the First Amendment against Falwell and the forces of darkness. Darkness lost for a change. Mind you they didn't lose much, we simply maintained a right to do a certain type of parody of people otherwise in control of an obscene proportion of the planet.

Screw you, Jerry! You're dead! I'm not! HA!

UPDATE: In case you missed it, Christopher Hitchens destroyed Falwell in the funniest manner possible on CNN.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Off the Wall Gallery opens 2007 season

Seeing as I do a quiz at Frank's, it seems to make sense to do a bit of cross-marketing and alert you to the activities of the Off the Wall Gallery, the independent gallery which you've no doubt noticed always has works for sale on the north wall of the bar.

This email promised "Music and Clowns and Booze ,Oh My!," and I try not to mix clowns and booze (stuff 22 people in a little car and someone's bound to get a DUI for sure...) but it sounds like a fun event for a good cause regardless.


Come join us at The Ellen, as we kick off our 2007 season in the Art Garden.

The Ellen is located at:

The Ellen Powell Tiberino Memorial Museum
3819 Hamilton St. Philadelphia, Pa 19104

$5.00 donation is requested.

Every Second Friday, The Ellen presents Carnivolution, which is hosted
by Jelly Boy the Clown and and The Hydrogen Jukebox

The 2007 season will also feature weekly events in addition to

Beginning Wednesday May 23rd, The Ellen will present a movie night.
The inaugural movie night will feature Fellini's La Strada, and
subsequent weeks will feature movies by local film makers. (more
movie info to follow)

In terms of Music, The Ellen will be hosting many different bands
throughout the Summer.

Saturday 5/19th will feature Leanna's Song (Reggae)
Saturday 5/26th will feature The Great Unknown

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Answers to last week's Secret Theme round

Click on the links to get infotained but good:

2) Sherman Anti-Trust Act
3) "Cruel to Be Kind"
4) Fred W. Friendly
5) Cheer
6) Those Atlanta Braves
7) Mr. Clean
8) Thrifty
9) Help!
10) Friendly's

The theme? The Boy Scout Law. You'll note that in addition to being clean, helpful, friendly, etc., a scout is also obedient, reverent and courteous, which don't make for very good trivia questions. Three teams figured this out last week, and unsurprisingly they were all winners.

Friday, May 11, 2007

This week's upcoming quizzes

Quizmaster Central Question Generation Computer gives you the temporal and spatial data for next week's pub quiz interfaces:

Tuesday, May 15, 9pm
Ray's Happy Birthday Bar
1200 E. Passyunk St. (near 9th & Federal Sts.)
Subject Round: ONE-HIT WONDERS
(my first audio round - should work well)

Wednesday, May 16, 9pm
Dirty Frank's
13th & Pine Sts.
Subject Round: COMIC STRIPS

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Would you have known this week's Secret Theme?

Owing to a combination of the light turnout at Ray's and the fact that the Secret Theme round is the hardest to come up with, I used the same one at both quizzes this week. Normally that isn't going to happen, but I knew no one was playing both nights this time, and I liked this round, so I thought why the heck not.

These were 5-point questions with an 8 point bonus for figuring out how the answers were linked. Both winning teams and the second place team at Frank's nailed the Secret Theme. How 'bout you? Remember that if you think you know the theme you can work backwards from that to figure out other answers.

1) Name the Jesuit university in the Uptown section of New Orleans.
2) Passed in 1890, this act you learned about in high school was the first US federal government action against monopolies. Name it.
3) What was Nick Lowe's only Top 40 hit in the US (it came in 1979)?
4) What former CBS News president and well-regarded journalism figure resigned from CBS in 1966 because they ran an episode of I Love Lucy in place of US Senate hearings on Vietnam?
5) Proctor & Gamble introduced Tide, their best-selling laundry detergent, in 1948. What's their second best-selling detergent, which debuted in 1951?
6) What current major league baseball team was known as the Beaneaters, Doves and Rustlers in its early history?
7) What common American product is called Flash in the UK and Mr. Proper on mainland Europe?
8) What car rental company was bought by Chrysler in 1989 and merged with Dollar Rent-a-Car?
9) Which Beatles album produced two #1 singles in the US - "Ticket to Ride" and the title track (which I obviously can't tell you...)?
10) What popular ice cream/restaurant chain was founded in 1935 in Springfield, MA?

... and what's the theme of these answers? I'll post the solution in a few days.

How the two quizzes compare

Just so you get some idea of how the two quizzes I do each week are tailored, I did a precise breakdown of the how the points added up by general subject area this week, which is now typical of any week. If you're wondering which quiz to join, this isn't a bad guide. The simple way of putting this is "Frank's has more pop culture." I already knew that, but this week I took the time to illustrate it.

If you haven't played my format yet, note that all questions aren't the same value. There are 6 rounds, in theory each harder than the next but a lot of that depends upon what your team knows.

Round 1 is the Easy round, all questions fairly simple, a mixed bag worth 1 point each.

Round 2 is the Before/After round, I give you a new year each week that's the year for the whole round. I then read 10 events of all sorts (not just history but sports, entertainment, etc.) and you have a 50/50 shot of answering correctly whether each event happened before or after that year. Each is worth 2 points.

The Speed round is third; I ask one question with around 12-20+ possible correct answers and you try to give me 10 of them in 90 seconds. Each correct is worth 3 points, and although I literally ask only one question that comprises the whole round I'm counting that as 10 questions within the same subject below.

Round 4 is the Subject round, 10 questions all on the same topic that I announce on this site ahead of time. Each question is worth 4 points, and they are medium difficulty.

Round 5 is the Secret Theme. I ask 10 seemingly random trivia questions, a bit harder than round 4. Each is worth 5 points. There's a non-linear theme running through the 10 answers; give me that to earn another 8.

Round 6 is the Unreasonably Difficult round, with tough 6-point questions for the better teams to duke it out in the end. It also gives you a shot to redeem yourself late with 60 available points if you had bad luck guessing things in the easier rounds.

That said, this is how the quizzes broke down this week (hey, I have a lot of downtime at the day job):

# of questions / # of points


TV 16/56
Movies 14/42
History 6/24
Business/Products 4/20
Sports 4/19
Music 4/18
Geography 3/8
Secret Theme 1/8
Astronomy 1/6
Colleges & Universities 1/5
Americana 2/2
Literature 1/2
Anatomy 1/1


Literature 15/57
Chemistry 10/30
Business/Products 5/22
Geography 7/17
Music 4/17
History 6/15
Sports 3/9
Secret Theme 1/8
Movies 1/6
Physics 1/6
Biology 1/6
Art 1/6
TV 1/5
Colleges & Universities 1/5
Languages 2/2
Religion 1/1

Four records set at Frank's; two positive

Seemingly unstoppable, Group W not only won again at Frank's, but broke their own high-scoring record in my quiz format with an absurd 187 points. We also had a new record of largest disparity between the highest and lowest score for any teams who played the whole game, 162 points.

I have the duo depicted here as Bonnie and Clyde, as I still can't get a photo and they do seem to be robbing Frank's in the free drinks department. Chalk up another $25 in Demon Rum to W.

In any other venue against any other competition The Horror, The Horror's very impressive 169 points would have won easily. They did at least make the all-time top ten list at right, set a new high score record for a second place team and walked away with a $15 certificate to Frank's.

The third place team ($10 certif
icate) had the best name of the night, Life Is Short. Get a Divorce. The link is to the news story in case you missed it.

It was a very pleasant crowd so I gave out some spot prizes for verbally answered questions at the end of the game. Great night, thanks folks.

9-11 Was an Inside Job played with a great attitude the whole game despite a score of 25. For their efforts the guys got a couple of brand new copies of the CD soundtrack to Black Spring Break.
In order to win the last place prize you need to appear to me to be trying to win and stay for the entire contest. No doubt Dick Cheney and the Illuminati are holding them down. "FNORD!" Scores follow.

Beautiful Gold: Group W 187
So-So Silver: The Horror, The Horror 169
Shameful, Shameful Bronze: Life Is Short. Get a Divorce. 68


I'm Awesome (as a whole) 58
I'd Pee in Her Butt 42
9-11 Was an Inside Job 25
The Kindreds 2*

* indicates team arrived late &/or quit