Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,
According to a story I heard on National Public Radio recently, the recent surge in the polls for Democrats has as much to do with science as it does ideology. More specifically, the scientific analysis of elections, also known as psephology, allows analysts to determine how best to encourage potential partisans to vote. Evidently Democrats have a big advantage in this field because of all the academics needed to get results – some of them leave graduate school for Washington think tanks, and they know how to work with data. I’m sure that in a few years the Republicans will catch up, but it may take them longer to build the armies of volunteers willing to walk precincts on behalf of their candidates. Until then, depending on what happens in the world and at the Presidential debates, the TPM Electoral Scoreboard may seem predictive as well as descriptive. What’s your favorite swing state?
The competing tool that Republicans are using is the new voting law. A study revealed yesterday by The Advancement Project reveals that “New voting laws in 23 of the 50 states could keep more than 10 million Hispanic U.S. citizens from registering and voting, . . . a number so large it could affect the outcome of the November 6 election.” A recent article in Harvard Magazine points out that “Several states, including Florida (once again, a battleground), have effectively closed down registration drives by organizations like the League of Women Voters, which have traditionally helped to register new voters; some states are shortening early-voting periods or prohibiting voting on the Sunday before election day; several are insisting that registrants provide documentary proof of their citizenship.” Even though “The Republican National Lawyers Association in a study found only 340 cases of voter fraud [in the U.S.] over the course of a decade,” as I learned from an August airing of The Daily Show, Fox News helpfully has a “Voter Fraud Unit” to protect all of us. Bill Clinton must not be watching Fox News, for he calls this obsession with fraud a form of vote suppression, and feels that the vote suppression tactics are targeting black churches and the elderly. Don’t the elderly constitute a large part of Romney’s base?
By the way, imagine if after mentioning swing states in the newsletter I were to actually ask you a question tonight about the meaning of the word “psephology.” It comes from the Greek word for “pebble,” which the ancients used to use as ballots. A question about “psephology” is known among quizmasters as a “tomato topic,” in that its obscurity would inspire participants to throw tomatoes (in Italy, pomodoros) in protest (and perhaps accuse me of another sort of voter suppression). One of my jobs is to challenge you intellectually – to tax your memory, logic, and learning – without exasperating you with the unfairness or the straightforwardness of my questions. That way, you can leave the tomatoes to the professionals in the kitchen at de Vere's Irish Pub in Davis.
Like our politicians, we expect pub quiz questions to draw us in, but neither to mystify nor condescend to us. It’s a challenging balancing act. As the poet Rumi puts it, “Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds' wings.” Perhaps e. e. cummings had Rumi’s words in mind when he wrote “(i do not know what it is about you that closes / and opens;only something in me understands / the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses).”
Tonight’s quiz will include political questions, comfortable movements, the dawn of butterflies and the dusk of marriage, US states, watches and watching, retail sales, rock and roll heroes, teams that start with the letter B, Greek dawns, face cards, bicycle commuting, counties, The Library of Congress, Andy Griffith as Andy Taylor, effective DJs, nabbed fathers, breaking news, the 47%, rodents’ dentition, New England, poverty, employment, mathematics (hi Elaine!), dryer Londons, countries of the world, caterpillars, Irish culture, birth cities, children’s literature, doctor fathers, resignations, “name the sport,” the distance between Davis and DC, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In fact, I will go ahead and reveal that if you carefully reread Hamlet between now and 7 pm, you should be able to answer the Shakespeare question correctly. I keep the Collected Works of Shakespeare on my iPhone 4S for just such a literature-related exigency.
I’m excited for the students to return. Howabout you? I’m sure they will help to fill the Irish Pub tonight, for their responsibilities don’t begin until Thursday, if even then. As for tonight, come early to claim a table.
Here are five questions from last week’s quiz:
5. Celebrity Birthdays. 50 Cent and Drew Barrymore were born the same year that Saturday Night Live premiered. With a one-year margin of error, name the year.
6. Famous Names. My research reveals that all of the following last names belong to famous people who share a first name. What is that first name? Lopez, Marchand, McKeon, Reagan, Walker, Wilson.
7. Pop Culture – Music. What are the five letters in the name of the electropop duo that had a big hit in 2011 with "Sexy and I Know It"?
8. Sports. How many minutes are there in each quarter of an NBA basketball game?
9. Science. Usually found on the underside of a spider's abdomen, to the rear, what three-syllable word do we use for a spider’s silk-spinning organ?
P.S. Thanks for making it to the end of a particularly long newsletter. I try to keep these under 1,000 words to leave you some time on a Monday to read some Shakespeare.