Un-Believable!!

Creative Chart

I am always extremely humbled and honoured when anyone takes any interest in the art of graphic score composing, which is a mostly avant-garde and, some might say, arcane art form (read: of value to almost no one outside of a few creatives around the world). I never planned to be a graphic score composer, a person who invented their form of musical notation with its own system of rules. But one thing led to another and years later here I am again, shocked and amazed at the news that an innovative London educational initiative supported by the Royal College of Music and Royal Albert Hall has mentioned my work in one of their educational resources!!

“CONVO”, a compositional workshop/rehearsal resource pack published through the Tri-borough Music Hub includes a section on music notation and lists my work “CHOLLOBHAT” as a “great example” of a graphic score. I am not one of those people who ever thought anything I did would garner attention like that. As a saxophonist you play in public, sure, which is getting paid for getting people to come to a place and pay attention to you. As an ethnomusicologist you get people to pay attention to the facts contained in your research in classes, articles, and speeches. But “attention attention”, as in recognition for what others see as notable qualities in the work in itself? And residents of London are being taught this as part of their musical education, with support from the Royal College of Music? Unbelievable! I am just a small town Canadian prairie kid, who grew up in the middle of nowhere in freezing cold winters.

Let this be the takeaway lesson: ALWAYS be yourself… you NEVER know when what it is you believe in will help others be themselves and stand behind what they believe in. And it is NEVER too late to start…

R.I.P. Mary Alexander (1927 – 2019)

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Today I have just discovered that Mary Lyerly Alexander has passed away on August 31st at the age of 92. She was an active Philadelphian patron of jazz music and the arts, and was particularly active in the preservation of Coltrane House, where she lived briefly with her cousin John Coltrane, the legendary jazz saxophonist. Alexander is most famous amongst jazz musicians though for being the woman Coltrane named his song “Cousin Mary” after (one of the stand out tracks from his album Giant Steps).

“Cousin Mary” is one of my favorite songs to play, a mid tempo altered form blues that really bubbles and swings, so I thought I would put it up on the blog today as a tribute to Mary and to introduce the song to you if you have not heard it before. R.I.P. Mary, and thanks for supporting jazz all these years.

LOST IN SPACE: Original Series Quiz.

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As I mentioned in the first post of my Twilight Zone Quiz, one of the great joys of living in a digitally advanced age is having access to high quality copies of old media, in particular my favorite science fiction television shows from the 1960s: The Twilight ZoneThe Outer Limits, Star Trek, and Lost In Space. That is over 300 episodes of good old fashioned TV! Since I wanted to do something special this year, I thought it would be fun for all you fans of trivia games to have a giant list of questions you can break out at (nerd) parties and really test your friends’ knowledge of the three series’.

Having memorized a lot of Monty Python’s Flying Circus dialogue when I was younger, I discovered the secret to developing a deep knowledge of a show was to begin by having a solid framework on which to hang more obscure details. That meant knowing something about each single episode in a way that helped me remember which was which, so I didn’t have to remember the episode numbers: using images, names and such as mnemonics. So continuing on from my Twilight Zone trivia posts let’s have some fun with the old shows, and I hope you enjoy all this. If you can watch and remember some small bit from every episode of a series then you are equipped to ace any sci-fi trivia contest that goes anywhere near the 1960s. And as Professor Farnsworth always says, “Good news, everyone!” I will also be including FUTURAMA, Space:1999 and (the original) Battlestar Galactica trivia as a bonus for all you super nerds out there who share my love of these shows.

This time we will be going through all three seasons of the campy sci-fi adventure show Lost In Space (1966 – 1968). Though it started as an adventure show, its fantastical plots and exaggerated characters (such as the evil, humorously ineffective Dr. Smith) soon turned it into a camp/fantasy show, similar to Bat Man, which was on the air during the same period. One such example of this is “The Great Vegetable Rebellion” wherein Dr. Smith is turned into a poetic, tree hugging celery-being by Tybo, a half man/half carrot.

  • What is the name of the ship? The Jupiter 2.

2. What organization oversees its journey? Alpha Control. What is its mission? To colonize the planet Alpha Centauri.

3. What year does the Jupiter 2 launch? 1997. Who are its occupants? The Robinson family: Professor John, his wife Maureen, daughters Judy and Penny, and young son Will, a pilot (Major Don West), the endlessly scheming and incompetent Dr. Zachary Smith, and an assistant robot.

4. Why are the Robinson family actually lost in space? Dr. Smith (working as a saboteur for an unnamed foreign power), programs the mission’s robot assistant to destroy the ship after it has launched. Why is he also lost in space? He is accidentally trapped onboard the Jupiter 2 when it launches.

5. What phrase do the majority of the series’ episodes begin with?” Last week… as you’ll recall…” Narrator Dick Tufeld was also known for what role on the show? The voice of the Robot. What is Dr. Smith’s catch phrase throughout the series? “Pain…the pain!” What is Smith’s recurring excuse for getting out of any and all work? His back is always “feeling delicate.”

5.5 What is the end goal of Dr. Smith’s ongoing (and inevitably poorly thought out) nefarious schemes throughout the series? To return to Earth. Smith constantly insults the The Robot using what literary technique? Alliteration (the repetition of initial letter sounds in neighboring words, e.g. mechanical monster, traitorous tintabulation, etc.). 

6. What is the official yet hardly used name of the robot’? B9 (“benign”). What is B9’s unofficial catchphrase (though he only uses it once during the series)? “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!” Bob May, the actor who wore the Robot suit, appeared in an episode of the television series The Time Tunnel as what real life dictator? Adolph Hitler.

6.5 What is the name of Penny Robinson’s pet alien? Debbie the Bloop. What real life animal was used for the character? A chimpanzee wearing a special headpiece and diaper, both made of fur.

7. What award was the first episode nominated for? An Emmy (for special effects).

8. What legendary sci fi film composer wrote the theme song and music for several episodes? John Williams (Star Wars), credited as “Johnny Williams”.

9. In “The Oasis”, how does Dr. Smith use the last of the water supplies he steals from the Robinsons? He takes a leisurely shower (assisted by The Robot holding a hose).

10. In “The Sky Is Falling” what toy do the alien child and Will Robinson play with? A ball that flies and returns like a boomerang. Guest actor Don Matheson (Letho) also appeared in the episode “Revolt of The Androids” as what character? IDAK Alpha 12.

11. In “Wish Upon A Star” what is the final “item” Dr. Smith conjures before the alien takes away his wish-granting machine? A butler.

12. In Episode 12 (“The Raft”) what planet does Dr. Smith think he and Will have crash landed on? Earth. Where have they actually landed? Priplanis, the planet from which they left.

13. What “alien monster” is Dr. Smith afraid of in Episode 13? A small dog.

14. In “Attack of the Monster Plants” what monster steals the Robinson’s fuel? A plant controlled clone of Judy.

15. In “Return From Outer Space” what planet is Will transported to? Earth. In what U.S. state does Will land? Vermont.

16. What other TV show did Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris) and The Keeper (Michael Rennie) appear in together, other than in the Lost In Space episodes “The Keeper” (Part 1 and 2)? The Third Man.

17. In “The Keeper: Part 2” what “monster” is left behind by The Keeper as a punishment for the Robinson family? Dr. Smith.

18. “The Sky Pirate” guest actor (Albert Salmi) also appeared in episodes of what other 60’s sci-fi themed anthology show? The Twilight Zone. What tragic real life crime did Salmi commit? Murder-suicide (his wife).

19. In “Ghost In Space” how does Dr. Smith try to contact his Uncle Thaddeus? With a ouija board. Trivia: the ouija board started out as a 19th century ideo-motorological parlour game until it was adopted as a spiritual tool by occultists.

20. In “War of The Robots” what famous cinematic robot appears as an unnamed alien nemesis for B9? Robbie The Robot. What movie is Robbie most well known for known for? The Forbidden Planet. What real world connection do B9 and Robbie have? They were both designed by art director Robert Kinoshita. What emotion does this alien robot create in B9? Jealousy, as Robbie is technologically superior to him. Which character does not appear in the episode? Penny, as actress Angela Cartwright was elsewhere filming parts of the next episode (“the Magic Mirror”).

21. Which character does not appear in “The Magic Mirror”? Will (Billy Mumy), as he was back on the main set with the rest of the cast filming scenes for the previous episode “War of The Robots”. Which classic Twilight Zone episode made Billy Mumy a sci fi icon? “It’s A Good Life,” wherein he played a malevolent six year old who terrorizes a small Ohio town with his supernatural powers. What other 60s TV series’ did guest actor Michael J. Pollard (the boy Penny meets in the mirror) appear in? Star Trek and The Andy Griffith Show.

22. Which soon-to-be-famous actor plays the young boy (Quano) in “The Challenge”? Kurt Russell. Michael Ansara, the actor that played Quano’s father (“The Ruler”), also appeared in what other sci fi series? As “Killer” Kane in Buck Rogers in The 21st Century, and the Klingon Commander Kang in Star Trek (one of the first three Klingons to appear on Star Trek, along with John Calicos, who also played the traitor Baltar on the original Battlestar Galactica series). What is actor Jonathan Harris’s connection to John Colicos and Battlestar Galactica? He voiced Baltar’s robot subordinate Lucifer. At the end of the episode what does The Robot express personal disgust for? Dr. Smith’s abstract painting (which Smith refers to as his masterpiece).

23. “The Space Trader” guest actor Torin Thatcher appeared in a 1937 staging of Hamlet with which actor (playing the role for the first time)? Lawrence Olivier. Thatcher also appeared as Marplon in which Star Trek episode? “Return of the Archons.”

24. What is the name of the planet in “His Majesty Smith”? Andronica. What object does Will find that Dr. Smith convinces him to relinquish? A crown. How do the Robinsons come to suspect something is wrong with Smith? He (his clone) starts working hard, behaving kindly, and asking the Robinsons to affectionately call him “Daddy Zach”. Thousands of viewers called CBS the evening that this episode was postponed due to what major event? Live coverage of an actual spaceship (the Gemini VIII splashdown).

25. In “The Space Croppers” what creature attacks Penny, Will, and Dr. Smith? A werewolf. What makes Judy jealous? The farmer’s daughter (Effra) flirts with Don.

26. In “All That Glitters” what does Dr. Smith accidentally turn Penny into? A platinum statue.

27. In “The Lost Civilization” what leads Don, John, and Will to the cave where they find the underground city? They are looking for potable water. Child actress Kym Karath (the princess) is most well known for her appearance as the youngest child (hint: “Gretl”) of a certain family in what iconic movie? The Sound of Music. What other Lost In Space actress also appeared in The Sound of Music? Angela Cartwright (Penny), as Brigitta.

28. In “A Change of Space” what happens to Dr. Smith at the beginning of the episode? He falls into a pit of cosmic dust. What effects does the six dimension traveling space ship have on Will and Dr. Smith? It makes Will a genius and Smith a frail old man.

29. In “Follow The Leader” the alien spirit gives John Robinson the technical knowledge to do what? Repair the Jupiter 2. What similarity does this episode have with the movie Return of The Jedi? The ending involves a father refusing to kill his son while under the influence of a dark force. Trivia: though the next episode is the first color episode, the epilogue of “Follow The Leader” is actually the first moment Lost In Space is seen in color. What color are The Robot’s claws? Red.

30. “Blast Off Into Space”, the first episode of season 2, is known for what distinction? It is the first full episode in color. What colors are John and Maureen’s uniforms? Green and yellow. What colors are the Robinson children’s uniforms? Yellow and scarlet. What is the name of the monument Dr. Smith erects in his own honor? “Spirit of Space” (to celebrate his “contributions” to space exploration!). Why does the statue come alive? Will and Smith accidentally spill cosmonium on it (a rare substance that contains the quintessence of Life).

31. In “Wild Adventure” Dr. Smith is lured outside the ship by a strange alien woman named Lorelei. When Lorelei first appears, how does she communicate? By sighing and singing. Later on in the series she returns in what episode? “The Girl From The Green Dimension.” What is her name in that episode? Athena. Actress Vitina Graham (Lorelei/Athena) retired from acting in 1986 and became successful in what business? Real estate.

32. At the beginning of “The Ghost Planet” Dr. Smith thinks the ship is burning up. What is actually happening? The ship is emitting “St. Elmo’s Fire” (luminous plasma). Why is this an actual real-world science mistake? St. Elmo’s Fire is emitted from pointy objects, yet the ship is rounded. What is the name of the robot that greets and attacks B9? Officer 0-9 (oh-nine). What does 0-9 offer Dr. Smith a great treasure in exchange for? The Robinson family’s weapons. What is Smith then forced to do? Work on an assembly line.

33. What is the name of the reclusive humanoid in “Forbidden World”? Tiabo. How does Dr. Smith turn himself into a living bomb? He drinks what he thinks is a “marvelous beverage” which turns out to be explosive. Actor Willy Cox (Tiabo) plays which three characters in the episode? Tiabo, General Andos, and an unnamed army officer. What is the secret Tiabo is hiding? What happens after Dr. Smith casually mentions the highest tribute one human can pay to another is sacrifice their own personal safety? B9 decides to blow Smith up by attaching a cable to his belt and running a charge through it via an old-fashioned plunger detonator. How does B9 decide to test the effectiveness of the antidotal pills Smith takes at the last moment? He presses the detonator. Willy Cox was close friends with which super-iconic actor? Marlon Brando.

34. In “Space Circus” (as he does in all episodes) what happens when Dr. Smith is confronted with sudden danger? He shrieks. As a part of Dr. Marvello’s amazing space circus, what does Nubu The Magnificent juggle? Cosmic forces. What trick does he perform for the Robinsons? Makes his own head disappear. For the first time in the series The Robot and Smith do what? Sing (B9) and sing/dance (Smith). What song do they perform? “Tip-Toe Through The Tulips.” Actor James Westerfield (Dr. Marvello) was once room-mates with fellow actor George Reeves, who himself was famous for what iconic role? Superman (the 1950s TV version). Actress Melinda O. Fee (Fenestra The Queen of Mystery) is most well known for her role as Mrs. Webber in what famous horror movie? Nightmare on Elm Street 2.

35. Like the first couple of episodes of the series, “The Prisoners of Space” uses what? Previously filmed footage from the pilot or Season One. What organization is investigating the Robinson’s for various crimes? The Galactic Tribunal of Justice. What crime is Major West accused of? Leaving a “contaminated” wrench floating in space.

36. In “The Android Machine” Dr. Smith accidentally (and unknowingly) orders an android named Verda from what? A giant vending machine owned by The Intergalactic Department Store. How much does she cost? 100 “thalastros.” What happens when Dr. Smith continues to tamper with the vending machine? He ends being stuck in a muskateer costume he can’t remove. Verda teaches Will and Penny about the first creature to explore outer space. What was his name? Formale (“for-mall”). Actress Dee Hartford (Verda) and actor Fritz Feld (Mr. Zumdish) share what connection to the Marx Brothers? Hartford is the former sister-in-law of Groucho Marx, and Feld appeared in the 1939 Marx film At The Circus. Hartford also appeared in the Twilight Zone episode “The Bewitchin’ Pool,” which is known for being what? The last episode of the series.

37. In “The Deadly Games of Gamma 6” what are the gladiatorial Gamma “Games” actually meant to be? A way to covertly test the strength of a shadowy alien leader’s enemies. What makes Smith think he is almost guaranteed a victory in the games? He is to fight a little person (Geoo). What is Smith’s fighting name? “Tiger Smith.” What does Smith discover to his great chagrin? Geoo can turn invisible. What will happen should Dr. Smith lose? Earth will be invaded by aliens. Actor Mike Kellin (Myko) appeared in the Twilight Zone episode “The Thirty Fathom Grave” as which character? A Navy sailor driven insane by survivor’s guilt. Actor Peter Brocco (the alien leader) was not able to work as an actor for a period of time due what? Being blacklisted (considered a possible Communist sympathizer/agent) in Hollywood during the McCarthy era). Brocco is also one of a very few villain actors with what distinction? Being killed off in two different episodes of the 50s television version of Superman.

38. In “The Thief From Outer Space” what three tasks must Will endlessly repeat to keep the alien furnace running? Pedal a stationary bike, work a giant set of bellows, and spin a large wheel. What mistake does actor Billy Mumy (Will) make during the initial furnace scene? At one point he pedals the bike backwards. What title does the thief dub Will? Assistant thief. How does the thief threaten Dr. Smith during his interrogation? Death via a giant razor-sharp pendulum. The thief’s personal slave is played by 6’9” actor Ted Cassidy, who became famous for what iconic character in what other 60s television series’? Lurch in The Addams Family. Cassidy also did some narration for what 70s sci fi show? Battlestar Galactica (Cassidy voiced the Imperious Leader for some (deleted) scenes in the pilot before Patrick Mcnee was hired for the series). What connection do Malachi Throne (the thief) and Ted Cassidy have in common? They both appeared in episodes of Star Trek. Throne appeared on the 60s television version of Batman as what villain? Falseface.

39. In “Curse of Cousin Smith” what is Will almost injured by at the beginning of the episode? A falling suitcase. Why is Dr. Smith terrified to see the visitor? The visitor is his cousin, who is secretly hell-bent on killing him. Why? In order to inherit a fortune from Smith’s late aunt. How does Cousin Smith first try and kill Dr. Smith? With an explosive pie. How are Cousin Smith and Dr. Smith almost killed at the end of the episode? By a malevolent mobile slot machine. What is Dr. Smith’s favorite food? “Space” ragout with mushrooms.

40. In “West of Mars” what is unique about Zeno, the interstellar gunslinger? He is Dr. Smith’s mirror double. Actor Allen Melvin (Space Enforcer Claudius) played multiple characters on many television series during the 60s. On Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. he played which reoccurring character? Sgt. Hacker, the camp mess sergeant who tries (and completely fails) to teach Gomer the basics of preparing a meal. What legendary 1950s pin-up girl is interred in the grave beside Melvin’s? Bettie Page.

 

 

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The Twilight Zone Quiz: Part Two

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Twilight Zone Quiz: Part Two

(for more information, see Part One)

87). In “A Piano in the House”, where does Fitzgerald Fortune buy the enchanted piano? Throckmorton’s Curio Shop. The actor who played Fortune (Barry Morse) appeared in what 1970s sci-fi TV show? Space:1999. Which lead character in Space: 1999 also appeared in several Twilight Zone episodes, and eventually became a legendary film actor? Martin Landau.

88). In “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank”, what unnatural act does Myrtlebank commit? He returns to life at his own funeral. What legendary movie actor appears as a background extra in this episode? Alan Alda.

89). In “To Serve Man”, what is the name of the alien culture? Kanamites. What 7 foot tall actor from the episode also played a villain in a James Bond film? Richard Kiel. What plot twist from the episode has become an iconic pop culture reference? The technical manual on how to be of service to Mankind is actual a cookbook on how to prepare and serve humans as food.

90). In “The Fugitive”, who does the elderly man (“Old Ben”) turn out to be? An alien king. How long is his reign? 5000 years.

91). In “Little Girl Lost”, where is the girl lost? In a parallel dimension. What is the girl’s name? Tina.

92). In “Person or Persons Unknown”, what does Dr. Koslenko tell Gurney when he arrives at the insane asylum? That “David Gurney” doesn’t exist. Who is it that actually doesn’t exist? The person he thought was his wife.

93). In “The Little People”, how does space explorer Peter Craig learn to communicate with the tiny people? Through mathematics. How does Craig crush the city of the tiny people? With the head of a statue dedicated to him. What does Craig yell at the giant alien explorers before they unintentionally crush him? “I am the god, don’t you understand? I am the god!”

94). In “Four O’Clock”, how does paranoid shut-in Crangle plan to deal with all the (supposedly) evil people? By shrinking them to two feet tall. What is the one word Crangle’s parrot keeps calling out? “Nut!”

95). In “Hocus-Pocus and Frisby”, why do the aliens kidnap Frisby? They overhear him lying about having eight doctoral degrees. What musical instrument terrifies the aliens? A harmonica.

96). In “The Trade-Ins”, which of the married couple want to trade in their body? The husband. How long does he have before the procedure is irreversible? One week.

97). In “The Gift”, what is the gift that the alien gives the little Mexican boy? A vaccine against cancer. What is the boy’s name? Pedro.

98). In “The Dummy”, what is the dummy’s name? Willie. The actor who played the ventriloquist’s agent was a Sergeant on which well-known 60s TV show? Gomer Pyle. Who was the actor and what was his character’s name? Frank Sutton/Sgt. Vince Carter.

99). In “Young Man’s Fancy”, what happens to Alex Walker as he spends more and more time in his deceased mother’s house? He becomes a boy again. Sfter meeting and re-bonding with his ghostly mother, what does he eventually tell his wife? “Go away lady – we don’t need you any more.”

100). The episode “I Sing The Body Electric” was originally a script for The Twilight Zone before it became a short story by which iconic sci-fi writer? Ray Bradbury. What is the name of the family’s new domestic robot? “Grandma.” Whoch family member does not bond with Grandma? The oldest daughter.

101). In “Cavender is Coming”, which famous 1970s comedic television actress plays clumsy Ms. Agnes Grep ? Carol Burnett. What department of Heaven does Cavender work for? 3rd Celestial Division Angel Placement.

102). In “The Changing of the Guard”, what subject does Professor Fowler teach at the prep school? English. Who is the statue an image of? American educational reformer Horace Mann.

103). The first episode of the fourth season (“In His Image”) was the first in the series that was what? An hour long. What is the result of the final fight between Walter and his doppelganger android Alan? Walter secretly takes Alan’s place in life and convinces Alan’s fiancé that everything has gone back to normal.

104). What 1980s Marvel hero actor appears in “The Thirty-Fathom Grave”? Bill Bixby. What was the 1980s show? The Incredible Hulk. What island did the submarine sink near? Guadalcanal.

105). In “Valley of the Shadow”, where is the small town Redfield gets held captive by aliens? Peaceful Valley, New Mexico. Why is he eventually allowed to leave town? Because his memory of the previous days has been erased.

106). What soon-to-be legendary actor appears in “He’s Alive” as a young white supremacist named Vollmer? Dennis Hopper. Who teaches Vollmer how to enthrall a crowd? An undercover Adolph Hitler.

107). In “Mute”, why is Ilse considered mute? Because she was raised to only communicate telepathically as part of a secret experiement. Why does Ilse cry at the end of the episode? Telepathy has become confusing mental white noise to her.

108). What is the designation of the space ship in “Death Ship”? E-89. What year is the episode set in? 1997. The spaceship used in the episode is a left over from what 1950s sci-fi movie? The Forbidden Planet.

109). The writer of Episode 107 (“Jess-Belle”) also wrote and directed what 1970s western family show? The Waltons. What other Twilight Zone episode did Anne Francis star in, other than this one? “The After Hours.”

110). What iconic movie actor plays a person obsessed with a museum dollhouse in “Miniature”? Robert Duvall. What is he looking through at the end of the episode? A stereoscope.

111). In ‘Printer’s Devil”, what is the name of the newspaper? The Courier. Which paper is putting The Courier out of business? The Gazette.

112). In “No Time Like The Past”, what is the subject of the conversation around the dinner table that infuriates Paul? American imperialism. What happens when Paul travels back in time and tries to stop the schoolhouse fire? He discovers he is the one who causes it by trying to stop it from occurring.

113). In “The Parallel”, Major Gaines has what rank when he returns to Earth? Colonel. Who is the first person to recognize Gaines is not the same person as before. His daughter.

114). Character actor Howard Morris appears as George Hanley in the episode entitled “I Dream of Genie”. What character did he play in a legendary TV skit with Carl Reiner and Sid Caesar? “Uncle Goopy” (in “This is Your Life” on Your Show of Shows). What was the name of Hanley’s dog? Attila.

115). In “The New Exhibit”, wax figure attendant Senescu is played by which famous character actor? Martin Balsam. What movie role was Balsam most notable for playing? Detective Arbogast in Pyscho.

116). In “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville”, who does Miss Devlin turn out to be? The Devil. Who played Miss Devlin and what role is she famous for? Julie Newmar, Catwoman on the 60s TV series Batman.

117). In “The Incredible World of Horace Ford”, what toy is Ford designing at the beginning of the episode? A robot. What childhood friend does Ford start seeing over and over? Hermie.

118). In “On Thursday We Leave For Home”, what planet was the human colony built on? V9-Gammayear. When was the colony built? 1991. Who is its leader? Captain Benteen. The rescue ship and its crew’s uniforms were leftover items from what famous 50s sci-fi film? The Forbidden Planet.

119). In “Passage on the Lady Anne”, what is the ship is revealed to be? A transport for the elderly from Life into the Afterlife.

120). What iconic TV and movie actor appears in “The Bard” as a pretentious Marlon Brando-esque actor? Burt Reynolds. What is the episode a satire of? The contemporary American television industry of which The Twlight Zone was a part of.

121). In “In Praise of Pip” stars actor Jack Klugman. What famous 70s television was Klugman the lead actor in? Quincy, M.E.

122). In “Steel”, what well know action star plays washed up ex-boxer/manager Steel Kelly? Lee Marvin. What is the name of Kelly’s obsolete boxing robot? Battling Maxo. What comedic western is Marvin most notable for starring in? Cat Ballou.

123). Which iconic Twilight Zone episode stars William Shatner? “Nightmare at 20, 000 Feet.” What The Simpsons Halloween skit shares the same plot? “Terror at 5 ½ Feet,” involving Bart Simpson and his school bus.

124). In “A Kind of Stopwatch”, what is the lead character’s name? McNulty. Where does he break the watch, and what is he doing at the time? He breaks it in a bank while robbing it.

125). In “The Last Night As A Jockey”, who does disgraced jockey Grady ask for one wish from? His alter ego. What goes wrong? As requested Grady is made taller, but then cannot ride as a jockey when he is suddenly given the opportunity to race again. What famous actor plays Grady? Mickey Rooney.

126). In “Living Doll”, what is the name of the creepy doll? Talky Tina. What famous actor played the part of the father? Telly Savalas. What famous 1970s television detective did Savalas go on to play? Kojak.

127). In “The Old Man in the Cave”, who is the Old Man? A pre-apocalyptic computer. What was the Old Man’s main job? To tell the townsfolk which contained foods and liquids were safe to consume. Along with fellow Twilight Zone actors Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin, the Hollywood actor (who played a military commander in the episode) was known for playing “tough guys”. Who was he? James Coburn.

128). In “Uncle Simon”, what does Barbara’s uncle invent? A robot. The head of the robot repurposed from the prototype of what classic sci-fi character? Robby The Robot, from the film The Forbidden Planet.

129). In “Probe 7, Over and Out”, why is Adam Cook permanently stranded on the alien planet? His spaceship is badly damaged and Earth has destroyed itself in a nuclear war. Why is Eve Norda stranded on the planet? Her home planet was destroyed by leaving its orbit. Why does Eve scratch Adam’s face? She mistakenly feels threatened when Adam picks up a stick.

130). In “The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms”, what are the National Guardsmen doing when they travel back in time to Little Bighorn? Driving a tank in local war games. Why do they first suspect something is strange about their settings? They hear Custer’s battle. How does the National Guard locate the missing soldiers? They find the abandoned tank, and the names of the soldiers on Custer’s national monument.

131). In “A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain”, what goes wrong with Raymond’s youth serum? It turns his brother into a baby. What poetic justice is inadvertently served in the process? By the time Raymond grows up, his young and selfish gold digging wife will be old.

132). In “Ninety Years Without Slumbering”, what will happen to Forstmann if the grandfather clock stops ticking? He will die. How does he cheat death? He stops believing in the clock’s power. In what other Twilight Zone episode did actor Ed Wynn appear as an old man attempting to avoid dying? “One For The Angels”. What episode was it? Number two.

133). In “Ring-a-Ding Girl”, what is the name of the movie actress? Bunny. How does she save her sister and many of the townsfolk? By putting on a show that the townsfolk attend instead of going to an annual picnic where a plane crashes. What is the plot twist at the end? Bunny had appeared supernaturally to her sister and the townsfolk, as she herself was on the plane and died in the crash.

134). In “You Drive”, what kind of car does Oliver Pope drive? A 1956 Ford Fairlane. Why does Pope eventually confess to the hit-and-run? The car has become alive and harasses him into confessing to the police.

135). In The Long Morrow”, how long will Stansfield be in suspended animation on his space voyage? 40 years. How old is he when he departs and then returns? 31 and 71. Due to scientific advances on Earth while Stansfield is gone, how old is Sandra when he leaves and returns? 26.

136). Actor Don Gordon appears in both “The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross” and “the Four of Us Are Dying”, both episodes about a man who can do what? Magically alter his appearance and/or circumstances. Gordon also appeared on what other 60s television show similar to The Twilight Zone? The Outer Limits. In one such episode Gordon plays a disillusioned physicist who does what menial job? “Pilots” a spaceship ride at an amusement park.

137). In “Number 12 Looks Just Like You”, actress Collin Wilcox plays Marilyn, young girl who doesn’t want to go through with governmentally enforced physically and neurological alteration. What is the process called? “The Transformation”. What “model” of altered human is Marilyn afterwards? Number 8.What famous movie role had Wilcox played two years earlier? The plaintiff in To Kill A Mockingbird. What legendary actor and fellow Twilight Zone alumnus made his movie debut in To Kill A Mockingbird? Robert Duvall.

138). In “Black Leather Jackets,” what logo is on the back of the jackets? A black “triple diamond” pattern enclosed in a white circle. What are the biker’s names? Scott, Steve, and Fred. Actor Mike Forest (“Steve”) appeared as which god in the Star Trek episode “Who Mourns for Adonis?” Apollo. Which biker falls in love with Ellen? Scott. What is Scott? An advance scout of an alien invasion force.

139). In what American state does the old lady live in “Night Call”? Maine. Where are the mysterious phone calls coming from? Her long deceased fiancé’s grave (via a downed telephone cable). What is the fiancé’s name? Brian.

140). In “From Agnes – With Love”, what is sentient computer Agne’s official machine name? Mark 502-741. What is Walter using Agnes for? To solve computational problems for Cape Kennedy. Who is Walter’s co-worker that Agnes is jealous of? Millie.

141). In “Spur of the Moment”, what is the woman in black attempting to do? Warn Anne about marrying the wrong man. Whois the woman in black? A future version of the woman in white who is trying to warn her about her upcoming marriage. What does she try and warn Anne about? Eloping with David, rather than marrying Robert.

142). The episode entitled “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge” is the only Twilight Zone episode that was what? A short film made in France. What major prize did it win? Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film (1963).

143). What does episode title “Queen of the Nile”, refer to? The silent movie that unnaturally youthful movie star Pamela Morris first starred in. How does Morris drain her victims of their life force? Using a magic scarab beetle. What is Morris’ real identity? Cleopatra.

144). In “What’s in the Box”, what is Joe Britt’s occupation? Cab driver. What channel shows Britt the past, present, and future? Channel 10. Why did co-star Rose Blondell have a 1932 promotional picture of herself banned under the Motion Picture Production Code? It showed her semi-nude, tastefully positioned behind the back of a chair.

145). In the famous episode “The Masks”, what plot twist occurs at the end? The masks all have worn have permanently altered their faces into ugly visages as punishment for their character flaws (narcissism, cowardice, etc.). Who does Jason say the masks were made by? An old Cajun.

146). In “I Am The Night – Color Me Black”, what supernatural event occurs in the village before the hanging? The sun doesn’t rise at dawn. The sun has also not risen over North Vietnam and the Berlin Wall: why is this. Because they are (like the village) places of hate.

147). In “Sounds and Silences” what kind of business does Flemington own? A model ship company. What annoying activity does Flemington engage in? Listening to military battles (loudly) on his record player.

148). The same dummy that was used in “The Dummy” appears in “Caesar and Me”. Name both dummy characters: Willie and Caesar. What are Caesar’s two supernatural powers? The ability to speak, and the power of suggestion.

149). The episode “The Jeopardy Room” is one of only four episodes that does not feature what? Supernatural or sci-fi elements. Who is Kuchenko? A defecting KGB agent. Where is the bomb located in Kuchenko’s room? The telephone. How is it set off? (Only) when he receives an incoming call.

150). In “Stopover in a Quiet Town”, what is the name of the small, deserted town Bob and Millie can’t escape from? Centerville. What is the town? A giant enclosure where the couple are being keep as pets by a giant child.

151). Why was the episode “The Encounter” (co-starring George Takei) withdrawn from syndication? Because of its (WW2) racial and political overtones. What is Fenton’s prized possession? A samurai sword he obtained by killing a Japanese soldier in WW2 combat. What is the truth about Fenton’s prize? He obtained it by killing a Japanese soldier who had already surrendered.

152). In “Mr. Garrity and the Grave”, what is the name of the small Western town? Happiness. What is the name of the cemetery? Boot Hill. What plot twist is revealed about (charlatan) Garrity at the end of the episode? Unbeknownst to him, he actually can resurrect the dead.

153). In “The Brain Center at Whipple’s”, what is the machine number of the managerial brain machine? X109B14. What turn of events occurs at the end of the episode? Whipple himself is replaced by a machine in the same manner as he laid off his employees and replaced them with machines.

154). The episode “Come Wander with Me” features actress Bonnie Beecher as the love interest of Rock-A-Billy singer Floyd Burney. Beecher also played the love interest of what character in the Star Trek episode “Spectre of the Gun” (Hint: the episode is an alien recreation of the battle at the OK Corral)? Chekov.

155). In “The Fear”, what are the occupations of the two main characters trapped in the cabin? State trooper and fashion editor. What does the giant alien turn out to be? A 500 foot balloon. What is the true source of the mysterious occurrences? Two actual, thumb-sized aliens.

156). Which episode number is “The Bewitchin’ Pool”? Number 156, the final episode of the series. How do Sport and Jeb travel to the secret, hidden homestead? By swimming to the bottom of the family pool. Why do Sport and Jeb permanently return to the homestead? Their parents are getting a divorce, and they do not want to decide which single parent to live with.

Twilight Zone Original Series Quiz

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The Twilight Zone Original Series Quiz

One of the great joys of living in a digitally advanced age is having access to high quality copies of old media, in particular my favorite science fiction television shows from the 1960s. In this case I am referring to The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Star Trek, and Lost In Space. That is over 300 episodes of television, a rich mix of story telling and action. So as I wanted to do something special this year, I thought it would be fun for all you fans of trivia games to have a giant list of questions you can break out at (nerd) parties and really test your friends’ knowledge of the three series’.

Having memorized a lot of Monty Python’s Flying Circus dialogue when I was younger, I discovered the secret to developing a deep knowledge of a show was to begin by having a solid framework on which to hang more obscure details. That meant knowing something about each single episode in a way that helped me remember which was which, so I didn’t have to remember the episode numbers: using images, names and such as mnemonics. So here in 2019 let’s have some fun with the old shows, and I hope you enjoy all this. If you can watch and remember some small bit from every episode of The Twilight Zone, etc.,  then you are equipped to ace any sci-fi trivia contest that goes anywhere near the 1960s. “Good news, everyone!” I will also be including trivia from FUTURAMA, (the original) Battlestar Galactica, and the British sci fi series SPACE: 1999 as a bonus for all you super nerds out there who share my love of the show.

We will start with The Twilight Zone, split into two parts containing around 70 or so questions. If you are a fan of the show, then here is your chance to print off the list, study and memorize it as you watch the various episodes, and then go out and beat anyone at Twilight Zone trivia. They may know a few more obscure details, but no one around will know the show as completely as you.

1). In the premiere episode (“Where Is Everybody?”) what is the first sound you hear? A bell.

2). In the second episode (“One For The Angels”) what is the first object you see on the screen? A toy robot.

3). In “Mr. Denton On Doomsday”, what is the song that Denton must sing in order to get a drink? “The Near Future”, also know by the lyric “how dry I am…”

4). In “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine”, what type of uniform is the lead actress wearing in the movie? A nurse’s uniform.

5). In “Walking Distance” what is the name of the small town Martin Sloan walks to while his car is getting fixed? Homewood.

6). In “Escape Clause” what does the Devil name himself? Mr. Cadwallader.

7). In “The Lonely” what is the name of the female android left behind on the prison asteroid? Alicia.

8). In “Time Enough At Last”, what famous actor plays the bookish main character? Burgess Meredith. What saves him from the end of the world? A bank vault.

9). In “Perchance To Dream”, who is the woman that haunts Edward Hall in his dreams and in Reality? Maya.

10). In “Judgment Night”, what is the name of the ship that U-boat captain Carl Lanser is doomed to repeatedly go down with? The S.S. Queen of Glasgow.

11). In “And When The Sky Was Opened”, what is the name of the experimental space plane? The X-20 Dynasoar.

12). In “What You Need”, what is the first thing that is needed from the mysterious peddler? A vial of cleaning fluid.

13). In Episode Thirteen (“The Four Of Us Are Dying”) Rod Serling doesn’t do something he ordinarily does in his closing narration. What is it? He doesn’t mention the name of the show.

14). In “Third From The Sun”, what is military scientist Will Sturka’s job? To design and prepare H-bombs.

15). In “I Shot An Arrow Into The Air” the astronauts believe they have crash-landed on an unknown asteroid. Where are they actually? Outside of Reno, Nevada.

16). In Episode Sixteen entitled “The Hitchhiker”, who is the hitchhiker? The personification of Death.

17). In “The Fever”, what does the creepy slot machine repeatedly say? “Franklin!”

18). In “The Last Flight”, what year does Lt. Decker take off from then land in? 1917 and 1959.

19). In “The Purple Testament”, what psychic power does Lt. Fitz have? Seeing a strange glow around people who are about to die.

20). In “Elegy”, what is the name of the space cemetery in which the astronauts are embalmed with “eternifying fluid”? Happy Glades.

21). In “Mirror Image”, what city is Millicent travelling to by bus before she discovers she has doppelganger? Cortland, NY.

22). In “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street”, the aliens are wearing uniforms left over from what classic sci-fi film? The Forbidden Planet. A stock photo of the space ship was also used in which (two) other Twilight Zone episodes? “Third Stone From The Sun”, and “To Serve Man”.

23). In “A World Of Difference”, what secret does the main character (an actor) discover? His “real life” was the television show.

24). In “Long Live Walter Jameson”, how does Professor Kitteridge discover Jameson is unnaturally ageless? He recognizes him in a Civil War photograph.

25). In “People Are Alike All Over”, what does Conrad’s house on Mars turn out to be? A caged zoo exhibit.

26). In “Execution”, who ends up being hung in the noose meant for Caswell? A thief from the future.

27). In “The Big Tall Wish”, how does boxer Bolie Jackson win his fight? A young boy creates an alternate reality in which Bolie switches places with the original winner.

28). In “A Nice Place To Visit”, who does the man (Pip) who grants Rocky’s wishes turn out to be? The Devil. What famous (diminutive) actor declined the role of Rocky? Mickey Rooney.

29). In “Nightmare As A Child”, who does Helen meet in front of her apartment building that jogs memories of Helen’s mother’s murder? Herself as a child.

30). In “A Stop At Willoughby”, what does the town of Willoughby turn out to be? A hearse with the words “Willoughby & Son” written on it.

31). In “The Chaser”, what is the “glove cleaner” the Professor sells Roger as an antidote to the love potion he used on Leila? Deadly poison.

32). In “A Passage For Trumpet”, who is the fellow musician who saves (jazz trumpeter) Joey from Limbo? The Archangel Gabriel.

33). In “Mr. Bevis”, what unusual instrument does Bevis listen to loudly on his record player? The zither.

34). In “The After Hours”, what secret does Marsha (Anne Francis) discover about herself after being locked in the store afterhours? She is actually a mannequin. What classic sci-fi movie did Anne Francis star in? The Forbidden Planet.

35). In “The Mighty Casey”, why does Casey (a baseball robot) cease throwing fastballs? He begins to feel empathy for the players who can’t hit them. What is the actor who played Casey notorious for? A lifetime jail sentence for murder.

36). In “A World Of His Own”, what does West (a playwright) make appear in his house to convince his wife that his Dictaphone is magical? An elephant. Who does West make disappear at the end of the episode for comic effect? Series creator/narrator Rod Serling.

37). “In “King Nine Will Not Return”, where did the King Nine crash? A desert in Tunisia. What kind of plane was it? A B-25 bomber.

38). In “The Man In The Bottle”, what happens when Arthur asks to be put in a position of great power? He is turned into Adolph Hitler.

39). In “A Nervous Man In A Four Dollar Room”, who transforms Jackie’s life from one of fear and crime into one of confidence and strength? John (Jackie’s image from a mirror), who has traded places with Jackie in the real world.

40). In “A Thing About Machines”, what warning does the typewriter spell out? “GET OUT OF HERE FINCHLEY.”

41). In “The Howling Man”, who does the “innocent” prisoner turn out to be? The Devil.

42). In “Eye Of The Beholder”, what surgical treatment has failed on Janet Tyler? An attempt to turn her (attractive) face into a grotesque pig-like visage, which is revealed to be the societal norm for beauty in her world. How many times have they attempted the surgery? Eleven.

43). In “Nick Of Time”, what is the name of the fortune telling machine? The Mystic Seer. Who plays the groom obsessed with fortunes? William Shatner.

44). In” The Lateness of the Hour”, what does Jana (Inger Stevens) turn out to be? One of the robots she detested her father for having built. What other Twilight Zone episode did Stevens appear in? “The Hitch-Hiker.”

45). In “The Trouble with Temptation”, what is the name of the script Booth steals from Laura in the (supernatural) speak-easy? What To Do When Booth Comes Back.

46). In “A Most Unusual Camera”, what is the inscription on the camera? dix à la propriétaire. What is the first thing Chester takes a picture of? His wife (five minutes in the future) wearing a stolen fur coat.

47). The Christmas episode “The Night of the Meek” was one of only six episodes not recorded directly on film. How was it recorded? Onto videotape then kinescoped onto 16-mm film. What is “kinescoping”? Recording on film by pointing a camera at a video screen.

48). In “Dust”, what is the magic dust? Ordinary dirt. What is the miracle that occurs when the condemned man’s father scatters the magic dust? The man is pardoned when his (brand new) hanging rope snaps.

49). In “Back There”, who is the good Samaritan that saves Corrigan from being jailed for disturbing the peace in his attempt to warn the public about Lincoln’s assassination? John Wilkes Booth in disguise. How does Corrigan change history? Lincoln is still killed and the attendant at Corrigan’s gentlemen’s club (in the present) is now a millionaire member.

50). In “The Whole Truth”, what magical power does the ‘Model A’ car have? It makes its salesman (Hunnicut) tell only the truth. Who does Hunnicut sell the car to? Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev.

51). In “The Invaders, who is the solitary woman in the farm house revealed to be? A giant humanoid on another planet, and the tiny space ship is a manned probe from Earth.

52). In “A Penny For Your Thoughts”, why does Poole have the ability to hear people’s thoughts? He flipped a coin and it landed on its edge without falling over. Why is Poole wrong about old Smither’s plan to rob the bank? It is just a fantasy.

53). In “Twenty Two”, what is Liz’s profession? A dancer. What is the meaning of the number 22 that keeps on appearing in her dreams at the hospital? It is the number of the flight she will eventual miss, which explodes upon takeoff.

54). In “The Odyssey of Flight 33”, how does the pilot know they have not time travelled far enough forward from prehistoric times? They spot the 1939 World’s Fair. What year are they originally from? 1961.

55). In “Mr. Dingle, The Strong”, what famous character actor plays Dingle? Burgess Meredith. Name all the other Twilight Zone episodes Meredith appeared in: The Obsolete Man, Time Enough At Last, and Printer’s Devil.

56). In “Static”, what live performance does Mr. Lindsay listen to on his radio? Tommy Dorsey and his big band. What makes this eerie? Dorsey had been dead for several years.

57). What Beverley Hills Hillbillies star appears in “The Prime Mover”? Buddy Ebsen. What superpower does he pretend to have lost in order to save a friend from a life of greed and deceit? Telekinesis. What physical ailment does he get after using his powers? Headaches.

58). In “Long Distance Call”, actor Billy Mumy appears as a child phoning his deceased grandmother. What iconic 60s sci-fi role did Mumy become known for? Will Robinson in Lost In Space.

59). In the classic Twilight Zone episode “ One Hundred Yards Over The Rim”, what item does Horn leave behind in 1961? A rifle. What does Horn bring back with him to 1847? Penicillin for his son.

60). In “The Rip Van Winkle Caper”, how long do the main characters sleep in suspended animation? 100 years. What precious commodity have people in the future learnt to mass-produce, making it worthless? Gold.

61). In “The Silence”, on what date does Tennyson begin his year-long bet? June 3, 1962.

62). In “Shadow Play”, what happens whenever Adam Grant is executed in the electric chair? All of Reality resets back to his sentencing earlier in the day.

63). In “The Mind and the Matter”, who is the first person Beechcroft makes disappear when he uses his superior powers of concentration? His landlady (collecting the rent). What happens initially when he brings everyone back? They all have his face and personality.

64). In “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” who turns out to be the Martian scout that the state troopers are looking for? The business man. What is the plot twist at the end? The diner owner is Venutian and they have already established a colony on Earth.

65). In “The Obsolete Man”, what is Wordsworth’s profession (punishable by death)? Librarian. What illegal book does Wordsworth read from on live TV during his execution? The Bible. What does he read? “The Lord’s Prayer” (Psalm 23).

66). In “Two”, what famous action hero plays the male soldier/“Adam” role? Charles Bronson. What Russian word does he call out to the female solider/”Eve” at the end of the episode? “Prekrasny!” (beautiful). What does he throw to her as he says it? A jar of peaches.

67). In “The Arrival”, what is the missing flight and where is it from? Flight 107 from Buffalo, NY. How does Sheckly prove the plane is a figment of everyone’s imagination. He holds his arm out into the plane’s propellers. What plot twist occurs at that moment? The ground crew he is present with also turn out to be imaginary.

68). In “The Shelter”, what do the incoming nuclear missiles turn out to be? Satellites. What do the neighbors use as a battering ram to try and enter the doctor’s fall out shelter? A large steel pipe borrowed from a neighbor the next street over.

69). In “The Passersby”, what is the road the passersby are walking down? The journey between life during the Civil War and whatever destination lies beyond. Who is the last to walk down the road? Abraham Lincoln, the last casualty of the war.

70). In “A Game of Pool”, what famous comedian plays the angelic pool hustler? Jonathan Winters. What famous actor plays the hustler who challenges him? Jack Klugman. What other Twilight Zone episodes did Klugman star in? In Praise of Pip, A Passage For Trumpet, and Death Ship.

71). In “The Mirror”, what does De Cruz say will reveal who Clemente’s political enemies are? A particularly ornate mirror on the wall. How does the mirror say Cristo will attempt to assassinate Clemente? With a glass of poisoned wine.

72). In “The Grave”, which actor was also cast in the famous Western movie The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly? Lee Van Cleef. How do the townsfolk think Miller died at the gravesite? Sykes had reached up out of the grave and grabbed Miller, causing him to die of terror.

73). In “It’s A Good Life”, which actor plays the boy with god-like powers? Billy Mumy. What does Dan Hollis get for his birthday? A Perry Como record.

74). Where is the episode “Deaths-Head Revisited” set in? The Dachau concentration camp. What is Captain Lutze’s punishment? To be continuously driven insane by the tactile memories of the former prisoners.

75). In “The Midnight Sun”, what does Mrs. Benson beg artist Norma to paint? Pictures of ‘cool’ subjects. How did the director set the mood for the episode? He shot it on a soundstage without air conditioning.

76). In “Still Valley”, what are the three things Paradine needs to do to halt the Union Army? Possess a book called Witchcraft, praise the Devil, and renounce God.

77). In “The Jungle”, what does Alan discover in front of his apartment door? A dead goat. What eventually kills him? A lion springing from his bedroom.

78). What legendary silent film actor appears in “once Upon A Time” (as a slapstick time traveller)? Buster Keaton. What is Keaton missing when he shows up in the future (1962)? His pants.

79). In “Five Characters in Search of an Exit”, what do the characters turn out to be? Dolls. What kind of dolls are they? A ballet dancer, hobo, clown, bagpiper, and soldier.

80). What famous Star Trek actor appears in “A Quality of Mercy” as a World War II soldier fighting the Japanese? Leonard Nimoy.

81). What legendary Hollywood leading man appears in “Nothing in the Dark”? Robert Redford. What role does he play? A building contractor who in actuality is Death.

82). In “One More Pallbearer”, what does Radin use to threaten his bomb shelter captives into apologizing for past wrongs? The threat of a fake nuclear war. What is the penultimate plot twist? The world is actually devastated by nuclear war. What is the final plot twist? There is no war, and Radin is imagining it, having gone insane.

83). In “Dead Man’s Shoes”, what gives Nate his confidence and power? A dead mobster’s shoes. Lead actor Wallace Stevens also appeared in which episodes of The Outer Limits and Star Trek? “Keepers of the Purple Twilight”, and “By Any Other Name”.

84). In “The Hunt”, what is Simpson’s dog named? Rip. How does Simpson avoid going to Hell? He refuses to enter what looks like Heaven (Hell in disguise) because dogs aren’t allowed.

85). In “Showdown with Rance McGrew”, who does the TV marshal end up fighting in real life? Jesse James. What does James decide to do to make the marshal’s acting more realistic? Become his agent.

86). In “Kick The Can”, what is the name of the rest home? Sunnyvale. Which resident refuses to play the game, which they later regrets when the others become children again? Ben Conroy.

The Exhilarant Bassoon Incident of 1982

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The Exhilarant Bassoon Incident of 1982

As I mentioned in my 2017 New Year’s post, I had once again drew from the Japanese language for my yearly theme. My new word was henkou (変更): change, or alteration. The most profound alteration in one’s life however, is that first moment of real truth when one encounters their future; foreshadowing the arc of their destiny.

Though this is not universally true of all musicians, it is almost invariably the story lifelong dedicated musicians tell of their first encounter with their favorite instrument. For example, the first time legendary rock guitarist Steve Vai saw a guitar (at 5 years old) he felt an almost supernatural thrill, all of his senses heightened and alive with passionate youthful wonder. He was altered by just seeing a guitar; his destiny revealing itself to him whether he understood it or not. It was the same for me; the first time I picked up a saxophone and played a note I discovered my existence was saxophone shaped, there was something about the feel, weight, smell, and fit of the saxophone in my hands and its place in my soul. For others it can also be a similar yet slower process, becoming deeper and truer with each passing month or year. But no matter how one arrives at their destiny, hidden in the fabric of life is alteration (revelation), the seed of time either being planted or blossoming. Thus we come to The Exhilarant Bassoon Incident of 1982.

Though I played saxophone when I was young, I was assigned the bassoon one year in junior high school band. Having no interest in it I complained to the teacher, but she was adamant. I was playing bassoon because it is was harder instrument than most in the band and since I had already learnt the saxophone, I was the most qualified in class to learn the bassoon well enough for our eventual year end concert. So I took it home and started to fiddle around with it. Now if you have never heard a bassoon being played for the first time by someone who has never played it, imagine the sound of two ducks trying to strangle each other… while two other ducks nearby also attempt to strangle each other. But after a couple of weeks of practice I got my bassoon to sound more like a single duck trying to strangle itself, so I was off to a good start.

The real problem though was that I was, and still am, the worst sight-reader on the planet. Reading music on the fly and getting it right the first time is my personal Kryptonite, the skill I will never have to any level of excellence, nor do I desire the skill. Mathematics, sight-reading, and getting good tone on a bassoon: my eternal nemeses. But I kept on soldiering on for a couple of weeks until I secretly stopped caring and would only play bassoon in band class, stashing it away in my closet the rest of the week. So neither my bassoon nor sight-reading skills were moving forward, meaning I was also not learning the necessary musical skills and memorization necessary to pass the class and eventually perform the annual year-end concert.

But as I grew adept at evading my “bassoonic responsibilities” I was having a lot of fun. Since I was in no hurry to do the right thing, I found myself spending more time just “bassooning”: fooling around, making animal noises, seeing what it would sound like if I invented my own fingerings, and playing along with pop songs on the radio, which sounded extremely silly and highly amusing to my 11 year old mind. Thus we arrive at the Exhilarant Bassoon Incident.

One day in class in the Spring, for the first time all year, our teacher wanted to hear us to play our parts individually in one particularly challenging song, to gauge how we were progressing towards the year end concert. As each kid played his or her part I grew increasingly terrified, as I had NO idea what I was doing. I could not read the music, I was still not sure of which fingerings went with which note, and so on, about as unprepared as one can get! It was clear I had no idea how to play the bassoon. Finally we arrived at my turn to play my part in the song and., suppressing my terror, I took a deep breath and improvised what I thought my bassoon part maybe, possibly, potentially, could, might sort of sound like! Though I tried my best, I assumed what my teacher heard was the worst sounding bassoon she had ever heard…playing the music so wrong it might as well have been engine noise for all of its empty bluster. I’ll never forget the look on her face: a very fascinating mix of rage and surprise. The game was up, my secret was out, I had been making up my parts all year and playing quietly enough that I could “hide” in the sound of the band without the teacher hearing that I was improvising my parts to avoid actual bassoon study. For almost a full school year I had been blowing into the bassoon but never studied it at all. I sat red faced and ready for the inevitable scolding and possible eviction from the class to the principal’s office. This meant the inevitable phone call to my parents, and the highly likely scolding for such a massive failing in my scholastic responsibilities.

But then something completely shocking and unexpected happened. My teacher then looked at me with a resigned smile, said nothing, and continued on with the class! As our class continued I sat there stunned, once again faking my parts quietly, and walked out of the class afterwards with no interaction from the teacher. What the hell had happened? She had caught me red handed, a robber in the headlights of a cop car caught sneaking off with the diamonds. I was fully expected to get the band class equivalent of a Scared Straight talk. Later that evening I realized what had really happened, and this realization had an amazing effect on my life, it altered how I saw myself and changed how I thought about music and possibility: a major henkou in my life.

I had realized that the teacher had heard what I did and let it go… because what I actually played, the part I improvised instead of reading from the music had “worked”, it sounded good enough that the teacher, knowing she was not going to get what was required out of me before the day of our class concert, let me continue on with my free form improvising, let me make up my part and play it, as no one would notice it was not the “right” part written on my page! I realized in that moment that I could make up things on the bassoon (and thus on the saxophone also) that “worked,” which functioned as actual music people would accept. I had spent an entire year playing “free jazz” on my bassoon and I had done it well enough to pass the class… and I was barely a teenager at the time!

The Exhilarant Bassoon Incident of 1982 was a foreshadowing of my now almost 40 years of improvising on the saxophone and percussion as a professional musician: the continuous self-inculcation of that process in both my private and professional studies, as well as live performance, public speaking, and multi-media work. I had accidentally learnt that the passionate pursuit of improvisation, in this case to avoid work (!), ended up being the seed of my most passionate work itself. The key was the passion: exploration, self-amusement, curiosity, and fun – put in service to fooling my junior high band teacher – could be implemented in service of personal growth, creative development, and self-fulfillment. I improvised for a full school year on the bassoon, unconsciously building valuable creative skills, and passionately exploring self-discovery via a musical instrument. From that point on my path was set, and I was able to get a PhD and travel all around the world, and so on because I discovered my true gifts (improvisation, ethnomusicology, creativity studies, etc.) on a bassoon in 1982!

So if you are a non-musician who longs to play the guitar, or studying an instrument but want to have some fun with it outside of your official lessons, or indeed any other kind of musician, then take heart, you don’t have to do things the regular way to have fun and learn at the same time. What music lessons CANNOT teach you is the joy and value of exploration, that it is 100% ACCEPTABLE to fool around with a guitar and do nothing else with it, if that is what you enjoy. If you want to be a world-class musician, you must study something. But NO world class musician ONLY studies. They do many other things to become unique, creative performers, and having silly, pointless fun on their instrument is a sure fire way to discover new worlds and new ideas without boundaries.

We now do not live in a world where a 12 year old could secretly play free jazz bassoon for a year in school and “get away with it”. My Exhilarant Bassoon Incident is a priceless treasure in my life, an unbelievable gift and accidental achievement. And you can have the same experience too, by throwing out the idea that you have to practice your guitar.

So I encourage you all to throw away the rulebook sometimes and just be silly and funny and happy on your drums, oboe, bass, saxophone, kazoo, or whatever else you want to cut loose with. Musical abandonment in service of bliss has its own rewards.