Friday, January 31, 2020

Super Bowl Trivia Questions!!!

So the Big Game is coming up, and you'll probably want some trivia questions for your Big Game party! In that spirit, here are some for your freebie use. I have not grouped these in any way, nor am I ranking them by any idea of difficulty. Answers are in the comments for the post. Enjoy, and may your preferred team end the game with more points than the other one!

1. What is the highest combined point total in a Super Bowl?

2. What is the lowest combined point total in a Super Bowl?

3. What winning team scored the fewest points?

4. What losing team scored the most points?

5. What is the oldest existing venue to have hosted a Super Bowl?

6. What is the oldest existing stadium that is home to an NFL team to have hosted a Super Bowl?

7. What is the last Super Bowl to be played in a stadium that was not home to an NFL team?

8. According to a Super Bowl-related episode of THE SIMPSONS, who are the favorite teams of Homer Simpson and Moe Szylack?

9. Three American Idol winners have performed the National Anthem at Super Bowls. Which ones?

10. These two teams have met in three Super Bowls.

11. These teams have each met in two Super Bowls.

12. These three teams are 1-0 in the Super Bowl.

13. This is the only team to be currently undefeated in multiple trips to the Super Bowl.

14. As of 2020, this team has gone the longest without returning to the Super Bowl.

15. As of 2020, this team went the longest between Super Bowl victories.

16. To date, this is the only Super Bowl whose participants played their home games in the same state.

17. Following each of this team's last two Super Bowl victories, the starting quarterback for both games retired. Name the team and the two quarterbacks who retired as champions.

18. These teams have won at least four Super Bowls.

19. These teams have lost at least four Super Bowls.

20. This player is the only special teams player to have been named Super Bowl MVP.

21. The team with the NFL's season rushing champion has advanced to the Super Bowl only four times. Name the players, the teams, and the Super Bowls.

22. Since the NFL adopted a 16-game regular season, seven teams have posted records of 15-1 or better. Only two of those have won Super Bowls, however. Name the two champions, and the remainder of the teams and their results.

23. This is the only team to win the Super Bowl after being outscored during the regular season.

24. Over the course of 12 months, this city hosted the NHL Stanley Cup Finals, the World Series, the Super Bowl, and the NCAA Final Four. Which city was it, and which Super Bowl was hosted?

25. Four coaches have each lost the Super Bowl four times apiece. Name them.

26. Which of the following has never happened in a Super Bowl: a punt return for a touchdown, two wild-card teams meeting in the Super Bowl, a team playing a Super Bowl on its own home field, or a head coach winning a Super Bowl with two different teams?

27. Name the four teams that have as yet never reached the Super Bowl.

28. In only two Super Bowls did neither team commit a turnover. Which ones?

29. The closest geographical proximity between the two cities represented in a Super Bowl was 164 miles. Which two cities, and which Super Bowl?

30. What is the earliest in a Super Bowl that a winning team has taken its final lead?

31. No team has ever won three consecutive Super Bowl championships. What two teams came closest to doing so?

Enjoy, and go Chiefs (although a 49ers win would not leave me unhappy)!

Bad Joke Friday

I was going to make myself a belt made out of watches.

But then I realized it would be a waist of time.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Something for Thursday

Listening to this piece might lead one to assume that it is perhaps a movement from a larger sacred work for baritone, chorus, and orchestra, but it is not: It's a piece of film music, composed by Patrick Doyle for Kenneth Branagh's 1989 production of Shakespeare's Henry V. This piece comes after the Battle of Agincourt, when it becomes clear that the vastly-outnumbered English host has in fact routed the French. King Henry says this:

Do we all holy rites:
Let there be sung Non nobis and Te Deum,
The dead with charity enclos'd in clay;
And then to Callice, and to England then,
Where ne'er from France arriv'd more happy men.

Composer Doyle--for whom Henry V was the first major film project--wrote a penetrating and lyrical theme of both sadness and hope to accompany a long tracking shot as King Henry marches across the field of battle, carrying one of his English casualties on his back. Braveheart gets a lot of credit for the brutality of its battle scenes, but Henry V was there first, depicting medieval battlefields as places of churned mud and bloody filth. Doyle's soaring sacred piece soars above all of this, building and building from the soloist onward as more and more of the musical forces join in. The result is sublimely effective, and it's easy to see why Branagh has returned to Patrick Doyle for his filmscores in many, if not all, of his subsequent directorial efforts.

Here is "Non nobis domine" from Henry V.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Tone Poem Tuesday

In his lifetime Hector Berlioz wrote three operas (four, if you count the "Dramatic legend" La Damnation de Faust, which is sometimes staged as an opera even though its long passages of purely orchestral music make such staging difficult). The first is rarely heard on the opera stages of the world today owing to its high degree of difficulty for the singers, but the opera isn't completely forgotten, as its overture is frequently heard in concert halls. Benvenuto Cellini is based on the memoirs of the Renaissance sculptor of the same name. In addition to fine sculpture, Cellini left behind an autobiography that has been hailed as the finest autobiography ever written, and which represents one of the finest accounts of Renaissance Italy written by a contemporary. Berlioz had a deep love of all things literary, which informed all of his music, including the opera Benvenuto Cellini. Even though this opera failed (and only one of Berlioz's three operas, Beatrice et Benedict, was a success during his life), Berlioz--ever the recycler--made use of some of its material in one of his most famous works, the Roman Carnival overture.

Here is the overture to Hector Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini.

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Snowy Ridge

Chestnut Ridge Park, which lies in the hills just south of Orchard Park, is one of my favorite places on Earth. Here are a few photos from a brief walk The Dee-oh-gee and I took there yesterday.

Snow! #ChestnutRidge #wny #orchardpark #winter #nature #hiking #trees

Pine needles #ChestnutRidge #wny #orchardpark #winter #nature #hiking #trees

Wintry road #ChestnutRidge #wny #orchardpark #winter #nature #hiking #trees #snow

Woodland stream in winter #ChestnutRidge #wny #orchardpark #winter #nature #hiking #trees #stream #runningwater #snow

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Something for Thursday

As noted the other day, conductor and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy has retired from public performance. Ashkenazy was born in 1937 in Russia, but in the 1960s he emigrated to the West where he has lived ever since, starting with London and then to Reykjavik and then to Switzerland. His output as a pianist and a conductor propel him into thie highest ranks of musicians of the last fifty years. The other day I featured Ashkenazy as a conductor; today I present him as a performer in his natural element.

Thank you for the music, Vladimir Ashkenazy!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Tone Poem Tuesday

I'll have more to say about this later in the week, but for now I learned yesterday that one of my musical heroes, pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy, has retired from public performance. Ashkenazy has been a giant of the music world for more than sixty years, and his performances--both at the keyboard and on the podium--always have a good deal of excitement behind them. In my opinion, Ashkenazy's cycle of the three symphonies of Sergei Rachmaninov have never been equaled. (One day I'll write the long paean to the Rachmaninov Second that's been in my head for years.)

While Ashkenazy might well be most closely associated with Russian and Slavic music, he was no one-trick pony. Here he is conducting Debussy, about as spiritually far from the heavy Russian Romanticism of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov you can get and yet still remain in roughly the same time period. Debussy's La Mer is a three-part work, called "symphonic sketches" by the composer, who wanted to avoid the associations of the symphony and the symphonic poem. Debussy often worked to throw off formal constraints in a way that is not unlike his earlier countryman, Hector Berlioz. La Mer is deeply evocative and masterful in its use of orchestral textures to convey Debussy's impressions of the sea.

Here is La Mer by Claude Debussy, performed by the Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the great Vladimir Ashkenazy.

Monday, January 20, 2020

I'm progressive!

In more ways than just the political, mind you. My lenses, for one!

The new specs help my Stare Of Withering Intensity! #eyeglasses #spectacles #newglasses #newglasseswhodis

Yes, it was finally time for new glasses. I've been mildly farsighted since my college years, when I found that I was getting headaches when doing heavy reading and computer work, so I've had prescription glasses for those kinds of scenarios ever since then. My prescription has changed a few times in the years since, but never much, and my last pair of glasses (acquired in 2009!) only themselves became necessary when my previous pair (acquired in 2001!) became scratched to the point that they were annoying to wear.

Last time I visited the actual eye doctor for an eye exam, though, he indicated that I had in the course of time and age and all that stuff gone from farsighted to being mildly nearsighted, which explained why I'd been noticing that stuff in the distance was increasingly blurry. The worst effect of this was driving and noticing that street signs and such were much harder for me to read than they had once been. So, enter The Wife's new job with its spiffy vision plan, and off to the optometrist. An hour or so of exam-stuff later ("Which is clearer? 1 or 2? 1 or 2? Read the bottom the next one How about now?"), another hour or so of looking at frames and talking about lens options, and a week for the new lenses to be ground, here I am, with new glasses.

New glasses, friends! And after being farsighted most of my life, my eyes have flipped the other way, so hello, progressive lenses! #eyeglasses #spectacles #newglasses #newglasseswhodis

And let me tell you, the difference for distance sight is amazing. I can see far off stuff with clarity that has been so long gone I didn't realize it, but now that it's back, I can't believe it.

I could have chosen basic glasses for distance sight, and then removed them every time I wanted to read or write, but that seemed a pain in the ass, and anyway, I like the way glasses look. It's much easier to look like your thinking thinkly things if you have a pair of glasses on! So I opted for dual lenses, which brought up the next option: bifocals or progressive lenses. I actually had bifocals for a time when I was in grade school, and while they worked, I really didn't like the constant sharp line across the lower part of my vision, so I decided to get the progressive lenses where there is a transition between the "reading" section at the lower part of the lens and the "distance" part that takes up the upper half. I'm on Day Three of these glasses as I write this, so I'm still working out the kinks. I'm finding that I can't really hold a book and my head at the same angles as before, and that I have to actually move my head slightly as I read if I'm holding the book at my usual closeness. This is kind of irritating on its own, so I'm trying to teach myself to hold books farther away from my eyes, which is also an adjustment. I'll get there, but for now I'm having moments of clarity alternating with moments of wondering why I can't see my book totally clearly, and figuring out why with a bit of finagling and fidgeting.

It'll be fine. One thing that makes me a little nervous is only having one pair, now that I'll be wearing these basically all the time. I figure I'll be careful this year, and then next year I'll get another exam and assuming that my prescription doesn't change much between now and then, I'll get a second pair and then either rotate them in and out or use one for work or...well, who knows. That's a year away. Let me just get through the next year without breaking these! Luckily my track record on breaking glasses is...OK. There was the pair that I broke in college when I had them in my backpack and unfortunately landed right on top of them when my feet hit a patch of ice and went right out from under me. And then there was when I was in second grade, and I left my glasses (brown horn-rims, no less!) on the living room floor when I went to get something and then came running back in, having forgotten they were there, and only had time to register my mother screaming "YOUR GLASSES!" before I felt the crunch of eyeglasses under my foot.

Two broken pairs in 48 years isn't bad, is what I'm trying to say.

Reading with the new specs. I'm still trying to figure out the 'sweet spots' for reading purposes.... #eyeglasses #spectacles #newglasses #newglasseswhodis

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Something for Thursday

The 1957 musical Funny Face is kind of an odd duck of a movie. It seems to me a bit underrated, coming as it did when the musical was likely on the decline, but it's still an entertaining film loaded with great songs. Every time I see it I'm struck anew by the lack of...well, chemistry between the leads. I yield to no one in my love and admiration for Fred Astaire, and my feelings on Audrey Hepburn border on worship, but in all honesty, the age difference between the two stands out like a sore thumb in this movie. Astaire was thirty years older than Hepburn, and by 1957 Astaire was nearing 60, so the age difference is very noticeable. I've often wondered how the movie would be seen today if it had starred Gene Kelly instead of Astaire, but of course, we'll never know--and it's not as if this flaw sinks the movie anyway. Astaire at near-60 is still Fred Astaire, after all.

And Audrey Hepburn is still Audrey Hepburn.

Here is Ms. Hepburn with "How Long Has This Been Going On."

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Tone Poem Tuesday

I am constantly amazed at the sheer output of Antonin Dvorak. Music poured out of the man, and his gift for melodic drama set with wonderful orchestration never, ever fails to delight. Even so, I was unprepared for the degree to which this piece--which, to my knowledge, I had never heard before a couple weeks ago--forced its way into my imagination. It's called The Golden Spinning Wheel, and it is based on a Czech folktale that was gathered into a book by Czech poet K.J. Erben. As folktales go, it's pretty satisfyingly grim, with a young maiden capturing the heart of the king and being murdered by her evil stepmother for her troubles, only to be resurrected by a magician. You can read the entire tale here...but meanwhile, give a listen to Dvorak's tone poem, which is thrilling and adventurous and romantic in all the wonderful meanings of the word. At times this work is so swashbuckling in its sound that you can practically see Errol Flynn, rapier in hand, as he disposes of the evil soldiers as he fights his way to his love's side.

Music like this is what keeps me coming back to classical music, year in and year out. I hope you'll give it a listen. Here is The Golden Spinning Wheel by Antonin Dvorak.

Monday, January 13, 2020

It's toasted!

So I tried a new beer:

This stuff is OK. It's pleasant and nice. I'd put it on the same level as Yuengling Lager, but since it's three bucks more, I don't know if I'll get it again. #beer #yum #bluepointbrewery

Well, it's new to me, anyway. It's not "new". Blue Point Brewing of Long Island has been around since 1998, although now it's a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch. I've seen this label with its pleasant-looking fishing sign look in the beer section at The Store a few times, and this week I decided to give the Toasted Lager a try.

The word "toasted" puts me in mind of the first episode of Mad Men (the only episode I watched), when an ad executive in 1960-something (I think) is trying to come up with an ad campaign for a cigarette company, given that people are starting to suspect that cigarettes are actually very unhealthy. What he comes up with is to focus on the tobacco company's production method of toasting the tobacco: "It's toasted!"

Of course, this has nothing at all to do with the beer, which is so named apparently for the "toasted" nature of the brewery's first kettle. They say there's a blend of six "specialty malts" for a smooth drinking experience, but I don't know about that. I can report that the beer is pleasant and easily quaffed. I'm probably not drinking this stuff in seasonably appropriate fashion; lagers like this should be consumed in the fading light of a summer evening, not a January in Buffalo. But it probably does just fine in washing down a plate of wings, so...yeah.

Anyway, it's toasted!

Friday, January 10, 2020

Bad Joke Friday

Said the Left Eye to the Right Eye:

"Between us, something smells."

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Something for Thursday

I'm sure you've often wondered: "Why sure, the main theme from Star Wars sounds great when played by a full symphony orchestra, but how does it work when scaled down to a string quartet?"

And here's your answer!

Wednesday, January 08, 2020


Buffalo Niagara is, admittedly, cloudier in general than I would like. But it's not always like living under a gray bowl, and we get some very nice sunrises here.

This morning's is a case in point. Geography puts the sunrise directly behind my workplace this time of year, and it can be a real delight.

The breaking of dawn's first light #sky #clouds #sunrise #winter

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Tone Poem Tuesday

I suppose a "Back to basics" kind of thing is normal in January, isn't it? Not so much a series of resolutions or a grand statement of intent to change my life, but there is most definitely a desire to clean things up a bit and to indulge a bit of simplicity.

In that vein I've been listening to a bit of Franz Joseph Haydn of late. Haydn's reputation has taken a pretty dispiriting turn over the last few decades, it seems to me; he's seen as a kindly old composer of nice, pleasant, and undemanding music. Haydn is Mozart without the fire, a placeholder to give us someone to talk about other than Mozart in the era between Bach and Beethoven. He's referred to as "Papa" Haydn, and his symphonies often have cute nicknames: The "Clock" symphony, the "Surprise" symphony, and so on.

Well, to that I say nonsense, because in Haydn I find beauty and passion and the very best of the rationalism of the Classical era. I find formal perfection, structural amazement, and melodies that lodge in the ear with joyous aplomb. Returning to Haydn is like drinking clear, cool water after a long and difficult journey.

Here is the Overture in D Major by Franz Joseph Haydn. Notice how complete a journey he takes us on, all in the space of just under five minutes!

Monday, January 06, 2020

The Princess of Pitties

So, you may be wondering, how is Carla, our second dog, working out? Not that it matters, since she's been living with us for more than three years now, but right now it looks like she's fitting in just fine.

Carla awoke from her nap to wish you a very happy holiday! #Carla #dogsofinstagram #pitbullsofinstagram #pitbullmix #pittie #happyholidays

I see you're in the fridge. Need help? #Carla #dogsofinstagram #pitbullsofinstagram #pitbullmix #pittie

Good morning 1 #Carla #pitbullsofinstagram #pitbullmix #pittie #dogsofinstagram

Good morning 2 #Carla #dogsofinstagram #pitbullsofinstagram #pitbullmix #pittie

I don't get the whole "Napping Step One: Self-contortion!" thing, but doggo's gonna doggo. #Carla #dogsofinstagram #pitbullsofinstagram #pitbullmix #pittie

Friday, January 03, 2020

Bad Joke Friday

The occasional feature triumphantly returns! For how long? Erm...we'll see!


Thursday, January 02, 2020

Something for Thursday

So a strange thing happened while I was writing my annual Year's End Quiz for 2019. The last question of the quiz is "Quote a song lyric that sums up your year." I always interpret this less as a song that has lyrics that can specifically capture a year, but rather a song whose emotional essence seems to me to align with the year that's ending. I don't usually have a problem with this, but for some reason, this year I did. I kept thinking that there should be an obvious song, one that was lurking somewhere just beyond the peripheries of my inner ear. It was pretty frustrating, I have to admit--and the song that I settled on, Queen's "The Hero," was a fine choice that really does capture a bit of how I feel about a year in which so many of my favorite stories all seemed to end.

And then today, while wandering around my shift at work, I had the ever-popular Ohhhhhh! moment, in which I realized what song I should have used.

I've known this song for many years, going all the way back to my high school years when I'd be with the jazz band playing standards from the Great American Songbook at town park dances and church festivals, which is why when I heard it in the context of a movie in 2019, it was...well, it's one of the best uses of a great old song in a movie that I've ever heard. It comes, of course, at the very end of Avengers: Endgame, when Steve Rogers has finally laid aside his shield and is dancing with Peggy Carter just before the film fades out. Here is "It's Been a Long, Long Time" by Kitty Kallen and the Harry James Orchestra.

Never thought that you would be
standing here so close to me
there's so much I feel that I should say
but words can wait until some other day

Kiss me once, then kiss me twice
Then kiss me once again
It's been a long, long time

Haven't felt like this, my dear
Since I can't remember when
It's been a long, long time

You'll never know how many dreams
I've dreamed about you
Or just how empty they all seemed without you

So kiss me once, then kiss me twice
Then kiss me once again
It's been a long, long time

Ah, kiss me once, then kiss me twice
Then kiss me once again
It's been a long time

Haven't felt like this my dear
Since I can't remember when
It's been a long, long time

You'll never know how many dreams
I dreamed about you
Or just how empty they all seemed without you

So kiss me once then kiss me twice
Then kiss me once again
It's been a long, long time....