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Trivia Bits for Apr 19, 2014 After lead singer Michael Hutchence died in ... well, circumstances not worth relating here ... INXS found a novel way to replace him. After nearly 10 years of using various uninspired singers, INXS had a reality show. The winner was a Canadian, JD …Read more. Trivia Bits for Apr 18, 2014 He started composing as a child, but as the old joke goes, on Dec. 5, 1791, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart started decomposing. He was not, in fact, buried in a pauper's grave, but was interred in a communal grave just outside the city walls of Vienna in …Read more. Trivia Bits for Apr 17, 2014 Strictly speaking, there is no English word that rhymes with "orange." But if you're flexible and include proper nouns, you can rhyme orange with Blorenge, which is a mountain in Wales. Eminem once said that you can also rhyme it with door hinge, …Read more. Trivia Bits for Apr 16, 2014 John Lennon's last live performance wasn't with the Beatles, or with Yoko Ono, but with Elton John. In 1974, he joined John on stage at Madison Square Garden to perform the song they co-wrote, "Whatever Gets You Through the Night." This was Lennon's …Read more.
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The Kennedy family thought Joe Junior would be their president, until he died during WWII. Likewise, the Bush family expected Jeb Bush to become president, not George W. But in 1994, Jeb lost his first run to be governor of Florida. And W. won in Texas, giving him the head start he needed to run for president in 2000. But as it happens, Jeb was also governor of the state that decided the 2000 election. And there is talk Jeb might run for the White House in 2016.

There's a Guns N' Roses album called The Spaghetti Incident? (That question mark is part of the title: long story.) On that album is a bonus track called "Look at Your Game, Girl." And that song is by mass murderer Charles Manson. The Beach Boys had also adapted a Manson song, which became "Never Learn Not to Love." It was through the Beach Boys' Dennis Wilson that Manson figured out where Sharon Tate lived.

Norm MacDonald anchored the fake news on "Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update." But his brother, Neil, actually is a reporter in Canada, and is currently the Washington, D.C., correspondent for The National, the flagship news program on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Both brothers were born in Quebec City but raised in Ottawa. Neil is much less controversial than Norm.

Jane Smiley won the Pulitzer for "A Thousand Acres," a book that reworked Shakespeare's "King Lear" as the story of an aging farmer who divides his land among three daughters: Ginny, Rose and Caroline. These names parallel Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. The book was controversial for a plot twist that explains why the "evil sisters" hate their father so much.

In 1541, on the Yucatan Peninsula, a Franciscan monk named Diego de Landa burned all the Mayan books he could find, except for a few codices written in hieroglyphs on bark paper. This was part of an inquisition to suppress traditional religious practices. He also used so much torture even the Spanish asked him to cut it back a little. But as a result, most of what we know about Mayan religion is from his writings on the subject.


1. When Rolling Stone drew up a list of the 500 greatest songs of all time, three songs were on there twice. Which of these is not one of those songs? A) "Blinded by the Light" (Manfred Mann and Bruce Springsteen) B) "Blue Suede Shoes" (Elvis and Carl Perkins) C) "Mr Tambourine Man" (Dylan and the Byrds) D) "Walk This Way" (Aerosmith and Run DMC)

2. Until Yugoslavia broke up, what was the closest major national capital in the world to Rome? A) Bern B) Paris C) Tunis D) Vienna

3. In 1969, what future U.S. president reported seeing a UFO outside the Lion's Club in Leary, Ga.? A) Bill Clinton B) George H. W. Bush C) Jimmy Carter D) Ronald Reagan

4. Whose song "Jolene" took on homoerotic overtones when the White Stripes covered it? A) Crystal Gayle B) Melissa Manchester C) Dolly Parton D) Shania Twain

5. The site of a recently finished continent-to-continent tunnel, where is the only major city in the world that sits astride two continents? A) Egypt B) Turkey C) Panama D) Russia

6. Of what city (and former hometown) did Gertrude Stein say, "There is no there, there"? A) Boston B) Chicago C) Dallas D) Oakland


1) "Blinded by the Light" was not on the list twice.

2) Tunis was, at one time, the closest national capital to Rome. If you don't count Vatican City and similar microstates.

3) Carter saw a flying object he couldn't identify.

4) Dolly Parton originally performed "Jolene."

5) Istanbul in Turkey is partly in Asia but mostly in Europe.

6) Stein did not like Oakland, Calif.


A vet named Pete Hodgson was known in New Zealand as one of the pit bulls of the Labour Party. Outside New Zealand, though, he is known for being appointed "Minister of the Rings" to promote the fact that "The Lord of the Rings" was filmed there. New Zealand has turned the trilogy into a tourism bonanza, since the movies highlighted New Zealand's stunning landscapes. In fact, the sets for "The Hobbit" were left up, expressly to become tourist attractions.

In 1956, Chicago's fire academy was built, rather aptly, on the site of Mrs. O'Leary's barn, at 558 W DeKoven Street, which was numbered 137 at the time of the fire. The barn, or more precisely, a cow inside of it, was once blamed for burning the whole city down. In fact, the bit about the cow was made up, although we do know the fire started there.

There are three British writers I always get mixed up. Maybe this will help sort them out. First, we have C.S. Lewis and C.S. Forester. Clive Staples Lewis wrote the Narnia books, and Cecil Scott Forester wrote the Horatio Hornblower books. But there's also E.M. Forster, aka Edward Morgan Forster. You know him mostly because so many of his books inspired Merchant Ivory movies.

Tandy and Coleco both became electronics companies and, by coincidence, both started out in the leather business. Coleco was the Connecticut Leather Company, specializing in shoes. By the 1980s, it was deep into the videogame business. Too deep. When the bubble burst, so did Coleco. Tandy was also in shoes but diversified into computers, until it acquired RadioShack in 1963. The new company eventually dropped the Tandy part of its name.

Best known for his time in Guns N' Roses, Slash was born Saul Hudson in Stoke-on-Trent, England, in 1965, but his family moved to Los Angeles when he was 11. His dad did album covers and his mom did costumes for musicians. Slash has his own fashion sense and a key part of that is his hat, which he shoplifted in 1985. As it happens, the hat was once stolen, in turn, from Slash, during a Grammys after-party.

Cornish writer Daphne du Maurier became linked to Alfred Hitchcock, who turned three of her books into movies: "Jamaica Inn," "Rebecca" and "The Birds." "Rebecca," in fact, won the Oscar for Best Picture, although Hitchcock did not, although he was nominated for that film and for four others. He did, though, won the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award late in his career, a kind of honorary Oscar. His entire speech was, "Thank you ... very much indeed."


1. What bird has been picked most often as a state bird, although oddly enough, not by Missouri? A) Cardinal B) Sparrow C) Robin D) Swan

2. Vince Neil quit what metal band to focus on his career as a race car driver? A) AC/DC B) Judas Priest C) Motley Crue D) Guns N' Roses

3. What British-Cypriot singer came out after he was arrested for trying to hook up in a public restroom in Beverly Hills? A) Cat Stevens B) George Michael C) Boy George D) Freddie Mercury

4. In their language, they call a bath a "hamam" and a delight a "lokum." And we know them both, in English, by their name. Who are they? A) The Bohemians B) The Danish C) The Lithuanians D) The Turkish

5. What are the first names of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? A) Charles and William B) Henry and Edward C) John and Philip D) Statler and Waldorf

6. Victor Willis was busted on drug and gun charges. Ironically, what persona did he adopt when he was in the Village People? A) Biker B) Cop C) Cowboy D) Pirate


1) The cardinal is very popular as a state bird.

2) Vince Neil was in Motley Crue.

3) George Michael came out.

4) That'd be Turkish delight and Turkish bath.

5) It's Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde.

6) Victor Willis was the cop.


In the 1980s, a wave of British dance bands were openly gay. Groups like Bronski Beat, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Erasure sang unabashedly out songs, notably Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy." This would have been unthinkable even a few years earlier, when even Boy George (of all people) remained coy about his sexuality.

A Bloody Mary is made with tomato juice and vodka, but there are lots of variations that use different kinds of booze. A Bloody Maria is made with tequila, a Danish Mary is made with aquavit, a Bloody Maureen with Guinness and a Highland Mary with Scotch. Meanwhile, a Brown Mary uses any whiskey and a Ruddy Mary uses gin. And if there's no alcohol at all? Naturally, that's a Virgin Mary.

"AI: Artificial Intelligence" was originally just called "AI," but test audiences thought the title was "A1" and Steven Spielberg was afraid people would think the movie was about steak sauce. As it happens, the movie was originally Stanley Kubrick's project but in his typically obsessive way, he spent 12 years on it and eventually gave it up.

However, he did leave copious notes and directed Robin Williams' voiceovers.

The Cubs' Bobby Murcer hit two home runs on the same night in 1977 for a terminally ill boy named Scott Crull. An ABC announcer said Murcer had promised Crull he'd hit the home runs. That's probably not the case, but more to the point, Crull didn't know he was dying until he heard about it on ABC. Oops. The boy died three weeks later. As it happens, Murcer also died of cancer.

Graham Greene converted to Catholicism while working as a journalist in Nottingham for the Times of London. But the Vatican condemned his novel "The Power and the Glory," which he wrote after the Church funded his trip to study the official secularization of Mexico. Not that this was the most controversial thing he wrote. His review of a Shirley Temple film, which he implied was deliberately exciting pedophiles, led to a lawsuit that shut down the magazine for which he wrote the review.

The original plan was to film the movie version of "Oklahoma" in Oklahoma, but it turned out to be too developed and entirely lacking in oil-well-free cornfields, let alone corn as high as an elephant's eye. Instead, it was filmed around Nogales in Arizona. It was also the first film shot in Todd-AO, although as a precaution, different takes were used for an identical second version in CinemaScope.


1. What British port city gave us such '80s bands as Echo & The Bunnymen, OMD, The Teardrop Explodes, A Flock of Seagulls, Icicle Works and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, plus a certain very popular band in the '60s? A) Birmingham B) Leeds C) Liverpool D) Manchester

2. What was the gulf where the Gulf War was fought? A) Gulf of Aqaba B) Gulf of Oman C) Gulf of Suez D) Persian Gulf

3. Pianists Antoine Dominique Domino and Thomas Wright Waller both had what negative nickname? A) Fats B) Pigpen C) Whitewash D) Yardbird

4. In 1913, 3,000 Civil War vets celebrated the 50th anniversary of what battle by hugging each other instead of shooting each other? A) Alamo B) Gettysburg C) Midway D) Verdun

5. Although it is the fourth largest state by population today, what state had been the least populous in the Confederacy? A) Florida B) Louisiana C) Ohio D) Texas

6. As James Gandolfini might have known, what is the highest singing voice? A) Baritone B) Contralto C) Soprano D) Tenor


1) In addition to those '80s bands, Liverpool also gave us a great '60s band: Gerry and the Pacemakers.

2) The Persian Gulf was the site of the Gulf War.

3) They were Fats Domino and Fats Waller.

4) That battle was Gettysburg.

5) Florida is close to overtaking New York to become the third largest state.

6) Soprano is the highest vocal register.


Danish inventor Karl Kroyer had a great idea for refloating sunken ships, when he rescued a ship in Kuwait by filling it with inflatable polystyrene balls. But when he tried to patent it, he was foiled by Donald Duck. It turns out that in a 1949 Carl Banks story, Donald used ping pong balls to save a yacht. There is some dispute as to whether this "prior art" literally prevented the patent from going forward. But still ...

Man-Thing was literally a chunk of swamp that came to life and fought crime. He was also featured in Marvel Comic's Giant-Sized line, which, naturally but unfortunately, was called Giant-Sized Man-Thing. In one such issue, Marvel introduced Howard the Duck, an equally bizarre character who appeared in the first full-length theatrical released based on a Marvel character. It bombed. We'd love to see a Man-Thing movie.

Until he was caught by FBI Agent Will Graham, the Chesapeake Ripper killed nine people in the Baltimore area. Born into a wealthy Lithuanian family, he was orphaned and brutalized by the Nazis during World War II. He is, as it happens, Hannibal Lecter. The character was actually first played by Brian Cox, in the film "Manhunter," before three memorable portrayals by Anthony Hopkins. Gaspard Ulliel played him in a prequel and Mads Mikkelsen took over on TV.

Different editions of Scrabble tell us a lot about other languages. Italian Scrabble, for example, doesn't use J, W, X or Y. We can also get a sense of how often letters are used in other languages, since less common letters are worth more points. The J is non-existent in Italian Scrabble and worth 8 points in English. But it is worth only 4 points in Danish, 2 points in Czech and 1 point in Croatian.

In the 1980 Miracle on Ice, the American hockey team beat the Soviets, which was a titanic upset. Even the mighty Canadian squad hadn't beaten them in decades. But most people assume that was the gold-medal-winning game. It wasn't. The Americans also had to play Finland, who ended up finishing fourth. The Soviets won the silver and Finland the bronze.

Poland's national anthem is called Dabrowski's Mazurka and, oddly enough, it praises Napoleon, explaining, "We've been shown the ways to victory by Bonaparte." This is because the song, also known as "Poland Is Not Yet Lost," was written originally for stateless Polish soldiers serving in Napoleon's Polish Legions, who were helping him conquer Italy.


1. Highway 9 turns into what famous street as it moves from north to south through Manhattan, N.Y.? A) Avenue of the Americas B) Broadway C) Madison Avenue D) Park Avenue

2. If you count "Hero" for both 1993 and 1994, who becomes the only artist to have a #1 single in every year of the 1990s? A) Cher B) Mariah Carey C) Whitney Houston D) Madonna

3. What 1912 disaster was survived by 705 people ... and two dogs? A) Explosion of the Hindenburg B) Great Chicago Fire C) Sinking of the Titanic D) Justin Bieber's first album

4. What Kabbalah student announced in 2004 that she wanted people to call her Esther? A) Madonna B) Roseanne Barr C) Gwyneth Paltrow D) Demi Moore

5. According to "Pride and Prejudice," it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in need of something. What? A) A career B) An estate C) A son D) A wife

6. What very popular class of organic compounds each have at least one hydroxyl group attached to a carbon atom that is then attached to three more atoms? A) Alcohol B) Caffeine C) Nicotine D) Sugar


1) Highway 9 becomes Broadway.

2) Mariah Carey ran the decade.

3) Two dogs survived the Titanic.

4) Madonna unsuccessfully asked to be called Esther.

5) Rich men need wives, according to Jane Austen.

6) We gave the chemistry for alcohol.


Hillary Clinton once claimed that she was named for Edmund Hillary, the man who climbed Mount Everest. This is, to say the least, improbable, since Hillary (the mountaineer) wasn't famous until Hillary Rodham was six. actually checked all the Chicago newspapers, to see if any of them had mentioned the former beekeeper before the former First Lady was born. Nope.

Bruce Springsteen actually wrote "Hungry Heart" for the Ramones. He had seen the band in concert in Ashbury Park and got to talking to Joey Ramone afterward, writing "Hungry Heart" that very night. His manager, however, was really annoyed. Springsteen had already written a string of hits for other people that would have been better in the Boss's hands: notably "Blinded By The Light," which was a hit for Manfred Mann. So Bruce kept it for himself.

Neil Young video "This Note's For You" parodied the increasing reach of corporations into rock music, particularly sponsorship of tours and product placement in videos. Michael Jackson was particularly offended and MTV, itself dependent on corporate money, banned the video. This, of course, made it all the more popular, so MTV not only reversed itself, but made it MTV's Video of the Year.

Yesterday, we talked about Neil Young. Weirdly, he was once in a band with Rick James, called the Mynah Birds. James had deserted the U.S. Navy and ended up in Canada. He would later have a massive hit called "Super Freak," but by the 1990s, he had taken a dark turn. Deeply addicted to cocaine, he and his wife kidnapped, tortured and raped a young woman for nearly a week. He was jailed and his drug use eventually killed him. Yikes.

Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven became the most requested song on FM radio in the 1970s. But it wasn't released as a single, because the band's manager, Peter Grant, wanted fans to buy the band's album Led Zeppelin IV instead. In 2007, it technically became a single when it was released digitally, and even made the UK top 40. By the way, the opening guitar arpeggios are an awful lot like "Taurus" by Spirit, with whom Led Zeppelin toured in 1968.

The first James Bond theme song to hit #1 was Duran Duran's theme to "A View to a Kill." In addition to the surprisingly lack of chart impact, the only Bond theme to win an Oscar was for Adele's theme for "Skyfall." Moreover, that was the first Oscar of any kind for a Bond movie since a handful of technical awards in the 1960s. The Bond theme itself (the jangly guitar one) is credited to Monty Norman, but was likely written by John Barry.


1. At one time, where would you be if you were spending drachmas on feta cheese? A) Greece B) Israel C) Italy D) Turkey

2. Noel Gallagher and his younger brother Liam Gallagher became the duelling pillars of what British rock band? A) Arctic Monkeys B) Blur C) Black Keys D) Oasis

3. When would you experience involuntary pandiculation? A) When you blink B) When you can't stop hiccupping C) When you fall asleep D) When somebody else yawns

4. As ambassador to France, what future president is also credited with introducing french fries to the United States? A) John Adams B) Benjamin Franklin C) Thomas Jefferson D) John Kennedy

5. "February made me shiver with every paper I'd deliver." Who heard about the death of Buddy Holly while working as a paperboy? A) Jim Croce B) Don McLean C) Paul McCartney D) James Taylor

6. Britain's notorious Kray brothers were gangsters and twins. Twin singers from band played the Krays on film? A) Duran Duran B) Spandau Ballet C) Proclaimers D) Thompson Twins


1) The drachma was the currency in Greece.

2) The Gallaghers were in Oasis.

3) Pandiculation is yawning.

4) Thomas Jefferson may have given us French fries.

5) Don McLean wrote about Buddy Holly (probably) in "American Pie."

6) Gary and Martin Kemp of Spandau Ballet played the notorious Kray brothers.


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Paul Paquet
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