Archive for February, 2016


Winners: Judy and Droppin’
(with 10 O’Clock Bill and the brownie lady)

No surprise that Droppin’ and Judy tied for first place. Tonight’s shocker was 10 O’Clock Bill tying Rhys for 2nd place. Darin served us brownies so huge that even the Driver would have had trouble finishing one if he had been here.

MikeP handled moderator duties while Mistress Daphne travels across India searching for enlightenment, spiritual transcendence, and how to be a nice person. Good luck on that.

Tonight we learned that English is the language with the most words, and that the Zika virus has been around since 1947. So why did it pick this Olympic year to hit Brazil?

For you gearheads wondering about the different type of Harley engines (that’s you Rosebud) check this out.

Good Question!: What comes from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree?

Choices: a. coffee   b. chocolate   c. cocaine   d. heroin



Answer: Chocolate

Cocoa trees originate from South America’s rainforests but today most of our cocoa is grown by about 2.5 million farmers, mainly on smallholdings in West Africa. Requires a shady location, humid climate with regular rainfall and good soil.

Once the flowers have been pollinated they produce large pods containing cacao (or ‘cocoa’) beans. Cocoa is prepared by grinding the beans into a paste between hot rollers and mixing it with sugar and starch, part of the fat being removed. Chocolate is prepared in much the same way, but the fat is retained.


Common uses
Today chocolate is the ‘sweet snack of the people’ but many years ago, as a part of their rituals, Mayan and Aztec nobles drank their cocoa beans ground and brewed with chillies. This is where the Latin name Theobroma cacao, meaning ‘food of the gods’, comes from.

When it first arrived in Spain in the 16th century some didn’t like it, one even proclaiming it ‘fit for pigs’. Sugar was added and it grew in popularity especially with the ladies of the Spanish court. Chocolate became a European luxury, with chocolate houses frequented by the elite springing up in the capital cities.

Debates centred around its medical value, and whether it was it an aphrodisiac. Chocolate went on to be used as emergency rations for armies, navies and rescue teams, and eventually became a ‘luxury’ that everyone could enjoy.

For a chuckle revisit Lucy’s chocolate scene:

Medicinal Uses
Chocolate is more than just a delicacy; evidence suggests that eating between 46 and 105g chocolate a day can have a moderate effect on lowering blood pressure. Yay! Cocoa has been used for an array of medicinal purposes. Unfermented cocoa seeds and the seed coat are used to treat a variety of ailments, including diabetes, digestive and chest complaints. Cocoa powder, prepared from fermented cocoa seeds, is used to prevent heart disease. It is also used widely in foods and pharmaceutical preparations, as well as being used as a rich moisturiser for the skin.




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Winner: the Driver,
followed by Rosebud, Droppin’, Rhys, and Sheena

We were all happy to have Sheena rejoin the game tonight. She flew into town on her private jet directly from Dover, MD. a lightly used airport. The Driver picked up a win tonight before he flies out of town to New Delhi. Hope he brings a water bottle.

Mistress Daphne played her mean girl role tonight and cruelly challenged Pluto’s integrity. She claimed he had been cheating by looking at Rosebud’s answers last week. But poor Pluto had been at the other end of the bar, making that an impossibility. As Donald would say: Liar! Liar!

One of tonight’s questions gave us a chance to join together singing one of Randy Newman’s best known songs:

Tonight we also learned that a 3 minute telephone call from NYCity to London in 1927 cost $75, the equivalent of $1,000 today, so stop your worry about your data overages.

Good Question!: What nationality was the spy Mata Hari?

Choices: a. German   b. Dutch   c. American   d. French


Answer: Dutch

I think we all knew vaguely that Mata Hari was some kind of spy, but didn’t know much beyond that. Here’s the story:

Mata Hari was the stage name Dutch-born Margaretha Zelle took when she became one of Paris’ most popular exotic dancers on the eve of World War I.

After a broken marriage with a Dutch officer 21 years hers senior, Margaretha made her way to Paris where she reinvented herself as an Indian temple dancer thoroughly trained in the erotic dances of the East. She took on the name Mata Hari and was soon luring audiences in the thousands as she performed in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Madrid and other European capitals. She also attracted a number of highly-placed, aristocratic lovers willing to reward her handsomely for the pleasure of her company.

With the outbreak of World War I, Mata Hari’s cross-border liaisons with German political and military figures came to the attention of the French secret police and she was placed under surveillance. Brought in for questioning, the French reportedly induced her to travel to neutral Spain in order to develop relationships with the German naval and army attaches in Madrid and report any intelligence back to Paris.

In the murky world of the spy, however, the French suspected her of being a double agent. In February 1917 Mata Hari returned to Paris and immediately arrested; charged with being a German spy. Her trial in July revealed some damning evidence that the dancer was unable to adequately explain. She was convicted and sentenced to death.

This clip from the Greta Garbo 1931 movie is just wonderful:


A Bit of Background: Exotic Dancer and Mistress

All things “Oriental” were the fad in the Paris of 1905. The time seemed ripe for Mata Hari’s exotic looks and the “temple dance” she created by drawing on cultural and religious symbolism and that she had picked up in the Indies. With characteristic confidence, she siezed the moment. She billed herself as a Hindu artist, draped in veils—which she artfully dropped from her body. In one memorable garden performance, Mata Hari appeared nearly naked on a white horse. Although she daringly bared her buttocks—then considered the most tittilating part of the anatomy—she was modest about her breasts, generally keeping them covered with brassiere-styled beads. Completing her dramatic transformation from military wife to siren of the East, she coined her stage name, “Mata Hari,” which means “eye of the day” in Indonesian dialect.

Mata Hari took the Paris saloons by storm, then moved on to the bright lights of other cities. Along the way, she helped turn the striptease into an art form and captivated critics. A reporter in Vienna described Mata Hari as “slender and tall with the flexible grace of a wild animal, and with blue-black hair.” Her face, he wrote, “makes a strange foreign impression.” Another enthralled newspaper writer called her “so feline, extremely feminine, majestically tragic, the thousand curves and movements of her body trembling in a thousand rhythms.”

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Winners: Almond Joy and Droppin’

Madly was close, just a bit behind.

Tonight’s controversy – was Mikhail Gorbachev or Boris Yeltsin the first elected president of the Soviet Union in 1990?

A few of us remembered Yeltsin as the first popularly elected president of Russia, which is true. However, that election occurred in June 1991.

In March 1990 Gorbachev was “elected” as the first executive president of the Soviet Union by the Congress of Peoples Deputies. Hardly a popular election as the people of Russia had no vote and he was the sole candidate on the ballot, but it was an election nonetheless, and technically Gorbachev was the correct answer.

Good Question!: Which crop was banned in France in 1748 because it was thought to cause leprosy?


Choices: a. grapes   b. leeks   c. potato   d. cabbage

Answer: potato

History of the Potato
The potato seems to be 100 per cent American and appears to have come from the high plateau of the Andes, from present-day Chile, Bolivia and Peru. The Incas grew and ate them and also worshipped them. They even buried potatoes with their dead, they stashed potatoes in concealed bins for use in case of war or famine. Ancient Inca potatoes had dark purplish skins and yellow flesh.

In about 1533, one of the Spanish leader Pizarro’s priests brought the potato to Spain, but they were a tough sell. Wherever the potato was introduced, it was considered weird, poisonous, and downright evil. In France and elsewhere, the potato was accused of causing not only leprosy, but also syphilis, narcosis, scronfula, early death, sterillity, and rampant sexuality, and of destroying the soil where it grew. Yikes!

The Potato’s Tricky Rebirth
Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, a French military chemist and botanist, was a big fan of potatoes and persuaded Louis XVI (1754–1793), King of France, to encourage the cultivation of potatoes.

The King let him plant 100 useless acres outside Paris, France in potatoes with troops keeping the field heavily guarded. This aroused public curiosity and the people decided that anything so carefully guarded must be valuable. One night Parmentier allowed the guards to go off duty, and the local farmers, as he had hoped, went into the field, confiscated the potatoes and planted them on their own farms. From this small start, the habit of growing and eating potatoes spread.

The Irish Potato Famine
The potato soon became a staple of European diets. Irish peasants subsisted on a diet consisting largely of potatoes, since a farmer could grow triple the amount of potatoes as grain on the same plot of land. A single acre of potatoes could support a family for a year. About half of Ireland’s population depended on potatoes for subsistence.

Unfortunately, it became such a common food in Ireland that when the crop failed, it caused widespread starvation.

“During the summer of 1845, a “blight of unusual character” devastated Ireland’s potato crop, the basic staple in the Irish diet. A few days after potatoes were dug from the ground, they began to turn into a slimy, decaying, blackish “mass of rottenness.” Expert panels convened to investigate the blight’s cause suggested that it was the result of “static electricity” or the smoke that billowed from railroad locomotives or the “mortiferous vapours” rising from underground volcanoes. In fact, the cause was a fungus that had traveled from Mexico to Ireland.

Famine Fever
“Famine fever”–cholera, dysentery, scurvy, typhus, and infestations of lice–soon spread through the Irish countryside. Observers reported seeing children crying with pain and looking “like skeletons, their features sharpened with hunger and their limbs wasted, so that there was little left but bones.” Masses of bodies were buried without coffins, a few inches below the soil.

Over the next ten years, more than 750,000 Irish died and another 2 million left their homeland for Great Britain, Canada, and the United States. Within five years, the Irish population was reduced by a quarter (equivalent to 80 million in the US).

Many of the Irish that emigrated to America ended up in NYCity and especially in Highbridge, and the Five Points neighborhoods. As the recent immigrants they were demonized by those already here. Sound familiar? (ask Santayana about this.) The “Gangs of NewYork” does a fine job dramatizing this period:


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Danny Boy


Winners: Droppin’ and Eric

Still no Daphne (word is she’s not quite finished killing mosquitos down in the Panama Canal) so MikeP handled duties again tonight. It was a quiet night and two quiet guys finished first, followed by dynamic duo Almond Joy and Donna, and Rosebud.

Tonight we learned that if we run into a guy at the bar named Tenzin Gyatso we better show some respect, because he is, in fact, the Dali Lama.

Good Question!: What is the more commonly used name for the tune Londonderry Air?

Choices:  a.Queen’s March  b.Danny Boy  c.Prince  d.Beefeater


Answer: Danny Boy!

The folk ballad “Danny Boy” was written in 1910 by English lawyer Frederic Weatherly. After he heard the rhythm of “”Londonderry Air,” he set “Danny Boy’s” lyrics to that tune.

The lyrics are at times altered, but an historic version is the following.

Oh, Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side.
The summer’s gone, and all the roses falling,
It’s you, it’s you must go and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer’s in the meadow,
Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow,
It’s I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow,—
Oh, Danny Boy, oh Danny Boy, I love you so!

But when ye come, and all the flowers are dying,
If I am dead, as dead I well may be,
Ye’ll come and find the place where I am lying,
And kneel and say an Ave there for me.
And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me,
And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be,
For you will bend and tell me that you love me,
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me!


You can’t beat this version by soprano Renee Fleming, for my money the best ever:

For all you pilgrims headed to Ireland in May, this version is more of a travelogue filled with images of the Green Isle:

A tender version by “The King”:

The anti Elvis – a 14 year old singing on Britain’s “Got Talent”


Surprising origins of 103-year-old “Danny Boy”

2013 marked a century since the song “Danny Boy” first weaved its way into Irish folklore. Its melody could be heard at President Kennedy’s funeral and it also played at the farewell to Elvis Presley.

The ballad that has proved irresistible to some of the biggest names in music is a song of love and loss – a lament for those missing home and each other. Most people assume it’s from Ireland, but it’s not. It was written by an Englishman. That Englishman was Fred Weatherly, a prolific songwriter – and later successful lawyer – who published 1,500 songs.

Actually, at first “Danny Boy” didn’t fly. The words were right but the tune was wrong, which is where Weatherly’s sister-in-law, Margaret Weatherly, comes in. Margaret Weatherly was an Irish immigrant who sailed to America with Fred Weatherly’s brother in search of silver in Colorado. It was on a trip back to England in 1912 that Margaret Weatherly introduced Fred Weatherly to the ancient Irish melody, “The Londonderry Aire.”

Fred Weatherly fused that haunting melody with his heavy-hearted words and something magical happened. “Danny Boy” became a hit. World events were about to lend the song a terrible resonance.

“One hesitates to call the first World War a stroke of luck, but I think for any work of art to endure it needs a stroke of luck and his lyrics for “Danny Boy” were published in 1913, a year before millions of people were finding themselves having to say goodbye to people who they hoped against hope that they might one day see again,” he said.

The theme of longing also struck a chord with many Irish emigrants who headed to America to escape the famine back home. Through the decades, the song became woven into the cultural fabric of the U.S. and beyond, often as a final farewell.

Elvis said he thought “Danny Boy” was written by angels and asked for it to be played at his funeral. At Princess Diana’s church service, the words were different, but the haunting melody of “The Londonderry Aire,” the same.

And after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, the strains of “Danny Boy” rose from the memorial services of so many Irish-American police and firefighters who were among the victims. It’s not just the notion of loss, but of someday being reunited, that’s one of the reasons “Danny Boy” has never gone away.


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