Saturday, March 1, 2014

Trivia Time At Ben Franklin's Bar And Grill

By Doug Vehle, The Daily Bosco

I think if Benjamin Franklin were around he'd agree that I always was a potential quizshow champion. Back in high school, Brother Dan's history class at Don Bosco Technical Institute would have his 'Jeopardy' game at the end of the week. The whole class was dreading going up against me. Tim Hatch was getting razzed when he drew the assignment. He said it was all in desperation that he bet everything on a double near the beginning of the game. When he accidently got the question RIGHT, the class was giggling. That was quite a lead he had. I was in deep now, was I REALLY going to have the answers on these?

Gameshows look so ridiculously easy. When I was little kid I was answering the questions out loud while I was reading and the brothers and sisters were watching. Care to guess why I was the one who could answer them? Actually a bit frustrating tonight to walk into Heroes downtown and see Fox Sports West outside the Clippers game handing out $100 bills to people who manage to tell them that Chris Paul was the Clippers pointguard in the 2011-12 season. One guy couldn't name 5 Laker Allstars since 1990, just the recent Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Shaquille O'Neal. So easy to forget Magic Johnson, James Worthy, A.C. Green? Has it been all that long since Eddie Jones and Nick Van Excel made it so you just forget them? Why am I never THERE when this is going on?

So frustrating to be unable to get on one. Not that I didn't try. Before he was a Conan O'Brien writer, I was swapping stories with Roy Jenkins (He's from Orange County) on the process when you just aren't going to take no for an answer. A woman involved in the decision for the show I came closest with was an administrator at UCLA by the time I enrolled a few years later. She told me she remembered me well, that they WOULD have put me on except ". . . .You seemed so FIERCE!" (Snarl.) Roy Finally succeeded, but found it "Didn't put my life in order the way I'd hoped." Oh, wish I had the opportunity to be so disappointed.

So I have to settle for the 'Monday Night Quiz' at Heroes. Walking in on this night gives me the feeling of attending a get together with the American Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge at yee ole' tavern. Perhaps we could call it the Franklin Bar and Grill. The manager says something to the waitress that seated me. Either he doesn't want me sitting at the window along Santa Fe where potential customers could be scared away by the sight of me, or he thinks I shouldn't be on the exact opposite side from where I need to turn my answers again. Walking across the room will give me a chance to see what the others are doing. Wait until some of these teams are seeing me walking over again and again while they can't come up with an answer.

If I could have a team from American Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge, first president being Benjamin Franklin, whom else among his cohorts would I want at the table with me? David Rittenhouse? Benjamin Rush? Perhaps the Marquis de Lafayette could be visiting.

Whenever I go to play, I'm always near the top at the halfway point. This against entire tables of 6-8, me all by myself. And giving away answers to a table next to me if they haven't been scoring at all. The trouble is, you always wonder how good the quality of their questions and answers might be. Once they asked for the name of the President who said "You can fool all the people some of the time, you can fool some of the people all of the time. . . .' Hold it right there, NO PRESIDENT SAID THAT. I went up and pointed out that, during his 1860 Presidential Campaign Abraham Lincoln actually was recorded as saying "You will please all people at some times, but not all people will be pleased at all times." The misquote is a 20th century concoction of a newspaper columnist. Of course the announcer wanted to stand by the Urban Legend.

So when you're asked the question, you can wonder if they researched to be sure they got it right, or if they just assumed they knew the answer. What P.T. Barnum said was "There's a customer born every minute." It was 'Cardiff Giant' hoaxster David Hannum, miffed that Barnum was doing better with the replica than he was with the REAL hoax, who said "There's a sucker born every minute." Barnum hater Adam Forepaugh later claimed it was Barnum who said the sucker line. But who would the quote be attributed to on a quizshow? What do you do if you know the RIGHT answer, but also that they won't accept it?

So I did indeed have one quizshow opportunity. The trivia game answer would be the show was a pilot for National Public Radio, though that was a stretch. Really, if the production helped the producer to get grants to provide the show to NPR stations at no cost to themselves, it could wind up there, but that doesn't really make it a pilot for them. And of course I was thinking "Gateway to the West" when the host asked the other contestant the other name of the St. Louis Gateway Arch.

Caught by surprise, maybe I shouldn't have been, when the host says ". . . .I'm sorry, it's the Gateway to the Future." Huh? So the reason I was even in on this was I knew the producer/host, who put the questions together himself. Much like his own personal history he was touting to people, the answers to these questions were turning out to be fiction. The other guy didn't actually give the right answer, so it wasn't a big deal yet. But I was next.

He launches into a speech about the internal combustion engine. Then he asks "A ramjet is the ONLY engine of this type. What type of engine?" Had I not heard the last question, I'd have said "Reaction Engine." Except it's not the only reaction engine, so is any rocket, pulsejet, etc. Something told me this guy would be shocked to hear that answer anyway.

"External Combustion." How did I make THAT leap? Well, just an example of building on what was already said. He seemed to be saying that only one engine WASN'T internal combustion. What would he call the 'Only' noninternal combustion engine? But I guess he's calling Stirling engines, steam engines, etc. internal combustion. I guess I'd figured out his logic system, he said I got it right.

Not all the questions and answers were wrong, at least the stretch to answer to his satisfaction was small for some. Of the eight contestants on his four pilot shows, I was the only one to get everything "Right."

Just as I whittled away at the lead of Tim Hatch, not missing anything and already outscoring him before the final question. Brother Dan said I had the hightest score he could ever recall seeing. How did I do it? It's like what they say about having won these many years ago, simply by always being ready. I still have to have them ask the right questions, but my list of questions I can answer is longer than that of most people.

But I just don't seem to get the right questions at the game at Heroes. Even if you don't know which time zone touches the most states, you can recall that more than half the population of the U.S. is in the eastern time zone, that the farther west you go the bigger the states seem to get. And if you're asked which of the three named is NOT a current Jello favor, it's easy to say that peach is ALWAYS a favor for anything, whille watermelon seems custom made for a gelatin favor. Meanwhile there's orange, why bother with mango? But if he asked who invented the 'Jello Shot,' would he accept Tom Lehrer as the answer?

And even if I've always known the answer, did I know it right? When he asked how many Confederate States there were during the Civil War, I thought sure he'd say 13, because that's how many stars were on their flag. But in all my reading about the 'Brown Water Fleet' of the era, I'm sure I always read the mention of ten states, with the extra stars representing three states that didn't seceed. He had 11 for his answer. But considering that even two states that never seceeded had representatives in the Confederate Government as well as in Washington DC and that the territory of Arizona and five Indian tribes were also treated as states, maybe there just isn't a good answer for that one. And while I was given points for answering mango as the non Jello flavor, I'm finding online claims that it IS a current flavor, though it's not listed at the company website. Who to believe?

Does it really matter anyway? If knowledge really was power, I'd have risen to the top in my career quickly. Once again, more than halfway through, I'm close but trailing, not much hope that I alone can match some of these large groups, with maybe two or three trivia buffs onboard. I'm done eating, the game takes awhile, but I always feel sort of like Benjamin Franklin putting out the candle at his table as I leave while the game is still being played. These people couldn't possibly think they could match me one on one, could they? So much for yet another meeting of the American Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge .

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