Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,
This past Saturday I attended two radically different performances, and they both affected me profoundly.
The first was the graduation ceremony of UC Davis students who finished their coursework in the fall of 2012. One of my favorite students invited my son Jukie and me to join his friends and family at the celebration in The Pavilion, the same building where I graduated UC Davis with a PhD so many years ago (though back then we called it the Rec Hall). I saw proud smiles on the faces of graduates and their families, but a barely repressible sadness overshadowed the event. After the processional music and the entrance of the graduates, the MC of the morning’s ceremony, Dean Jessie Ann Owens (mu dean, incidentally), invited us to observe a moment of silence to remember and keep in our thoughts those who were so senselessly killed and wounded in Newtown, Connecticut the day before. As almost all five thousand of us stood in remorseful silence, we found ourselves listening to the impatient cries of the youngest siblings and cousins who didn’t wish to be made to sit still. These young ones cried and cried, playing for all of us our own internal, wailing, national soundtrack. Inviting catharsis, they cried for all of us there, and for those for whom all crying had ceased.
That Saturday night I saw my youngest son star in the Davis Children’s Version of The Nutcracker. I say “star” in the way that every parent feels that his or her child is the “star” of the show, even if he plays only one of the adorable bears, as my boy did. I was happy to see a few Pub Quiz regulars in the audience, and look forward to hearing what parts your kids played. I had seen the same show Thursday night – the night before the elementary school shootings – and was struck then by the novelty of all these children, many of whom I knew, playing their roles so confidently and waggishly. But Saturday night, despite the inevitable hilarity, I found the poignancy of the performance almost too much to bear. Wide-eyed and attentive, as parents we watched our children at their most joyful and confident. From the audience, I felt as if our children’s moments on stage were like graduation ceremonies, family reunions, and Christmas mornings all wrapped up into one moment of intensity. We recognized that these beloveds would look forward to their own graduations, to first loves and heartbreaks, to winning the de Vere’s Irish Pub Pub Quiz, to lifetimes of passion and discovery and loving familiar support. In our time of mourning and loss, this was a moment for all of us to recognize how lucky we are to be in the presence of such miracles and wonders.
At a time like this, I am grateful for the peacemakers, the “helpers” (as Mr. Rogers would say in a recent internet meme), the mental healthcare workers, the teachers, and the gun safety advocates; I hope their voices are heard and heeded during the national debate and the legislative action that we have now, finally, been promised. I am also grateful for the artists: the poets, painters, choirs of angelic singers and child actors who can help us better understand and express how and what we feel when our emotional load is so heavy and distressing. Not all of us can lobby for new weapons regulations before Congress, but all of us can support those local organizations that spark and guide the imaginations of our children, and that support the expressions of empathy, creativity, and artistic accomplishment of all of us who participate. We are lucky to live in a community that recognizes education, the natural world, service, collaboration, and the arts as forces that can help us all to grieve, and to give hope to a troubled soul. As Leonard Bernstein said after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” I hope some artist, composer, singer or poet will help you and your families celebrate, and be comforted by beauty and devotion, during this difficult time.
I hope you can join us for tonight’s pub quiz. It will feature questions on oil, Microsoft, Brazil and Indonesia, clays and hills, Dimmesdale, limitless toys, a Christmas song, political talk shows, fresh and salt, Dominican-Americans, amusing use of punctuation, current events, armadillos and muskrats, Oedipal nature poetry, Latin phrases, hobbits, BAFTA, rock and roll, woodbine blurs, groups of people that have something in common, fast Americans, Scots, the history of consciousness, Irish culture, handicaps, past presidents, trees, royals, comic strips, wells, US cities, misery, fish, the magazine industry, big spenders, baseball, and Shakespearean antagonists.
We will not be holding a Pub Quiz on Christmas Eve, but I eagerly anticipate seeing all of you on New Year’s Eve at 7pm, even if other sorts of celebrating await you after the Quiz.
Here are five questions from last week’s quiz:
1. Mottos and Slogans. “A fair day's wage for a fair day's work” is the motto of the American Federation of WHAT?
2. Internet Culture. The woman who wrote what is considered to be the first computer program was also the only “legitimate” child of the poet Lord Byron. Her name is an anagram for the common imperative: EVADE A LOCAL. What is her name? You probably knew that her name is Ada Lovelace – Google featured her on its home page on the day of the Quiz.
3. Newspaper Headlines. International hero Nelson Mandela is resting in hospital today. Within three years, how old is the former South African President? (Hint: he is older even than the Jazz great Dave Brubeck was when he passed away last week.)
4. Four for Four. NASA's 35-year-old space probe may be about to leave the solar system more than 11 billion miles from Earth, CNET says. Which of the following is the name of that space probe? Endeavor 1, Enterprise 1, Explorer 1, or Voyager 1. This question didn’t stump many people.
5. Fleeing the US Senate. US Senator Jim DeMint currently represents which state of 4.7 million people?
P.S. Poetry Night returns to Davis on January 3rd with Briony Gylgayton. I hope you can join us then at the John Natsoulas Gallery.