Saturday, March 10, 2012

Day 12: Leaving chips on the table

Today I faced a good player who was right there with me on the standings ladder throughout our rookie seaon last fall. Clanking two makeable putts did not help:

1. In a complete list of names that includes Harold Ross, William Shawn, Robert Gottlieb, and David Remnick, whose name is missing?

Knew this one in my soul. I read every issue of the New Yorker for 13 years, attended seven consecutive New Yorker Festivals during that time, and covered several of them for a leading blog about the magazine. Many will remember that British firebrand Tina Brown shook up the staid New Yorker when she took the reins in the early 1990s, but I could have rattled off the entire editor list for you, including the legendary Harold Ross, founding editor at the magazine’s February 1925 inception (yes, I knew this; I’m a New Yorker nerd); his successor, William Shawn, not just a great editor but Wallace Shawn’s father; prominent fiction editor Robert Gottlieb, whom I think of as a stopgap guy since he was there for just a few years; Ms. Brown; and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lenin’s Tomb, David Remnick.

I was in attendance at the Directors Guild of America auditorium on 57th Street when Mr. Remnick hosted an instantaneously sold-out New Yorker Festival preview screening of the Borat movie a month before it was released. It blew the roof off the place. Sacha Baron Cohen was in New York that weekend doing press for the movie but didn’t make the screening. Still, what with the Remnick introduction, the crackling buzz around the screening, the movie itself, and the New Yorker aura, this was to me the cultural equivalent of the Yalta conference.

As we chatted about the day’s questions, a friend jokingly asked me whether Deng Xiaoping had edited the New Yorker. I replied that he’d edited the Beijingian. No, the Pekingian.

2. After the retirement of the Model T, this more powerful and luxurious Ford automobile began production in 1928, and continued until there were five million of them on the road by 1931.

The only very early Ford I could name other than the Model T was the Model A. Although alphabetically it didn’t seem like it would have followed the Model T, I knew the Model T was the progenitor of it all, and since I didn’t have any other guess, that was my only choice. Model A was correct.

3. Ado Annie, Laurey Williams, Jud Fry, and Will Parker are among the characters from what groundbreaking Broadway musical?

Saw this show at the Theater on the Lake here in Chicago a few summers ago. Ado Annie was played by a highly attractive young actress who had just graduated from the University of Chicago, better known as the elite academic home to Enrico Fermi and 72 other Nobel laureates than for its theater program or the gorgeousness of its students. That was enough to make Ado Annie memorable to me, though the other character names also sounded familiar.

Do you know what show it is? The one where the wind comes sweeping down the plain? (Google that lyric if you don’t.) I gave this question the 0 since my opponent was solid in theater.

4. Give the scientific names of two of the three diseases protected against by the DTaP vaccine.

I spectacularly blew this easily gettable question. Not having heard of the DTaP vaccine, it took me about three seconds to realize that the diseases in question had to start with the three capital letters, and about ten more seconds to come up with Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio.

Dazzled by the prominence of the polio vaccine, right there with smallpox atop your all-time vaccine hit parade, I ignored two problems with its inclusion on this list: 1, the polio vaccine was such a big thing unto itself that it might not be lumped in with lesser vaccines, the way Christina Aguilera is more highly paid than the other judges on The Voice because she’s the more iconic star, or how the enigmatic diva Michael Stipe reportedly traveled on his own tour bus separate from his bandmates’ during the 1987 R.E.M. Work Tour; and 2, the question asked for the scientific names of the diseases, which implied that at least one of the correct answers might be better known by some other name. And indeed it was: Pertussis, not polio, is better known as whooping cough.

What kills me is that I knew diphtheria, which I could even spell, and tetanus were rock-solid answers to this question, and could and should have easily guessed those. I recklessly ignored the above misgivings and included polio in my guess along with tetanus. Clang! In NBA circles, this is known as blowing a dunk.

It reminds me of a vocabulary quiz from a high school French class in which we were asked to name either French term for “according to.” We’d learned both the words selon and d’après. Although I knew selon was correct, I went with the iffier one, misremembered d’après as après de, and cost myself a point. Not that I still remember this 22 years later.

5. What was the term used by Parliamentarians ('Roundheads') for a Royalist supporter of King Charles I during the mid to late 17th c., and in turn for a school of poets of the era whose works were accordingly light and secular, and which included Ben Jonson, Richard Lovelace, Thomas Carew, and Robert Herrick? The term itself has evolved linguistically to mean both debonair and disdainful.

I’m no history expert — for proof, read every other LL entry in this blog — but this one felt way gettable. Although I quailed at the sight of the word “Roundheads,” because all I knew about them was that they were a thing around the time of Charles I, this question was more about literature and language. I’d read a little Jonson and maybe some Herrick as a college English major, but even if I hadn’t, the final sentence in the question put this answer into play for anyone who could come up with it. I didn’t know the poets categorically by any name, but the term in question, something meaning debonair and disdainful with some kind of British overtone, was on the tip of my tongue all day. It was tantalizingly close, but wouldn’t manifest itself from the inchoate depths of my vocabulary. Eventually I gave up in frustration and guessed “boulevardier” knowing it had to be wrong. The answer was “cavalier.”

6. Identify the album on which the song in this clip first appeared (58 seconds).

I am embarrassed that I was still paying enough attention to late-period Michael Jackson that I knew the answer to this question. The song was “Scream” featuring Janet Jackson, with that unsettling video set in outer space. The record was the one after Dangerous, promoted with an absurdly over-the-top militaristic animated short film with fighter jets, armies and an enormous Michael Jackson statue in it. As in so many things MJ, it was lavish, overblown and nonsensical. Even the album title was needlessly ponderous. HIStory (Past, Present and Future, Book I), which I remembered fairly accurately as HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I, was laughable from the first time I read it. I still remember thinking, “Don’t hold your breath for Book II.”

I gave this one the 3 since my opponent was iffy in pop music. Heck, if I had better taste or more self-respect, I wouldn’t have known it either.

The results of this match won’t be available until Sunday evening, but with two near-miss errors against a strong opponent, I’m not too excited about my chances.


Tom M said...

No. 4 is uncanny ... I also blew it with polio. I settled on that instead of tetanus because the more I overthought the question, the more tetanus seemed like the odd disease out -- I've never had to get a booster for diptheria or polio (or pertussis).

Martin said...

1. As a former editor of Emdashes, an easy one for me. I even conversed briefly with Tina at a book signing when her book about Diana came out -- and had her inscribe the book to "Emdashes." Ben: if the question had named everybody but Gottlieb, could you have named him? I'm not sure I could have.

2. No clue, put Model S.

3. I really have to bone up on musicals.... I couldn't decide among Showboat, South Pacific, and Seven Brides.... which indecision was pointless, because I didn't have Oklahoma! in there.

4. Never had a chance at this one... only many hours after I had submitted did I recall Holly Hunter in Raising Arizona babbling about getting the "Dip-Tet, the Dip-Tet!"

5. Roundheads and Cavaliers go together like Ernie and Bert in my head, so not a difficult one for me.

6. I put the single word History, which should be good enough, I hope.

Ben said...

I actually could have named Gottlieb. I've talked to Emily about him, I've read about his fiction editing career (he worked with a lot of big authors) and his name is reinforced in my mind by its similarity to that of A.J. Liebling, the 1950s New Yorker writer who coined the derisive nickname "the Second City" in an essay about Chicago. Definitely would have come up with his last name, probably also the first name.

Martin said...

I wrote about that essay! I didn't know that phrase stemmed from it. As a Chicagoan, did you find it offensive? In hindsight, I think Benjamin Chambers, commenter and fellow Emdashes scribe, has a point -- it is rather fun, but also abusive and unprofessional.

McGannM said...

Thanks for calling me "a strong opponent." Unfortunately for me, I had my worst day of the season since my opening day loss to Joon. May you have a better Sunday knowing you had a Friday victory!
-- Matt
A New Yorker subscriber who blew Q1 and
Theater fan who blew Q3

Anonymous said...

1. I had know idea.
2. I also guessed Model A correctly.
3. I'm not very knowledgeable about theater, so when I read "groundbreaking", the first thing that popped into my head was "Book of Mormon".
4. I also thought Diptheria, Tetanus, and Polio but wasn't sure about polio so put the other 2.
5. Couldn't come up with a good guess.
6. Just put HIStory. Hopefully that's enough.

Ben said...

Martin, I just reread Liebling's 1952 essay (the first installment, anyway). I can't speak to the Chicago of fifty years ago, but I do share the common reaction that his lazy, contemptuous generalizations say more about him than about the city he attempts to skewer. It's ironic that in his NY-centric disdain for the provinces, he's at least as provincial as they are.

Elaine said...

Now, see. This is where being as old as dirt is a help. Not only did I know DPT (as it was called in my day) but I can tell you the year the polio vaccine was given to all the kids in my 3rd grade class in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. Jonas Salk was a national hero. And we all loved Shirley Jones in 'Oklahoma!' (exclamation point mandatory,) but Gordon McRae, what a weak singer compared to John Raitt.

You should have the tetanus booster every ten years, by the way.

Martin said...

What a weird match. I won, 5(3) to 2(1), thank goodness. But weird because, according to the stats, there were three "easy" questions -- I went 0 for 3 on those. And there were three "hard" questions -- I went 3 for 3 on those.

RaphelB said...

Did anyone else guess "charlatan" for question 5? I thought I nailed that one but apparently was way off