J is for JEOPARDY!


For reasons I will explain later, this is my favorite Final JEOPARDY! answer- the category is SISTER CITIES: San Francisco, California is a sister city to this one in Italy.

I started watching the game show JEOPARDY! fairly early on. It started in 1964 as a noontime show on NBC-TV. Art Fleming was the host; you can see some of his 1970s work here. I would stop at the home of my maternal grandmother and great aunt Deana; Deana and I would watch the show while we ate lunch, which grandma Williams usually prepared, and then I would return to school. The show lasted for 11 years, and I probably watched it for the first four regularly, until I went to high school, and again as often as possible once I got to college in 1971.

It is the Fleming version of the show that shows up in the film Airplane 2 (about the only original bit in that movie sequel), and in the “Weird Al” Yankovic video I Lost on Jeopardy.

Then, after a short-lived version in 1978, JEOPARDY! returned in syndicated (non-network) television in 1984 with Alex Trebek as host. I recognized Trebek from a game called High Rollers, which involved answering a couple questions then using these oversized pair of dice.

The other thing that was different from the original game, is that the values of clues had increased tenfold, from $10-$50 in JEOPARDY! (and twice that in Double JEOPARDY!) to $100-$500 in JEOPARDY! (The values doubled in the beginning of Season 19, in the fall of 2002, to $200-$1000 in JEOPARDY!) Not incidentally, in the current game, “the minimum wager on a Daily Double is $5, which was half the smallest clue value on the original version of Jeopardy! that premiered in 1964 with Art Fleming as host.”

I always love the story about the creation of JEOPARDY! After the game show scandals of the 1950s, where certain players were leaked the answers, rigging the results, the late entertainer Merv Griffin was having a meal with his then-wife. He was musing about how he could put together a show in that atmosphere of distrust. She suggested giving the contestants the answers. He said something equivalent to “Are you crazy? That’s been the problem!” She responded, “5280”; he said, “What is the number of feet in a mile?” The ah-ha moment arrived.

Merv Griffin also wrote the Think Music that plays for thirty seconds while the contestants are writing down their Final JEOPARDY! responses.

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Oh, that question at the top: What I loved about it is that, obviously, the JEOPARDY! folks wouldn’t expect you to KNOW San Francisco’s Italian sister city. So there must be some linkage between SF and one city in Italy. And I figured it out. Any guesses?
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One of the things people occasionally ask me when they try out for the game show JEOPARDY! is what sources they should use. Sure, there’s the official JEOPARDY! site. But THE most valuable tool, I think, is the JEOPARDY! archive, specifically the help function.

Some intrepid JEOPARDY! fans have gotten together to archive almost every show in the past 13 years, and have captured some earlier episodes as well. If one can’t watch the show, then reading the answers and questions will help prepare you for playing. There is also information about wagering, a LOT of info I think, other than general knowledge, waging is the most important aspect in the game. The site even describes the episode on the TV show Cheers when postman Cliff Clavin was on JEOPARDY!, had an insurmountable lead and still managed to lose.

Karl Coryat, a two-day champion back in 1996, has some good tips for what to study: “…there are a few things you absolutely must know. These are, in order of importance: State and world capitals; U.S. presidents (order, years of office, and general biographies); state nicknames; and Shakespeare’s plays, including basic plot lines and major characters.” I might have put Presidents first, but I don’t disagree with his general premise.

“Prior to a rule change that went into effect at the beginning of the 20th Season [2003-2004], a champion could win a maximum of 5 games, whereupon he/she would retire and later return for the next Tournament of Champions.” It was the rule change that allowed Ken Jennings to win 74 games in a row. It was great for Jennings, but I’m still not convinced it was great for JEOPARDY! The Tournament that year, instead of having a bunch of 5-time champions, and maybe one or two 4-timers, actually had a 3-day champ, diluting the process.

One variation on JEOPARDY! you may or may not remember was called Rock & Roll Jeopardy. It ran from 1998 to 2001 on VH-1 and was hosted by Jeff Probst, who would later host a reality show called Survivor. I thought it was a lesser program, in large part because, for most of its run, one played for “points” rather than dollars, with the person with the most points getting $5,000.

You can read about my JEOPARDY appearances here; the Boston shows in 1998 were the first non-tournament games ever played outside the Los Angeles-area studio. I only discovered recently that I had the second highest one-game dollar amount in the 1998-1999 season.

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The question: What is Assisi? San Francisco is named for Saint Francis of Assisi.


ABC Wednesday


ROG

The Lydster, Part 70: Remote Control


The daughter has learned how to use the remote control on the DVR. Neither her mother nor I showed her; she just picked it up by observation. She’s particularly fond of pausing or reversing her program so we can see something on her program that amused her, and thought she should share with her parents. Sometimes, I’m truthfully not all that interested, but it’s useful nonetheless to see how her mind works.

One time, I was in the kitchen, listening to, but not watching ABC News. She had wandered into the living room and was captivated by this graphic that showed how it snowed so much somewhere in the upper Midwest that it would bury a car. The graphic of the increasingly covered vehicle fascinated her. And she needed to share; it was sorta interesting.

Actually, I need to be more mindful when she’s around and I have control of the remote, trying to catch up on the news. There was a recent story about a drone strike that killed 20 people; fortunately, there were no graphics. She was drawing something and I didn’t think she was paying attention. Still, she asked me, “Daddy, were they all bad people?” After thinking, “Oh, crap,” I said, honestly, “Well, probably not,” which seemed to satiate her for the moment.

Another time, I didn’t think she was paying attention was while I was watching the 11 January JEOPARDY!, almost certainly after 11 January.
FACTS & FIGURES $1200: Researchers have found more than 40,000 of the dust type of these microscopic bugs in 1 ounce of mattress.
She turns to me and says, “Dust mites!” She didn’t reply in the form of a question, but she was correct. This pleased me greatly.
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She knows I blog about her and as I was musing about what to write. She suggested that I tell that Sunday morning, she wrote notes saying “I love you”, and put them on her mother’s and my pillows. OK, I’ll write that.

ROG

Ramblin ‘z Rogerem

My friend Daniel discovered that that a person, for some unexplainable reason, had translated my March 22, 2009 post into Polish. It’s rather interesting, and fun. The AmeriNZ post Truth is the real victim is translated as Prawda jest prawdziwą ofiarą. Gordon’s post, partially about me, is Moja nagroda dla osiągnięcia Post # 1285. Johnny Bacardi, whose birthday was yesterday (oops) recently wrote Spójrz na moje prace, o wy, potężny i chichot. Część 37, which, of course means, Gaze upon my works, o ye mighty, and snicker. Part 37.
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I told some of you that my 19-year-old niece was getting married and that I first learned about it by reading her Facebook page. Well, she isn’t getting married; she’s just in LOVE, and got too exuberant. Which just goes to show that you can’t believe everything on the Internet, even from someone’s Facebook page.
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Some woman called our house looking for someone. No big deal – a wrong number. No big deal except it was 1:30 a.m. I wasn’t asleep, but my wife was, and the phone is in the bedroom. So I ran in there.
WOMAN: Is this the Toyota center.
ME: No, ma’m, it’s not. You’ve got…
WOMAN: I’m looking for Ted. You know him?
ME: No, there’s no Ted here. You’ve…
WOMAN: He’s a tall man.
ME: Lady, you’ve got the wrong number.
WOMAN: Ted’s not there right now? OK.
And she hung up.

It occurred to me that I have her phone number and sometime at 1:30 a.m., I could call…nah, I wouldn’t do that. I can THINK about it though, can’t I?
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Weird thing happened a couple weeks ago with our front door lock. Our contractor was putting needed insulation in our attic. He locked the door, but apparently in such a way that when my wife and daughter got home from the grocery store, they couldn’t unlock the front door. The daughter was playing outside in the snow without gloves, against her mother’s wishes, and the wife was afraid that the child was going to get frostbite. Her cellphone had run down, so she just drove over to my office and called me from the lobby , about a half hour before I would have taken the bus home for the day. I went home, had to both squeeze the door handle and turn the lock simultaneously to get inside.

So I’m telling this story to a guy I knew, and he bristled. He wouldn’t want his wife just showing up at his place of work. But I knew that my wife is quite self-sufficient and if she thought she really needed my help, of course I’d give it to her. I thought the guy’s reaction was rather peculiar, actually, or else it spoke of the nature of his relationship with his wife.
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Oh, and speaking of cell phones, which I sorta was, I got an e-mail message from my provider – let’s call it Virgin Mobile – with an e-mail on December 27 that I needed to “top up” my cell phones. OK, so I do, and I get confirmation on December 29. On January 2 and again on the 3rd, I get a message that I need to top up my cell phone. Apparently, they had topped up one but not the other, though the messages had indicated that I topped up neither. Don’t know why this peeved me so. I think it’s the happy, recorded speech on their phone lines, and a phone menu that simply did not address my particular problem. (Dial 8 for We Screwed up.)
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As a business librarian, I often have the need to call the NYS Department of State, Division of Corporations. They’re a fine group of citizens. However, twice during the phone menu before I can reach a person, I get details about their impending move from 41 State Street to 99 Washington Avenue…in 2008. PLEASE change the menus of your phones.
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I was watching JEOPARDY! at the end of 2009, and he wondered aloud whether the champion at the end of 2009, and continuing in 2010, would have his income taxed under each year. Well, unless they change their procedures, unless he stuck arounde like Ken Jennings, it would be for the latter year. When I was on, the show was taped in September 1998, the show aired in November 1998, but the check didn’t arrive until March 1999, so it was taxable for 1999. You’d think the host of the show for a quarter century would know that. Or maybe he was just making conversation.

ROG

Reeling in the Years

I know historians banter about the most significant years in a given period, as do others. I’d have to pick 1917 (Russian revolution), 1945 (end of WW II), 1968 (unrest in US, Mexico, Czechoslovakia), 1989 (fall of Berlin Wall), among others, for the 20th Century.

But did you ever rank the years in your life? 1977, when I lived in three cities in two states, was pretty awful, but 1978, when, not coincidentally, I moved to Schenectady, NY, was pretty good. I was up in the attic this week, sorting stuff, and I came across a 1998 calendar, 100 Years of American Comics from the International Cartoon Art.

My, that was a good year.

I went to the movies. A lot.
Jan 16-Jackie Brown
Jan 19-Good Will Hunting
Jan 25-Titanic
Jan 31-Fast, Cheap and Out of Control
Feb 1-Amistad
Feb 10-The Tango Lesson
Feb 14-Mrs Brown; L.A. Confidential
Feb 15-Afterglow; Ma vie en Rose
Feb 16-The Apostle
And that was just the first two months.

I took JEOPARDY! test #1 on April 29.

I went on a two-week vacation in May. I don’t know that I’ve been on a two-week vacation since. I went to the Motown museum and a Tigers game in Detroit; and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland on one train trip. I visited the Capitol and other landmarks and took JEOPARDY! test #2 in Washington, DC on a second train trip. I love the train.

Saw LOTS of music in the summer. Many are local band (Burners UK, Hair of the Dog), but I also saw Maddy Prior, Cyril Neville, the Glenn Miller group, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Rickie Lee Jones. Then on August 9, I went to SPAC for the Newport Folk Festival, featuring Lyle Lovett, Joan Baez, Nanci Griffith, Bela Fleck, Bruce Cockburn, Alison Krauss, Marc Cohn, Lucinda Williams, and others; a great day.

I had two conferences in September. At the ASBDC conference in Savannah, GA, my father drove down from Charlotte, NC and hung out with me and a couple of my friends the first two days. THE best time I ever had with my father. Then the SBDC conference was in Niagara Falls; I love the falls. And I walked to NF, Ontario.

The JEOPARDY! broadcast party was November 9. Later that month, my attempts to re-woo Carol, which began in earnest in August, proved successful, and we got married the following May.

Music, movies, travel, love. Even a modicum of fame. That was a great year.

May your 2010, and mine, be as fruitful.

ROG

Roger Answers Your Question, Scott

Our next contestant is Scott, husband of Marcia (no, not my sister), father of Nigel and, since September 22 of Ian:

Who’s going to win the NL pennant, the AL pennant, and eventually the World Series?

I thought in the beginning of the season the Red Sox would be the AL wild card but would get to the Series. Not feeling it any more. While the Angels COULD beat them, I got to think that the Yankees just seem too solid to lose.

Did you happen to read that cover story about Detroit in Sports Illustrated this week? I REALLY will be rooting for the Tigers, but I’m not seeing it happening. If it did, I’d be happy – shades of 1968. (Off topic: BREAK UP THE LIONS!)

I don’t see the NL wild card (probably Colorado, though I’d prefer the Giants) winning the pennant. The Phillies have an unreliable closer and leave too many on base. Certainly can make the case for the Dodgers, but I’ll go with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Want to say Cards win the Series – shades of 1964 – but I think the Yankees, shut out of the postseason last year, are ticked off enough to win it all – shades of 1928 and 1943.

Is there an entertainer (singer, musician, actor, all, etc.) that you first couldn’t understand why they were even in the business, but now admire their work?

Yeah. Almost any singer-songwriter whose singing voice isn’t pretty; the first is Bob Dylan, who I first knew as a singer, long before I heard that he wrote all of those songs that other people performed. Then I thought that he should ONLY be a songwriter. But given the number of Dylan albums in my collection, evidently I’ve changed my mind.

To a lesser degree, Neil Young: his voice wasn’t as harsh as Dylan’s so I did not have as far to travel to get to owning well over a dozen Neil albums, just as I own numerous Dylan discs.

Given how the media has access to so much information and gets to see so much of a famous person’s life, do you think it’s best to always steer clear of them being accepted as role models?

I think young actors and athletes and musicians are ill-served. If there was some sort of mechanism that said that when you reach a certain level of the profession you seek, you need some sort of counseling to make sure your head is on straight. I’m thinking of folks like the Mets’ Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, who had too much money too quickly and screwed themselves up.

But everybody is a role model for someone. One can refuse to accept it – was it Charles Barkley who said that he wasn’t role model for anyone? – but it doesn’t alter the fact that he is. I’m a role model, you’re a role model, even if we’re unaware. And you don’t even know when one’s going to become a role model. The Phillies fan who catches a foul ball, hands the ball to his daughter who throws it back, then hugs his daughter; he’s a role model. Now if he chewed out his daughter instead, he’d STILL be a role model, albeit not a very good one.

On the other side of this, who that is famous do you think is a good example of a good role model?

There are lots of athletes and performers who work for their various charities, sometimes with limited publicity nationally. That said, I’ve always been impressed with Bill Russell (Boston Celtics) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Milwaukee Bucks, LA Lakers) for the way they carry themselves. Kareem is also a JEOPARDY! winner – actually the week before I won – so that’s also a plus. BTW, he’s going to be on JEOPARDY! this season in a million-dollar celebrity invitational; someone’s favorite charity will receive one million dollars at the end of the season.

What is your favorite show that is not shown on one of the big four networks (and Jeopardy!, though syndicated, counts as a big network show, since it’s always found on one of their local affiliates)?

Scott, with that caveat, you know me too well. Actually, don’t mind watching some of the daughter’s shows such as Jack’s Big Music Show (Noggin). But I suppose I’ll pick The Closer on TNT; once you realize it’s not a whodunit, but rather how the team discerns it, it’s much more interesting. There were a couple particularly moving episodes this summer.

That said, there are SO many shows out there that I might be interested in watching, I pretty much say “no” more often than “yes” lately. Even in this new season, I’ve taped only three new network shows (Glee; The Good Wife – strong cast; and Modern Family) and I haven’t watched ANY of them yet. My wife started watching Glee with Lydia – she mistakenly thought it was child-friendly.

You might have posted this already and I missed it, but had Lydia been a boy, what were your choices for a name?

Had to ask the wife. She claims we agreed on Micah, but I’m not convinced. Sounds too much like the ever-popular Michael. In all likelihood, the child would still be called Male Child Green.

ROG