My non-trivial Trivia Night launches next week

a question mark
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Expect mind-bending local knowledge sharing, conviviality and a twist or two. Sign up to attend Wallace’s new monthly Trivia Nights, at Abbott Square, here.

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I got a problem with the word “trivia.”

Actually, it’s not so much with the word itself, but what it has come to mean. “Trivia,” we all know, is what we call insignificant or unimportant information or knowledge. It’s factoids or arcana that has little or no use in our daily lives.

But, wait a second. Technically, the etymology of “trivia” comes from the Latin name of the conjunction where three roads meet — which would make for an excellent trivia question, come to think of it. But there is another term, “the Trivium,” dating back to the Middle Ages that refers to the three fundamentals of a classical education as defined by the ancient Greeks: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. That roughly translates to what we used to call “the three R’s,” the essential building blocks of what it means to be educated. In fact, even though the word “trivial” is older, the term “trivia” only became popular a little more than 100 years ago, thanks to a popular-ish book with that title, full of random observations and aphorisms.

“Trivia” means what it means, and there’s no way we can change that now. But could it be that the term evolved into exactly the opposite of what it was intended to mean? Could it be that we think of trivia as the silly door knocker, when it’s actually the pillars on which the house rests?

I bring all this up 1) as a way to give trivia a bit more respect than it usually it gets, but, more to the point, 2) as a preamble to invite the public to a new event that Lookout is sponsoring and I will be hosting, a free Trivia Night to take place Tuesday, July 26 at Abbott Square in downtown Santa Cruz.

Just as the word has evolved, so too has the concept of trivia events. These days, such events are largely held at bars or restaurants on a weekly basis, and, as fun as these events can be, they often are all about winning and losing. As your host for the event, I want to do something a bit different — I want to start a conversation, get people talking about the content of our questions, make them see trivia as a kind of gateway into learning more about the world.

Certainly, in this Internet-dominant, pandemic-panicked world, meeting new people and developing social circles are harder than ever. Public events can serve a crucial role in what most of us secretly long for, but often don’t give a priority: finding new friends. Unlike a performance or a movie, your job at a trivia contest is not to sit there quietly, but to interact, to engage with strangers, to reveal a bit of your personality – if you want to; at our event, active participation is encouraged but certainly not mandatory.

Our event will tackle a broad variety of topics, but note that we’ll focus specifically on areas of interest in Santa Cruz County, the Monterey Bay, and California generally. We probably won’t ask you what the unit of currency is in Uzbekistan (that would be the“so’m,” of course). But we might ask you, what is the county seat ofPlacer County? (nope, not Placerville).

We’re planning to do it monthly, into the fall. If you like trivia contests, either as a participant or spectator, but might be turned off by the competitive vibe, or the mandate to consume more beer and/or pizza, please come by. Help us build something here, a new opportunity to fight back against the isolating and dehumanizing effects of modern life, or at least a way to meet new people and learn new things.

To give you a taste of what we’re planning, here’s a few questions that are anything but trivial:

The European Limax Cinereoniger is the largest species of its kind in the world. But the second largest is a common sight in the coastal ecosystem all along the Northern California coast. What is that local species better known as?

A) The eucalyptus tree
B) The banana slug
C) Ice plant
D) The skateboarder who ignores traffic signals

The world’s most famous Seattle-based coffee chain almost went by a very different name, before deciding on a reference from Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick.” What was the original name of Starbucks?

A) Pequod
B) Cargo House
C) Ahab’s
D) McCoffee

What number-one pop hit and classic Baby Boomer wedding song began as an ad jingle for a bank commercial in 1970?

A) “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”
B) “You Are So Beautiful”
C) “We’ve Only Just Begun”
D) “Mama Told Me Not to Come”

What “Bad” actor once spent a summer as a performer at Shakespeare Santa Cruz?

A) Billy Bob Thornton of “Bad Santa”
B) Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad”
C) Clint Eastwood of “The Good, The Bad & the Ugly”
D) McLovin of “Superbad”

The Catalyst nightclub, first opened in 1966, has been in three locations on or near Pacific Avenue. What kind of business was in its current location before it became the present-day Catalyst?

A) A bowling alley
B) A skating rink
C) A kitchen appliance store

Think you know the answers? Drop us a line and tell what you know. We’ll share the answers in our next Weekender newsletter. And save the date July 26 at Abbott Square. The fun gets started at 6:30 p.m. Register today and get more event details here.

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