We’ve certainly experienced our share of what I’d call “good mobs” at the Pub Quiz over the years, whether in the Burma Riots of 2011 or, of course, the glorious entrance of the Mac Shock and Awesome NN staff team this year.
I appreciate that. I enjoy that. You do too. And I think I’ve developed a way of handling your protests and fits over the years that have made it an entertaining part of the competition. When I realized which team had claimed the last-place award of a bunch of Sutter Home mini bottles donated by DailyKos ... that was hysterical. (And if you don't know what happened: It didn't happen. You will be shocked how much it didn't happen.)
Now, our rules are pretty clear: no Googling stuff during the round, and it was understandable that someone flagged the activity when it was spotted. But from that point forward, I lost control of the situation: I didn’t take command of the room such that I could figure out what actually happened, whether it actually constituted cheating versus an innocent mistake during a fun competition for which I’d have docked them a half-point or something. Not all rule violations constitute "cheating." But by the time I tried to slip in a “let me take this under advisement” and move on, the Shame! Shame! Shame! chants had started and the team left the room. You know that progressive value of “due process” that we talk about so much? That didn’t happen here, and I should have insisted on it.
It’s fine when you direct the chants and faux-vitriol at me, or at the Sea Org (DK frontpagers) team which welcomes and often deserves it. But this felt more like actual vitriol than something good-natured, made more troubling by the fact that several members of the team involved were African-American, and the crowd around them making the accusations was a predominantly white crowd.
Let me be absolutely clear about this: I am not saying that anyone involved in this situation was consciously motivated by racial prejudice. I would hope that it was not, and this is not a community from which I would expect such a reaction. But at the same time, I am encouraging you to interrogate yourselves at a minimum to consider how this was experienced by the folks at that table, especially by people who had not been at this event before and were not familiar with the dynamics in the room. Ask yourself if that’s the best way you could have handled the situation.
I sure have. I have apologized to the team members in private, and repeat it publicly here: What happened was not consonant with my personal values, the fun which the Pub Quiz is supposed to be, or the values of NN as a whole. We can, and must, do better, and be more fun. And I am sorry. Because mostly, it's a lot of fun.
I had determined that “San,” “Jose,” and “California” would be this year’s categories by the time my train made it back to Philadelphia from Providence last year; the only question was whether I could construct twelve good questions in the middle round from Joe Biden alone. Here they were:
Round One: San(Notice the annual Philly-homer question? I think there's always been at least one.)
Questions about saints, sans, and things like that.
12 questions, 1 pt each (more or less)
The plant species Hypericum perforatum, which is commonly used to treat mild depression, is more commonly known as what?
We happy few, we band of brothers, on what Saint’s day did we fight for Henry V and England? (1pt)
What was the name of the battle? (1pt)
What is the most populous US city with San or Saint in its name?
(City limits, not metro area.)
Audio Daily Single:
Name this singer!
According to the film Spinal Tap, Saint Hubbins was supposedly the patron saint of what?
In 1983, Pope John Paul II abolished the office of Promoter of the Faith, whose job was to argue against a potential saint’s canonization. By what name is the office better known?
Gus van Sant has two Academy Award nominations for Best Director (each for a film which did win for Best Original Screenplay).
For one point, name both films.
When California gained statehood in 1850, what “San” or “Santa” city served as its first state capital?
He is the patron saint of goldsmiths, other metalworkers, and coin collectors, as well as horses and those who work with them -- but not of fictional Boston doctors.
What is the only school with the word “saint” (or its equivalent) in its name to have won an NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship?
For what song did the San Jose-native group The Doobie Brothers win the 1980 Grammy for Record of the Year?
This American saint is entombed in Bucks County, PA, about a half-hour drive from the university founded by her uncle.
Round 2: JoseQuestion 7 was worded unfairly. I know that. It was on purpose.
Literally the greatest round in Pub Quiz history.
And I mean that.
12 questions, worth 2 points each.
From whom did Joe Biden first take over as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee?
On Sept 12, 1987, what NYT reporter and future YearlyKos attendee broke the story of Joe Biden’s plagiarism of Neil Kinnock?
Who moderated the 2012 Vice Presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan?
In that debate, what word did Biden employ which provoked the biggest spike in searches on the Merriam-Webster dictionary website in all of 2012?
After Joe Biden presided over the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, this Illinois Democrat voted to confirm him anyway, leading to his ouster in a primary the following year.
Name the two Supreme Court Justices who administered the oath to swear in Joe Biden as Vice President.
One point for each.
Joe Biden was the youngest United States Senator for the entirety of his first term, until being supplanted in 1979 by what Midwest native?
When Joe Biden is on the slow train back from DC to Wilmington -- not the Acela -- what two extra stops does the Amtrak Northeast Regional make between Baltimore and Wilmington?
(1 pt each)
Who is the only Vice President in the last 100 years to have been older than Joe Biden at the time of his swearing-in? NOTE: I screwed up here. There were two.
What future US Senator served as treasurer for Joe Biden’s 1988 presidential campaign?
It sounds like a cracker defender, but this was actually the Syracuse University sports mascot when Joe Biden attended law school there.
According to the Onion Book of Known Knowledge, Joe Biden has said the highlight of his legislative career came in 1981 during a goodwill trip to West Germany, when he held a closed-door backstage meeting with Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker of this rock group, also attended also by at least a half-dozen young women who couldn’t afford tickets to the show.
Round 3:And then came Karl. (Well, it was asked earlier, but the story needs some space.)
Welcome to wherever you are. 3pts each.
What year was the last election in which the Republican presidential candidate won California?
In 1948, WWII veteran Frederick Mellinger invented the push-up bra in what California town?
In 2012, the decennial Sight and Sound poll of the world’s leading film critics named what set-in-California film as the greatest of all time?
This abolitionist Californian, whose claiming California for the United States ended Bear Flag Revolt, was the Republican Party’s first presidential candidate.
What is the northernmost city name-checked in the Dr. Dre/Tupac hit “California Love”?
In 2004, students at UC Berkeley’s law school helped create fellowships for students interested in careers as a public defender, named in honor of what fictional tv attorney?
Based on acreage, what is the most-planted wine grape in California?
Rudolph Boysen came up with the hybrid between a red raspberry, a blackberry, and a loganberry, but who was his Southern California neighbor who began selling them in 1932 and made them (and himself) famous?
In the Dead Kennedys’ “California Uber Alles,” a beloved song regarding Gov. Jerry Brown the first time around, the line “serpent's egg's already hatched” is a reference to what Shakespearean play?
The last time Californians elected a Democratic Governor without a color in his name, who was President of the United States?
Bonus (2 pts): Name that Governor.
What United States President died in office while in California?
Name the only California resident in the top ten of Forbes Magazine’s current ranking of the 400 wealthiest Americans.
True story: because of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy which constitutes the alumni network of The University of Chicago Law School Where Barack Obama Was My Election Law Professor (tm), one of my better friends from law school is indeed a colleague of Rove's. And two weeks ago, when I was finalizing the quiz, I asked him to help me vet the questions for accuracy and wording and he mentioned that he was doing so while seated next to Rove at a conference. That's interesting, I responded. Do you think he'd have a question for me to use?
And he did. Mr. Rove placed two conditions on it: I couldn't make it any easier, and I had to give him public credit. Done and done, and we are grateful for this doozy:
What presidential campaign saw two future Nobel Prize winners as key operatives, one as Illinois campaign manager, the other as a frequent campaign surrogate?Only one team got it right, because of Dave Weigel's involvement, but let's not spoil the answer (or method) yet for folks who want to tease it out. I also want to thank them for handling the results with good cheer: as they (and some of you) realized, the overall outcome was determined by my decision not to give them credit for one third-round answer for having provided the person's wrong first name. I hadn't sketched out that rule in advance, but it occurred to me that if Alex Trebek wouldn't accept the answer, neither should we. And they had no problem with it, and were thrilled to finish second. That's the spirit in which the Pub Quiz is supposed to operate.
3 pts for the candidate, and 3 for each Nobelist.