Thursday Trivia (on Friday!): “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh”

The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh is a funky movie, in every sense of the world. Starring Julius Erving as Moses Guthrie, star player on the then-struggling, then-Pittsburgh Pythons, The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh is an out-there basketball film with a few touches of astrology and a downright fantastic soundtrack back from the days of funk and disco. But one of the coolest scenes is in the final throes of the film, when the Pittsburgh Pisces, the team renamed after wild success for a lineup centered around Moses’s astrological sign, when the team enters the Pittsburgh Civic Arena through its retractable roof via hot air balloon.

The Civic Arena is no more – the Consol Energy Center has since replaced it – but it’s important to note why, exactly, the arena had a retractable dome. (No, it wasn’t to play arena football outside for the stupidest oxymoron ever.) The arena’s original tenant was the Civic Light Opera, who used the retractable roof to perform  under the stars in good weather (which they did from their inception in 1946 to 1958), and in an enclosed theater in bad. They performed at the arena from 1961 until 1969 (in spite of what would seem to be downright atrocious acoustics), afterwards leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pipers ABA team as the building tenants.

Four more facts related to The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh after the jump! Continue reading


New Quiz for mental_floss!

So a while back I pitched a few quiz ideas to Jason English over at mental_floss; a few of them were good enough to actually be commissioned (or accepted, or whatever), and today one of them was published. Check out the 19th Century Facial Hair Quiz right over here.

Thursday Trivia: Winnie-the-Pooh

As I write this, I sit close to the original site where the dolls of Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet, and the rest were displayed. A.A. Milne (who wrote the series for his son) donated the puppets to the publisher E.P. Dutton, who in turn donated them to the New York Public Library about 40 years later in 1988. They were first on display at the Donnell Library Center, then the largest circulating library in the NYPL system, across the street from MoMA on 53rd between 5th and 6th. Despite multiple requests from the British Parliament to return the dolls to the UK, they remained under bulletproof glass in the Donnell Building – until 2008, when they were moved 11 blocks south to the children’s room of the Library’s main branch.

Four more facts on Winnie-the-Pooh after the jump!
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Friday Stuff & Things: Fun Jeopardy! Categories

The writers for Jeopardy! are nothing if not smart, funny people. (Note to any Jeopardy! writers reading this: I’d like to join you someday. Hell, I’ve already written a couple of Jeopardy! categories back in my TrivKnowl days – including one about people named Norm or Norman, called “Social Norms,” which went over well) As a result, there have been some fun categories. I’ve rounded up four of my favorites, all via the perpetually-awesome J! Archive:

  • Dr. Seuss Meets the Bard,” with Shakespeare as written by the greatest children’s writer in history (though that’s another post)
  • Staying on the Seussian theme, “Dr. Seuss at the Multiplex,” one of the categories narrated by the late, great Don “In a World…” LaFontaine.
  • Another LaFontaine-narrated category, “Coming Soon…History,” was done in the third game of the Ultimate Tournament of Champions, which featured every 5-day champion and every winner of the College or Teen Tournaments or a Tournament of Champions to that point vying for two spots in a three-day final against Ken Jennings. It lasted most of that year’s season and was freakin’ epic.
  • And finally, my personal favorite – one that was the result of a Late Show Top Ten List, “Moist Things.”
Enjoy playing, everybody!

Bonus Podcast!

This is a bit of a late post but I just posted it – I released a bonus edition of the Thursday Trivia Podcast tonight, with 6 questions on U.S. Congress. Originally this was going to be a Guest Quizmaster bit for PodQuiz, but James and I agreed it wouldn’t work for his show (plus, again, stupidly, 6 questions instead of 5); I asked if I could repackage it as a bonus edition of my podcast, and thankfully he agreed. Get it on the RSS feed or on the iTunes machine.

Thursday Trivia: “The Room”

The 2003 independent film The Room is, frankly, a sight to be seen. It may be the most unintentionally funny film ever. Tommy Wiseau – the film’s writer/director/producer/executive producer/bizarre evil genius who has been aptly described by the Nostalgia Critic as the bizarro Fabio- stars in the film as Johnny, a banker (or so they tell us – we never actually see him working) whose life falls more or less apart for no particular reason. Except instead of sympathizing with Johnny, we laugh at him – repeatedly, and with greater vigor than the rest of the characters – for Wiseau’s bizarre elocution and sheer lack of dramatic acting ability. Take this small bit for example (some questionable language here):

Anyway, I’m not in the market for criticizing The Room (actually, I kinda am), I’m here to bring some trivia to the situation. Here’s five facts about “the Citizen Kane of bad movies”:

  • According to an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Wiseau noted that he gained some of the $6 million importing leather jackets from Korea. (What he did with the jackets was a mystery. Most likely, though, he sold them.)
  • Kyle Vogt, who played Peter, Johnny’s psychologist friend, left midway through the taping – so instead of writing him out of the plot, the lines were given to Greg Ellery, whose character Steven is never introduced or explained. (Not shocking, considering the film has myriad subplots that go unexplained and unresolved.)
  • Juliette Danielle was 18 when she was cast as the part of Lisa, Johnny’s unfaithful wife – actually, according to The AV Club, the actress originally slated to play Lisa quit, with Danielle being handed the role (most likely by none other than Greg Sestero, who did casting, was later cast himself by Wiseau as Mark, Johnny’s best friend and Lisa’s eventual lover, and later appeared on Fashion House, the first of the magnificently-panned MyNetwork telenovelas)- making the multiple love scenes between her and Wiseau that much creepier than they appear on film.
  • Speaking of those love scenes, the slow jams featured in the film were sung by Clint Gamboa, who appeared last year on American Idol.
While you’re getting your Room fix, head on over and play the Flash game based on (read: entirely co-opting) the film, and possibly pre-order Greg Sestero’s memoir for when it comes out in 2013.

Thursday Trivia: Things that Start with “X”

There are two reasons this post came about: first, because of one of the facts below that I learned at the Lists exhibit at the Morgan Library about a month or two ago. Second, and more importantly, because in virtually every alphabetical list, the letter “x” is presented with the word “x-ray.” Hell, even the NATO phonetic alphabet uses “x-ray” for the letter “x.” (At that rate, why don’t you just say “x”? The letter “x” is the only part of “x-ray” that particularly matters in that instance! Ughhhh….) Needless to say, that always leaves me a little perturbed. So instead, here are five things you can use in place of the word “x-ray” and a little bit of information about them:

  • Xenurine is an alternate name for a cabassou – which is in turn an alternate name for an armadillo. Cabassous is the genus for “naked-tail” armadillos, which lends credence to the etymology of xenurine – Greek for “strange tail.”
  • XI is not just the Roman numeral for 11, but is also a Greek letter and an acceptable two-letter word in Scrabble. Other two-letter words using tough tiles accepted in Scrabble include “qi” (a Chinese word meaning “vital energy needed in battle”) and “za” (a shortening of “pizza.”)
  • X is the first call letter for all Mexican radio stations, which is in turn divided into XE and XH for AM and FM, respectively (XH is also often used for TV stations). In Major League Baseball, the San Diego Padres’ English and Spanish radio stations are Mexican stations – so-called “border blasters,” which emanate from Mexico (specifically Tijuana) but have a high enough wattage to be heard in San Diego and elsewhere in Southern California.
  • In the Harry Potter universe, Xenophilius Lovegood was responsible for the publication of The Quibbler, which sort of served as the National Enquirer to The Daily Prophet‘s more upstanding, heralded culture (with the exception of Rita Skeeter, who is closer to the Perez Hilton of the wizarding world). Filled with stories of (most likely fictional) creatures and stories of cryptozoology, it makes sense that ol’ Xeno was given his first name by J.K. Rowling; “xenophilia” literally means “love of strange things” in Greek.

Thursday Trivia: Carmen Sandiego

The show's main cast during the final season p...

Greg Lee, the late Lynne Thigpen, and Rockapella. I'm getting nostalgic already. (Image via Wikipedia.)

Ed. Note: Apologies for not posting the Top 5 last night – my favorite cookies are, in no particular order, chocolate chip, chocolate with macadamia nut, oatmeal raisin, Oreos, and plain ol’ sugar cookies. Also, related to blood donation – which was the tangential relation to cookies in the first place – have a go at some blood donation trivia, via the J! Archive.

Lynne Thigpen played the Chief of ACME (always capitalized, though it was never explicitly established as an acronym) across much of the franchise’s history – for a non-hosting role on a children’s game show, it was one hell of an interesting career role. Along with portraying the Chief on Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, its successor Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego?, and three Carmen video games, she appeared as a member of judicial matters rather than investigative ones more often in her career: she appeared in 10 episodes as District Attorney Ruby Thomas on LA Law, and was a judge on Law & Order three times.

Four more facts about Carmen Sandiego after the jump, but first…

Do It Rockapella!

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Thursday Trivia: Lincoln Center

Lincoln Center, New York. June 7, 2007.

Lincoln Center is beautiful. (Image via Wikipedia.)

Lincoln Center, the downright amazing performing arts center and my favorite place in New York, is of course named after the neighborhood in which it lies, Lincoln Square. But who is Lincoln Square named after?

Oddly enough, no one knows. The neighborhood gained the name in 1906 – possibly after Abraham Lincoln, possibly not – but to that point there were no property owners with the name Lincoln. It’s possible that the area used to be named Lincoln Farms – though nothing is conclusive or even concrete to that end, either – and, to make matters more interesting, in 1906 the mayor of New York was George B. McClellan – son of the elder George B. McClellan, the twice-fired, glacially moving general during the Civil War and Lincoln’s presidential opponent in 1864. Basically, Lincoln Center may be named after the greatest president ever, or just some guy.

Four more facts about Lincoln Center after the jump! Continue reading