One of my favorite books in college was Neil Steinberg's "If At All Possible Involve a Cow," a history of college pranks. The book gave a general history of college pranking, but it also featured detailed chapters on U of Wisconsin, Madison's Pail and Shovel Party, and Caltech's Ditch Day. It was from that chapter on Ditch Day that I developed my Dichotometric Theory of Trivia Writing. Just as there are two types of hacks, there are two types of trivia quizzes: the Finesse, and the Brute Force.
Finesse style quizzes have some kind of theme, or the questions are particularly clever. A Brute Force quiz is just a list of questions. The Quiz Blogger's BH quizzes are one example of a Brute Force quiz. He loads up wikipedia, or brings out a stack of magazines, or pulls out his notebook, and he writes questions until he stops. Boom: a quiz! I wish I had the discipline to write like that.
You can semi-finesse them, by throwing in a few questions on a topic, or having a running gag, but for the most part, they're just a list of questions.
I'm a very poor writer, as this blog surely attests. I have difficulty putting words on paper. I wanted to be a radio commentator when I grew up, because I'm quick-witted and I can talk very well. That was not to be. Right now, within my pointy little coconut, I have ideas for about 100 different quizzes and questions. But I haven't written them down because I don't have the habit of writing them down, and so, like many a brilliant idea, they languish.
So, let's see if we can break that habit. Here is a quiz. The questions were pulled mostly from the October 20, 2006 issue of Entertainment Weekly. I wrote them just now. Enjoy.
1. Who played runner Steve Prefontaine in the 1997 biopic "Prefontaine"?
2. Writer Mary Orr, who died in September of pneumonia at age 94, wrote the short story which inspired which Best Picture Oscar winner?
3. For what 3 films (which all have single-word titles) has Waren Beatty received Best Original Screenplay Oscar nominations (in all cases shared with co-writers)?
4. What author received an 8-million dollar advance for his second novel "Thirteen Moons," based on the success of his first novel "Cold Mountain"?
5. What dictator is the subject of the biopic "The Last King of Scotland" & who plays him?
6. What queen is the subject of Sena Jeter Naslund's historical novel "Abundance"?
7. Who plays author Truman Capote in the 2006 film "Infamous," having earlier provided the voice of Dobby the House Elf in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"?
8. What playwright is played by Jack Nicholson in the 1981 film "Reds"?
9. Who won an Oscar for her portrayal of anarchist Emma Goldman in the film "Reds"?
10. What is the name of the fictional sketch comedy show which is the setting for the NBC comedy "30 Rock"?
11. What is the name of the fictional sketch comedy show which is the setting for the NBC drama "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip"?
12. What fictional prison was the setting of the FOX series "Prison Break"?
13. What is the title of the 13th and final book in Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events"?
14. Co-written with David E. Talbert, "Love Don't Live Here No More" is the debut novel for what rapper?
15. "The Man Who Saved Britain" by Simon Winder is a memoir/sociological history of what fictional character?
And finally, since I think there should be more trivia questions about prescription drugs, here's one from the advertisements:
What is Bristol-Myers-Squibb's brand name for the bipolar disorder treatment drug aripiprazole?
Answers to all questions can be found in the comments section.