Monday, December 9 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" …Read more. Saturday, December 7 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 …Read more. Friday, December 6 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 …Read more. Thursday, December 5 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 …Read more.more articles
PAUL'S TRIVIABITS (TM) - WEEKLY
As the story goes, the Roman poet Ovid had a pet housefly. When that fly finally died, Ovid was so heartbroken he had an elaborate funeral for it on his estate. The story is actually a shade more complicated that that, because it looks like Ovid was trying to exploit a tax loophole. There had been a plan to take land from the wealthy and give it to war vets. But there was an exception for burial plots, which were also tax-free.
Kiss has only hit the top 10 twice. And both songs have been ballads, not the hard-rocking tunes for which it is famous. One of the songs is “Beth,” written by the drummer, Peter Criss. The other is called “Forever.” That one’s even more embarrassing. It was co-written by Michael Bolton. And their last top 40 hit before that was a disco-tinted tune called “I Was Made for Loving You.”
It is difficult to imagine the entire squad of the New York Yankees, or the Chicago Bulls, or the Dallas Cowboys, being almost entirely at once in a plane crash. But the soccer world has seen that kind of tragedy several times: Torino AC in 1949, the Pakhtakor Tashkent Russian team in 1979, Alianza Lima in 1987 and the Colourful 11 from Suriname in 1989. It has even happened at the international level: Zambia's entire national team died in a 1993 crash.
Boston Red Sox pitcher Clarence Blethen only played a couple of seasons in the 1920s but he is best remembered (in so much as he’d remembered at all), as being the only player who bit himself in the butt during a game. He was sliding into second with his false teeth in his back pocket, which snapped shut on him. He was removed from the game due to all the bleeding. And it was the only time he made it to base.
Ghana used to be called the Gold Coast, back when it was a British colony. It was called that, you’ll be shocked to learn, because they region was littered with gold. However, nationalists liked Kwame Nkrumah felt the name belittled them, defining the country solely by its natural resources, so on independence it was named for Ghana, a former African empire that was actually about 500 miles northwest of it, largely in Sudan.
George Read was the only person to vote against the Declaration of Independence. The Delaware representative was a moderate who hoped to negotiate a settlement with Britain. Since Delaware’s Thomas McKean voted in favour, Caesar Rodney had to ride overnight to Philadelphia to break the deadlock in Delaware's delegation. He was in favour. Read did, though, eventually sign the document.
1. At one point, who starred in the #1 film on IMDb's Top 250 Movies list (“The Godfather”) as well as in the #1 film on the Bottom 100 (“Gigli”)?A) Marlon BrandoB) James CaanC) Robert DuvalD) Al Pacino
2. If a Pomeranian dog lived in Pomerania, where would his home be?A) FranceB) GermanyC) ScotlandD) Italy
3. What Disney character would be a cannibal if he were eating venison?A) BambiB) Donald DuckC) DumboD) Simba
4. What Washington Redskin Hall of Famer had a career-ending injury in 1940 ... during the coin toss … when he caught his cleats on the turf and wrecked his knee?A) Dutch ClarkB) Turk EdwardsC) Ox EmersonD) Bronko Nagurski
5. There are a hundred pennies to the dollar. The only two countries not to use decimal currency are both on what continent?A) AfricaB) AsiaC) EuropeD) South America
6. Inspired by a dream, bluesman Henry Saint Clair Fredericks changed his name to that of a famous landmark. Which one?A) Angkor WatB) Big BenC) Taj MahalD) White House
1) Al Pacino was in the best of the best and the worst of the worst.
2) Pomerania is on the south shore of the Baltic Sea, divided between Germany and Poland.
3) Bambi is a deer and so is venison.
4) Turk Edwards’ career ended with a coin toss gone very wrong.
5) The Mauritanian ouguiya equals five khoum, and five Malagasy francs equal one ariary. That’s Africa.
6) Taj Mahal was a groovy blues musician.
WEEK OF MAY 13
Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote a series of books set on Darkover, an ice-age planet orbiting a fictional red giant star called Cottman. She also wrote a feminist version of the Arthurian legend called “The Mists of Avalon.” Interestingly, she also cofounded the Society for Creative Anachronism and appears to have coined the name. The SCA traces its origin to a 1966 grad party billed as a "protest against the 20th century.”
They say that close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. So, that made us wonder how horseshoes works. If your horseshoe connects, that’s a ringer. You get three points. If it leans against the stake, that’s a leaner, worth one point. Otherwise, whoever is closest to the stake gets a point. If you lose, you are allowed to throw grenades at the stake.
You’d think gravity would be gravity. But Canada’s Hudson Bay region actually has lower gravity than the rest of the earth. The Laurentide Ice Sheet left such a heavy thumbprint on the Earth's surface that there is less mass there. The lower gravity around Hudson Bay may also be because of convection in the mantle or as a hangover of the ice age.
In the ancient world, the Chaldeans were a Babylonian people who established an empire of their own, from 626 B.C. to 539 B.C., after overthrowing the Assyrians. Deeply traditional, they brought back elements of the even more ancient Sumerian Empire. There are, in fact, still Chaldeans around today. They are Christians from northern Iraq, many of who now live in the Detroit area.
The most Twitter-friendly song to ever hit the Billboard Top 10 was “One” by U2, which requires just five characters for the act and song title. (Or six characters, if you count the space between them.) The song was inspired by the contrast between Germany’s reunification and the disunity within the band over its direction. U2 has also recorded it with Mary J. Blige for a benefit for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
In 2008, Abby Elliott joined the cast of “Saturday Night Live.” This made her the first cast member to be a child of a previous cast member. Yup. The show has been on that long. Her father is Chris Elliott, who had been on the show in 1994-95. And her grandfather, by the way, is Bob Elliott, who was part of a radio comedy duo called Bob and Rae. And that duo appeared on a Christmas episode of “SNL” in the 1970s.
1. Legislators in what commonwealth stare up at the Sacred Cod, which usually hangs over the chamber of the House of Representatives?A) MassachusettsB) OhioC) OregonD) Pennsylvania
2. What was the only team from the former American Basketball Association to win an NBA title?
A) Brooklyn Nets
B) Denver Nuggets
C) Indiana Pacers
D) San Antonio Spurs
3. What fruit does Olive Garden use in its logo?A) AppleB) GrapeC) OliveD) Tomato
4. Who died just a few hours after Farrah Fawcett? A) Johnny CarsonB) Kurt CobainC) Whitney HoustonD) Michael Jackson
5. What ABBA song is the only palindromic Top 40 hit by a band with a palindromic band?A) “Borrow or Rob”B) “Party Trap”C) “Race Car”D) “SOS”
6. What country's central bank misspelled the word "bank" on its 2006 2,000 tenge and 5,000-tenge notes?A) KazakhstanB) SlovakiaC) TongaD) Zimbabwe
1) The Sacred Cod is in Boston, Mass.
2) The Spurs are the only ABA team to win an NBA title.
3) The Olive Garden logo depicts, not an olive, but a bunch of grapes.
4) Farrah Fawcett’s death was overshadowed by the death of Michael Jackson.
5) “SOS” was a huge hit for ABBA.
6) The word was written with an alternate Kazakh form of the letter K, which has a slightly different pronunciation.
WEEK OF MAY 20
An EGOT is winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.
Polo and jai alai share a particular rule that few other sports would even consider. No left-handed players are allowed. In jai alai, this is because of the three-walled court, which requires bounces off the sidewall, a touch move if you’re a southpaw. In polo, you have to play right-handed because you’re sitting on horses, and the game wouldn’t work if you had lefties and righties, although the rule was relaxed during WWII.
Paul Julian worked behind the scenes at Warner Brothers, painting the backgrounds of the cartoons. He was particularly known for doing urban scenes. But his other claim to almost-fame is that he voiced the Roadrunner. It was an easy gig, since the Roadrunner’s entire vocabulary consists of "beep beep." However, because of WB’s contract with Mel Blanc, which allowed nobody else to get credit for voice work, Julian went uncredited.
In addition to being a notoriously voiced singer, Neil Young also loves model trains, so much so that he tried to take over Lionel Trains. He even invented a control system so that his disabled son could play with the trains as well, by remote control. Young had a 20 percent stake in the company and still provides input on new technologies. There was even an official Lionel line of trains connected to one of his albums.
Confusingly, there are two countries at the United Nations called Congo, both of them named for the Congo River, which in turn was named for the Kongo River. At one time, they were distinguished by their capitals, which happen to be across the Congo River from one another: so, Congo (Kinshasa) and Congo (Brazzaville). Then Congo (Kinshasa) became Zaire, but recently it has gone back to the old name, and is usually called DR Congo (DR being short for Democratic Republic).
In 2008, Terry Kniess got on the “Price is Right” stage by nailing the price exactly right. And when he made it to the Showcase Showdown, he got the price exactly right again becoming (possibly) the first person to ever do so. The producers were suspicious and stopped tape. Drew Carey was unenthusiastic. But Kniess wasn’t cheating. He’d realized that items were reused with the same prices, and memorized the prices.
1. If you win a particular race in Sonkajarvi, Finland, you win the weight of what you’re carrying in beer. What would you carry?A) Your computerB) Your dogC) Your mountaineering gearD) Your wife
2. What position has produced the fewest Baseball Hall of Famers, with just 15?A) CatcherB) Second baseC) Third baseD) Shortstop
3. Under what stately name did rapper Tramar Dillard score a huge hit with "Low"?A) Cali ForniaB) Carol InaC) Flo RidaD) Illin’ Noise
4. The last words he heard before he was killed were "You sockdologizing old mantrap!" Who?A) John LennonB) Phil HartmanC) Abraham LincolnD) Malcolm X
5. Charged with treason, Henry Laurens was the only American ever held in what prison?A) BastilleB) Devil’s IslandC) GuantanamoD) Tower of London
6. What city's first female mayor, Jane Byrne, was followed by its first black mayor, Harold Washington?A) ChicagoB) DetroitC) Los AngelesD) New York City
1) In that race in Sonkajarvi, you carry your wife.
2) Not many third basemen are in the Baseball Hall of Fame, although Deacon White was added in 2013.
3) Flo Rida is from the Miami area.
4) One of the last words Abe Lincoln ever heard was sockdologizing.
5) Henry Laurens was in the Tower of London.
6) Jane Byrne and Harold Washington were mayors of Chicago.
WEEK OF MAY 27
In 2005, Mozambique held a design contest to deal with a problem it had with its flag. Adopted by the Marxists who brought the country to independence in the 1970s, the flag included an AK-47 assault rifle, crossed with an agricultural implement, in reference to the Soviet hammer and sickle. The contest, however, went nowhere, and the African country remains the only one in the world with a modern weapon on its flag.
Oddly enough, Key West got its name, not from its location, but from the Spanish term for “Island of Bones.” Apparently, it became a burial ground after a vicious battle among Indians that took place there. That being said, it does happen to be the westernmost of the Florida Keys. So that helps. Matthew Perry (the naval hero, not the sitcom star) briefly renamed it Thompson’s Island, for the Secretary of the Navy, Smith Thompson. It has also been nicknamed the Gibraltar of the West, for its strategic position.
Some celebrities change names because they have odd birth names. Others change name because their birth name is already in use. David Jones became David Bowie to avoid confusion with one of The Monkees. Stewart Granger was born Jimmy Stewart. Michael Keaton was born Michael Douglas. And Albert Brooks, oddly enough, is really Albert Einstein. Ray Charles, meanwhile, was really Ray Robinson: Charles was his middle name.
In the U.S., political machines often seized control of cities and held on for decades, typically with the help of powerful immigrant blocks, often Irish or Italian. The most famous examples are the Daley machine in Chicago and Boss Tweed’s massive operation in New York City. But you also have the Old Regulars, who ran New Orleans for six decades, even tangling with Huey Long, as well as Philadelphia’s Gas Ring, which took over the gas works for the city's benefit but never quite managed to hand it over.
One of the Commodores biggest hits was "Brick House" from 1977. The title actually comes from a slang reference to being built like a brick ... let's say outhouse. Although Lionel Richie is the most famous Commodore, he did not sing on that track. He did, however, sing on the Rob Zombie peculiar remake, which he recorded for the soundtrack of his horror movie "House of 1,000 Corpses."
The Miss World pageant was originally sponsored by Catalina, a swimwear company. In fact, the Miss World pageant was originally the Festival Bikini Contest. But then Miss America, Yolande Betbeze, refused to pose in a Catalina swimsuit. So Catalina organized Miss USA and Miss Universe. More recently, Donald Trump has taken over the Miss Universe pageant, which has attracted a lot of bad publicity for various reasons.
1. What name is shared, not by a soap opera, but by both a DC team-up comic featuring Batman and by a “Star Trek” novel that includes characters from all five of the TV series?A) “The Brave and the Bold”B) “Guiding Light”C) “One Life to Life”D) “Search for Tomorrow”
2. What state's capital is the only one to share no letters in common with the name of the state?A) AlaskaB) MaineC) OhioD) South Dakota
3. What kind of polo was invented to promote the TreeTops Lodge in Kathmandu?A) Elephant poloB) Snow poloC) Volkswagen poloD) Water polo
4. Boss Tom Pendergast ran a machine so powerful it could push the nearly obscure Harry Truman into the vice-presidency and from there into the White House. What city did he rule?A) AtlantaB) BaltimoreC) Kansas CityD) Pittsburgh
5. What company was founded by a Swede and a Dane, based on code written by Estonians and headquartered in Luxembourg?A) DropboxB) FacebookC) PayPalD) Skype
6. An immaculate inning is nine pitches and nine strikes. Who is the only person to throw two immaculate innings in the same season?A) Bob GibsonB) Lefty GroveC) Sandy KoufaxD) Nolan Ryan
1) “The Brave and the Bold” is an important title for both trekkies and comic book geeks.
2) Pierre has no letters in common with South Dakota.
3) Elephant polo is now an actual, organized thing.
4) The Pendergast machine ran Kansas City.
5) Skype has multinational origins.
6) Lefty Glove threw two immaculate innings in 1928, both against the Philadelphia Athletics.