As sure as wild horses run across the dunes, sure as gravity, disco, bacon, true love, and other forces of nature can never be denied, so it is that 2011 must come to a close. There's time, of course, for one more good blowout, and while you prepare for that, in whatever way you deem best, have a go at this, our December quiz. I've really enjoyed taking on this portfolio this year, and if there's anything you'd like to see in it next year, let me know. I look forward to flinging more fact-based entertainment at you in aught-twelve, but until then, pack light, and keep your stick on the ice.
--Tony Hightower (@TriviaNYC)
Oh, PS: Watch me on Jeopardy! on Wednesday, December 7!
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What influential novel begins with the main character censoring letters from enlisted men, signing his work "Washington Irving" and "Irving Washington"?
Question 1 Explanation:
Joseph Heller died twelve years ago on December 12. "Catch-22 required that each censored letter bear the censoring officer's name. Most letters he didn't read at all. On those he didn't read at all he put his own name. On those he did read he wrote 'Washington Irving." When that grew monotonous he wrote, 'Irving Washington.'"
In what country was the very first edition of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica published on December 6, 1768?
Question 2 Explanation:
The idea for the modern Brittanica was conceived by Colin McFarquhar and Andrew Bell of Edinburgh, who were angered at what they considered the heretical writings in Diderot's new French Encyclopédie. The first edition was published in three equal-sized volumes: Aa-Bzo, Caaba-Lythrum, and Macao-Zyglophyllum, a sign that the publishers, quite understandably, may have lost patience as they made their way through the alphabet.
What did Sully Prudhomme become the very first person to do on December 10, 1901?
Have an actual Broadway play produced
Record a eulogy for playback at a funeral he could not attend in person
Sing the national anthem before a college football game
Win the Nobel Prize for Literature
Question 3 Explanation:
René Francois Armand "Sully" Prudhomme thus became the first of (so far) 15 French citizens to win the prize, if you include Jean Paul Sartre, which he wishes you wouldn't.
What was so unique about Lobo, the superhero introduced by DC Comics in December 1966?
He was deaf, communicating through sign language
Jim Henson, his creator, wound up adapting many of Lobo's traits for his new character, Grover
He was African-American
He sang in a band that released actual chart singles
Question 4 Explanation:
While there was an actual songwriter named Lobo, born Roland LaVoie, who had a string of hits in the 1970's ("Me And You And A Dog Named Boo," "Where Were You When I Was Falling In Love," "Don't Expect Me To Be Your Friend"), any similarities between Mr. LaVoie and the first African-American comic book superhero pretty much end there. And to be clear, Jim Henson had nothing to do with Lobo in reality.
Which of these three did not have their childhood diaries about life during wartime published to great acclaim, à la Anne Frank?
Inge Joseph Pollak
Question 5 Explanation:
Pollak's Holocaust diaries were not as influential as Frank's, but are no less powerful and visceral. Filipovic's Sarajevo diaries have launched her into a proper writing career. Unlike Anne Frank, all these writers survived their wars. (Daisy Ashford's 1890 novella The Young Visiters, a short society novel written when she was nine, was a work of fiction that had very little to do with wartime.)
What fairytale opera was the most famous composition of the 19th-century German composer Englebert Humperdinck?
Puss In Boots
Hansel And Gretel
Amahl And The Night Visitors
Question 6 Explanation:
Follow up question: which one of the other three was actually a worldwide Number One for the 1970's crooner of the same (stage) name?
What other notable American publisher founded and edited the very first daily newspaper in the United States, the American Minerva, which began publication on December 9, 1793?
John Peter Zenger
Question 7 Explanation:
Webster, of dictionary fame, started the paper with money lent to the project by Alexander Hamilton, who himself started the New York Post a decade later.
Thespis was the first musical production to be written by what legendary team?
Gilbert and Sullivan
Kander and Ebb
Rodgers and Hammerstein
Lerner and Lowe
Question 8 Explanation:
Premiering on Boxing Day, 1871, Thespis was a broad burlesque set in ancient Greece. It did respectably at the box office and with the critics, but it was no Mikado or Pirates Of Penzance. For example.
The movie Gone With The Wind turns 72 this month. (I just saw it last week for the first time. It's pretty good.) Three of these people have won more than one Academy Award. Which of them has only won one Oscar in their long careers?
David O. Selznick
Olivia de Havilland
Question 9 Explanation:
Selznick produced Gone With The Wind and Rebecca, both of which won for Best Picture. Olivia de Havilland is one of only four remaining surviving cast members from the movie, which means I still have a chance!
Alright, alright, we'll end with a Christmas question. Which of these features is not part of the description of St. Nick in the poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas"?
Pipe like a stump
A round little belly
A furry red suit
Question 10 Explanation:
In the Clement Moore poem, he's dressed in fur, but it's "covered with ashes and soot." No mention is made of the color of his garments, but given that this was before the famed Coca-Cola campaign from which we get our modern impression of the guy, I'm guessing this version tended more toward Earth tones.
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He was ugly, ill-dressed, and eccentrically fond of dogs – but he was also the most experienced military man in the American colonies, restlessly chaffing under the command of George Washington. He was General Charles Lee, and a wonderful new book tells his story.