Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Day 5: Running the table

The pendulum continues to swing from “no chance” to “no problem.”

1. With her husband Pierre, Marie Sklodowska-Curie is generally credited with discovering two elements of the periodic table, one named after her homeland, and the other named after its notable scientific attribute. Identify them both.

The element most closely associated with the Curies is radium, which I assume is named for its radioactivity. I vaguely remembered the other was polonium, and the telltale inclusion of Mrs. Curie’s maiden name left no doubt.

2. A New York socialite, daughter of a Titanic victim and niece of a famous museum founder, is herself best-known today as a preeminent collector of art (and perhaps also, of men). What is her full name (first and last)?

I’ve visited Peggy Guggenheim’s enormous house on the Grand Canal in Venice, which is now a well-known museum that houses her personal art collection. The American heiress was renowned for the many relationships she cultivated with leading artists of her day, whether as art patron, paramour or spouse (she married Max Ernst).

3. Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, Craven Cottage, Anfield, and, formerly, Highbury, are all names of what?

Wasn’t too familiar with the middle part of the list, though Anfield faintly rang a bell. But I knew that Old Trafford is the home of the world’s most famous soccer team, Manchester United. Highbury Stadium used to be the home of Arsenal, which I know from personal experience after catching a Champions League game there in 2003 against Dynamo Kiev.

The stadium was built right into a city block, so we entered by walking between rowhouses to the source of the lights behind them. Although Arsenal’s detractors  derided Highbury as “Library” for not being raucous enough, it was sold out and pretty lively the night we were there, particularly when the Gunners broke a scoreless tie in the final minute or so by scoring the game’s only goal right in front of us.

The official answer was “(English soccer) stadiums” and I got credit for “Soccer (football) stadiums.” Gave this question the 3.

4. What country was formally recognized by the United States government on November 13, 1903 (although not by the government of Colombia until 1921)?

Or put another way, “which country probably located near Colombia made major news in the first few years of the 20th Century?” It had to be Panama and its eponymous Canal. I wasn’t entirely sure it was adjacent to Colombia, but I felt fairly confident this was correct and in any case didn’t have another guess. (Republic of) Panama was indeed correct.

5. Hitsville U.S.A. was a nickname given to the first headquarters of what American company?

Knew this one cold: Motown Records (the official answer was Motown Record Corporation). I’ve read Berry Gordy Jr.’s autobiography, To Be Loved, plus my buddy Bill Wyman (not that Bill Wyman (click that link; it's a must-read)) wrote a music column called Hitsville for the Chicago Reader. The Hitsville house is now a museum in Detroit.

Mr. Gordy’s book explained how a then-unknown Motown artist named Rockwell scored a major hit with “Somebody’s Watching Me” thanks to its background vocals by Michael Jackson, then the world’s leading pop star. Rockwell was in fact the label founder’s son, Kennedy Gordy, and a childhood friend of M.J.

Memo to the Commish: write a question at some point about the Hitsville house songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. Everyone knows their songs but many people don’t know their names.

6. This American would probably prefer to be remembered for her time as one-half of a Grammy-winning comedy duo of the 1950s and 60s, and not as the writer and director of the colossal cinematic flops Mikey and Nicky and Ishtar.

Pretty easy if you're a comedy nerd who grew up in Chicago and spent a lot of time at Second City. Mike Nichols and Elaine May got their start in the Compass Players at the University of Chicago. I also knew that Ishtar was her (stillborn) baby. Gave this one the 0 because my opponent was strong in film.

Unfortunately, despite a lifetime correct answer percentage of over 60%, today's opponent has answered only two questions correctly in five days this season, with one forfeit. She got blanked on today’s questions so I walked off the field with a disappointingly easy win.


MeyerS said...

Did the use of present tense ("What is her name?" in the Peggy Guggenheim question trip anyone else up, in that it implied she's still alive? It seems like an awfully minor nitpick, one that I'm not gonna bring up on the message board, but it did cause me an extra three minutes of pondering on that one.

PenroseB said...

The use of present tense did not cause me to miss a question I'd otherwise have gotten right (was fixated on J.J. Astor IV as the Titanic victim and the Whitney as the museum), but I did eliminate Brooke Astor as an answer knowing she had died.

Joshua said...

Of course, another one of Berry Gordy Jr.'s sons has recently achieved musical success beyond what Rockwell did, in collaboration with one of Berry's grandsons.

Joshua Kosman said...

I didn't realize we had a mutual friend in Bill Wyman. My first thought was Motown — it seemed obvious — but I switched to Sun because I figured that'd be more up Bill's alley. Never trust a friend.

PS "Holland and Holland and Lamont Dozier too/Are here to make it all OK with you..."


Ben said...

Bill Wyman is an exceptionally lovable guy, and his perceptive writing and good taste were important to me at a time in my life when rock/pop music were a more primary interest of mine.

Had lunch with him in Phoenix last year. What a character and an excellent guy to be around. He brought me two CDs as gifts at that lunch: a disc of great rock artists covering "Walk Away Renee" by the Left Banke, every one in their own style; and an amazing CD burned complete with jukebox photo art, entitled "100 COVERS." It is as good as advertised, and really good period.

I know Bill was in San Francisco for a period of time after leaving the Chicago Reader, working as an arts editor for Slate and/or critic for SF Gate. Maybe you knew him during that time?

Ben said...

oops Salon, not Slate

Joshua Kosman said...

I've known Bill since 1984, from before he followed a beautiful and talented young woman to Chicago. He was the arts editor for the Berkeley Monthly, where I was contributing little "what to hear this month" squibs while struggling through graduate school.