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Archive for February, 2011

Co-Winners: Ellen and Pluto

Some of tonight’s questions were fairly obscure and to win required a bit of luck. Pluto actually threw the wrong card down for one question, but somehow got the right answer. Ellen, on the other hand, just plugged along under the radar and showed all her friends how to win. A group of three players finished  two questions back in second place.

Tonight was another full house, this time with plenty of controversy. Most god fearing Americans know that baseball was invented in America, not England, as Mistress Daphne insisted. And the Olympic junkies in the crowd were outraged when the answer for where the first Modern Olympics was held was given as England, instead of Greece.

Seems like some Englishman must have hacked the answer system tonight – maybe Alistair. He always complained that there should be more England questions. Remember, no game this week. Main Street Cafe is being renovated and made even more beautiful.

Don’t know how many of you watched the Oscar awards this year, but Greg is proud to have received an award for best imitation of a trivia blog.

Good Question!: What creatures are the Canary Islands named after?

Answer: Dogs

Most people think the answer is obvious – canary birds. Maybe too obvious, but not for Chris Columbus. His ships stopped here on their travel to discover the New World in 1492.  Columbus used food and water from the Canary Islands to supply his three ships, the Pinta, the Niña and the Santa María on their long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. During the times of the Spanish Empire, the Canaries were the main stopover for Spanish galleons on their way to Americ because of the favorable easterly winds.

The Canary Islands, consisting of 7 larger islands and a few smaller ones, are located in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa.  The eastern most island, Lanzarote is located about 70 miles from coast of Africa.  The islands, stretch out into the Atlantic Ocean with the western most island, Hierro being about 300 miles away.

The islands have a constant temperature through all the year, and splendid beaches of fine sand – sounds like a good place for spring break. Some historians supposed that the legendary continent Atlantis was located here.

Now, about those dogs. When the Romans came to the Canary Islands they encounted not only fierce natives, but also their dogs.   The latin word for dog is “canis” and they actually named one of the islands “Canaria” because of these dogs.  Because the native people are proud of these dogs they even included them in their symbol.  Today we still use the word “canine” as a general term for a dog. This is a Presa Canario (Canary Dog):

What about the canaries? The canary bird received it’s named after the people, the Canarii. All breeds of canary bird existing in the world descend from the wild canary bird, “serinus canarius”, still living and singing in the islands’ fields and forests. The wild canary is brown, with some green and yellow shades. The Spaniards caught some of them after the conquest, during the 15th century, and this little singer became – in hundreds of colourful different breeds – a fashionable pet throughout the world. Here are a pair of wild canaries:

 

sources: the canary balcony, wikipedia, robirda.com, dogbreedinfo.com

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Winner: Barbara

Tonight’s slightly warmer weather brought out a capacity crowd for the game. Everyone was ready for a night out during this ice age winter. Ellen brought her entire posse to try their luck and they seemed to have a good time.

Among the players was first timer Barbara, who had travelled up from Florida to make the game. When she won, only four hours after getting off the plane, some wondered whether we had been hustled. Her sister, a local girl who had encouraged Barbara to play, described her as the family’s Queen of Trivial Pursuit. She certainly was that tonight. Following close behind were Rosebud and Droppin’ Dave.

For those of you questioning whether Volkswagen in 1978 was the first foreign company to manufacture in the US, the truth is that, of course, there were a number of foreign manufacturers in the US much before that.

For instance, Michelin operating from a plant in NJ was the fourth largest tire manufacturer in the US in the 1920’s, Seagrams, a Canadian Company, had 3 plants in the US distilling 60 million gallons of whiskey in the mid 1930’s, and the British company Courtauld’s was the only significant producer in the U.S. domestic market of Rayon, the pioneer synthetic fabric, and the new “high tech” industry before World War I.

Good Question: What was the name of the plane that crashed on February 3, 1959 killing Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper ?

Answer: Well, it wasn’t “Miss American Pie”.

Contrary to popular legend, “American Pie” was not the name of the plane Holly, Valens, and Richardson went down in. The craft was a single-engine chartered plane and would therefore only have a number as identification (in this case, N3794N). In McClean’s own words: “The growing urban legend that ‘American Pie’ was the name of Buddy Holly’s plane the night it crashed, killing him, Ritchie Valens and the Big Boppper, is untrue. I created the term.”

In the autumn of 1971 Don McLean’s elegiac American Pie entered the collective consciousness, and over thirty years later remains one of the most discussed, dissected and debated songs that popular music has ever produced. A cultural event at the peak of its popularity in 1972, it reached the top of the Billboard 100 charts in a matter of weeks, selling more than 3 million copies; and at eight and a half minutes long, this was no mean feat.

But this was no ordinary song, either: boldly original and thematically ambitious, what set American Pie apart had a lot to do with the way we weren’t entirely sure what the song was about, provoking endless debates over its epic cast of characters. And these controversies remain with us to this day. But however open to interpretation the lyrics may have been, the song’s emotional resonance was unmistakable: McLean was clearly relating a defining moment in the American experience—something had been lost, and we knew it.

Opening with the death of singer Buddy Holly and ending near the tragic concert at Altamont Motor Speedway, we are able to frame the span of years the song is covering—1959 to 1970—as the “10 years we’ve been on our own” of the third verse. It is across this decade that the American cultural landscape changed radically, passing from the relative optimism and conformity of the 1950s and early 1960s to the rejection of these values by the various political and social movements of the mid and late 1960s.

Coming as it did near the end of this turbulent era, American Pie seemed to be speaking to the precarious position we found ourselves in, as the grand social experiments of the 1960s began collapsing under the weight of their own unrealized utopian dreams, while the quieter, hopeful world we grew up in receded into memory. And as 1970 came to a close and the world this generation had envisioned no longer seemed viable, a sense of disillusion and loss fell over us; we weren’t the people we once were. But we couldn’t go home again either, having challenged the assumptions of that older order. The black and white days were over.

Bye bye, Miss American Pie.

(links to nice video of Don McLean performing this song).

sources: understandingamericanpie.com, oldies.about.com

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Co-Winners: Driver Shea and Droppin’

It was a cold night, but a close, hot contest. If Driver Shea had not muffed an easy one, he would have been sole champ tonight. I mean, who else doesn’t know Alan Freed was the DJ who introduced rock ‘n roll to a generation of young Americans in the 1950’s! Following close behind was Pluto, who also blew an easy one when he carelessly threw the wrong card down on  a question that was clearly a  “tomber”.

Good Question! : What was the first plastic?

Answer: Bakelite

How important was Bakelite? Well, 60 years after it was invented it played a key role in the highest-grossing motion picture of 1968. A movie nominated for seven Academy Awards, and which the American Film Institute ranked at number seven in its list of the greatest films of the century.

If all that doesn’t ring a bell, I’ve got one word for you. Just one word — plastics. Which, of course, was Mr. McGuire’s career path advice to Benjamin in “The Graduate.”

A Belgian chemist named Dr. Leo Baekeland (1863-1944) is seen as the father of the plastics industry.


Dr. Baekeland was responsible for the invention of Bakelite in 1907 while he was working in Yonkers, NY as an independent chemist. Dr. Baekeland had spent several years working on a durable coating for the lanes of bowling alleys, similar to today’s protective polyurethane floor sealants. He combined carbolic acid and formaldehyde to form phenolic resin.

This resin would remain pourable long enough to apply to hardwood flooring, but then become insoluble and impermeable after curing. In fact, when he tried to reheat the solidified compound he discovered it would not melt, no matter how high the temperature.


Dr. Baekeland patented this early form of plastic and started his own Bakelite corporation around 1910 to market it to heavy industry and automobile manufacturers. Bakelite could be used for electric insulators or as an insulating coating for automotive wiring.


Bakelite was the first completely synthetic plastic. Because of its durability and beauty, its uses were limitless. Its popularity grew very quickly, and within 15 years it had taken the world by storm. You could find everything from electrical plugs to ornate jewelry made from Bakelite.
The Bakelite Corporation was a leader in convincing manufacturers to use plastic to beautify products. It worked with industrial designers, who in turn embraced plastics and applied them in the design of everything from telephones and radios to kitchen equipment, vanity cases, and jewelry. Bakelite was “the material of a thousand uses.” And during the Depression of the 1930s, the cheerful colors, whimsical design, and low cost of many Bakelite products were just what was needed.

Today objects made from Bakelite are considered highly collectible, although in its glory days of the 1930s and 1940s, Bakelite was seen as an inexpensive alternative to high-end jewelry materials such as jade and pearl.

By the end of the World War II, new technologies for molded plastics had been developed. These new products consisted of plastics such as Lucite, Fiberglass, Vinyl, and Acrylic – all which were molded.

And so Bakelite became obsolete, except in the hearts of collectors who still pursue it today.

sources: inventors.about.com, wisegeek.com,

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