Opened in the year 705, Koshu Nishiyama Hot Spring, Keiunkan is the world’s oldest hotel still in existence. That’s 1,316 years of operation, under the supervision of 52 generations of the same family owners. The inn’s founder, Fujiwara Mahito, chose the location in Japan’s Yamanishi Prefecture for its therapeutic hot springs, which still bubble to the surface for guests today.
The modern snowblower originated in Canada. In 1870, civil engineer Robert Carr Harris of New Brunswick patented the “railway screw snow excavator” for removing snow from railroad tracks. Ontario inventor Orange Jull patented another snow removal machine in 1884, but the modern road-clearing snow machine we know and appreciate today was patented in the 1920s by Quebec businessman Arthur Sicard, whose namesake company still manufactures snow-removal equipment.
His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco competed in bobsleigh at five Winter Olympic Games: Calgary (1988), Albertville (1992), Lillehammer (1994), Nagano (1998) and Salt Lake City (2002). In 2005, he became Monaco’s sovereign and gave up his dreams of Olympic gold, but not his ties to the Olympics. He’s a member of the International Olympic Committee, and his wife, Princess Charlene, swam for her native South Africa at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.
The first woman to take a seat as a member of Parliament in the U.K. House of Commons was American-born Nancy Astor, elected in February 1919 to represent the district of Plymouth Sutton. That seat had been held by her husband, Waldorf Astor, before he inherited a family peerage and moved to the House of Lords. Nancy held it until her retirement in 1945. Her most enduring accomplishment was establishing a law that prohibited selling liquor to anyone under age 18.
The United States is the world’s largest importer of bananas, to the tune of $2.8 billion worth in 2019. About 40% of the bananas sold in the U.S. come from Guatemala, although Ecuador is the largest producer and exporter of bananas worldwide.
With more than 400 miles of explored cave terrain and possibly 600 miles or more yet to be explored, Mammoth Cave in Kentucky is the longest cave system in the world. Its subterranean waters are home to eyeless cavefish, which have no skin pigment and no eyes — natural adaptations that came from thousands of years living in lightless environments.
1. What do the Liberty Hotel in Boston, the Four Seasons Istanbul at Sultanahmet and the Best Western Hotel Katajanokka in Helsinki have in common?
A) Biggest hotels in their cities
B) Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright
C) Housed in former prisons
D) Oldest hotels in their cities
2. Which song was a No. 1 hit in 1992 for Canadian singer Darrin O’Brien, better known as Snow?
B) “Here Comes the Hotstepper”
D) “Shy Guy”
3. The first official Winter Olympic Games were held in 1924 in what country?
4. Wall tiles in New York City’s Astor Place subway station bear what motif related to the Astor family fortune?
C) Gold nugget
D) Steam ship
5. “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” “Down at the Dinghy” and “Franny and Zooey” are J.D. Salinger works about a fictional family with what last name?
6. Mammoth was an early name of which band?
A) Bon Jovi
B) Dave Matthews Band
D) Van Halen
1) Boston’s Liberty Hotel, the Four Seasons at Sultanahmet in Istanbul and Helsinki’s Best Western Hotel Katajanokka are housed in former prisons.
2) “Informer” was a No. 1 hit in 1992 for Canadian singer Darrin O’Brien, better known as Snow.
3) The first official Winter Olympic Games were held in 1924 in Chamonix, France.
4) Pictures of beavers on the wall tiles in New York City’s Astor Place subway station refer to the Astor family business in fur trading.
5) “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” “Down at the Dinghy” and “Franny and Zooey” are J.D. Salinger works about the fictional Glass family.
6) Early in its history, the band Van Halen was called Mammoth.
WEEK OF FEB. 8
Phobos and Deimos — Fear and Terror — are irregularly shaped objects that orbit Mars. We call them moons, although it’s more likely they’re asteroids caught in the planet’s gravitational pull. Asaph Hall, a mathematician and astronomer at the U.S. Naval Observatory, cataloged and named them in 1877. Hall made his discoveries using the observatory’s 26-inch “Great Equatorial” refracting telescope, which is still in use today.
The word “regatta,” referring to a boat race, comes from a Venetian word meaning “competition.” As far back as the 13th century, the Festa delle Marie — part of the annual Carnevale di Venezia celebration that takes place in the weeks before Lent — included a regatta for boatmen on the canals of Venice.
When Anne of Brittany died in 1514, she was buried in Paris but she left her heart in Nantes — literally. Married to Charles VIII of France and then to his successor, Louis XII, she’d twice been queen consort of France, but the independent duchy of Brittany was her first love. Thus, her heart was interred there separate from her body. Historically, divided burials of prominent individuals are not uncommon: When Polish-born composer Frederic Chopin died in 1849, his body was laid to rest in Paris and his heart returned to his beloved Warsaw.
The “star” in a star sapphire is caused by natural deposits of a titanium-based mineral called rutile inside the stone. Occasionally, those needle-shaped imperfections meet at their points to create a star shape called an asterism (from the Latin for star). When that happens, the raw gemstone is cut and polished to highlight the natural star-shaped inclusion.
A full orchestra, plus the participation of 19 percussionists, is required to perform “Hekla, op. 52” by Icelandic composer Jon Leifs, reputed to be the loudest orchestral piece ever written. Incorporating the sounds of hammers, anvils, church bells, chains, cannons, sirens and shotguns, the piece was inspired by the Icelandic volcano Hekla, which erupted in 1947, about 14 years before Leifs completed his composition.
In April 1862, Union forces took control of the Confederate Fort Pulaski in Georgia. The 48th New York Infantry, left to garrison the fort, spent most of its working hours repairing battle damage to the structure. In the off-hours, the soldiers organized a baseball team, a band and a theatre troupe that performed everything from farces to Shakespearean tragedy in its own theatre. When the 24th Massachusetts was moved in to replace the 48th New York, it continued the fort’s theatre tradition.
1. Named for the Greek goddess of discord and strife, Eris is a dwarf planet found where?
A) Between Jupiter and Saturn
B) Beyond Neptune
C) Orbiting Mercury
D) In the Andromeda galaxy
2. The martial art Krav Maga originated in what country?
3. Cointreau, Curacao and Grand Marnier are cordials flavored with what?
B) Black currant
4. Sapphire comes from the same mineral as what other precious gem?
5. What fictional company’s products include giant rubber bands, earthquake pills, birdseed and anvils?
A) Acme Corporation
B) Evil Corp.
C) Rich Industries
D) Wayne Enterprises
6. A breakaway republic in 1820s Texas and a fictional nation in the Marx Brothers’ “Duck Soup” share what name (with slightly different spelling)?
1) Eris is a dwarf planet found in a distant part of our solar system, beyond Neptune.
2) The martial art of Krav Maga comes from Israel. The name means “contact combat” in Hebrew.
3) Cointreau, Curacao and Grand Marnier are cordials flavored with orange.
4) Sapphire and ruby are color variations of the mineral corundum.
5) “Looney Toons” fans know Acme Corporation makes giant rubber bands, earthquake pills, birdseed and anvils.
6) Fredonia (or Freedonia) was the name of a breakaway republic in 1820s Texas and a fictional nation in the Marx Brothers’ “Duck Soup.”
WEEK OF FEB. 15
Kericho, Kenya, is known for two things: tea and hail. The high-altitude region near the equator yields more than 800 million pounds of tea each year. It also typically sees hailstorms more than 100 days a year. The trouble comes when the two coincide. While the hailstones in Kericho tend to be small, they can play havoc with the tea crops, destroying plants and making harvests difficult.
The traditional entrance music for the U.S. vice president is “Hail Columbia,” written by Philip Phile in the 1780s. Also known as “Washington’s March” or “President’s March,” it was played for ceremonial occasions around the time of George Washington’s inauguration in 1789. Prior to the 1890s, it was the de facto national anthem of the United States.
The portrait of writer Gertrude Stein by Pablo Picasso, now in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, was completed in 1906. Stein claimed she sat for the artist on 80, maybe even 100, occasions over the course of a year before the work was completed, although much of that time probably was spent chatting in Picasso’s Paris studio. In the end, Picasso changed his realistic depiction of Stein’s face to a cubist representation that he could have painted without her sitting for him at all.
Not all peacocks have brilliantly colored feathers; some have a splendid crest and train of feathers that are snowy white. That natural variation is due to a condition called leucism, which results in a lack of pigment in the feathers — and only the feathers. Albino birds, which are even less common, lack pigment in their eyes and skin as well.
A handful of actors appeared in both “The Sopranos” and “The Godfather” films. Top of that list is Dominic Chianese, who had significant roles in each. Originally a stage actor, his first major film role was as the unsavory Johnny Ola in “The Godfather: Part II.” Twenty-five years later, he played Corrado “Uncle Junior” Soprano on “The Sopranos.”
Maggie Lena Walker, the first Black woman to charter a bank in the United States, founded the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in Richmond, Virginia, in 1903. Its goal to encourage economic growth and financial security for the Black community extended all the way to little kids, who were permitted to open their own bank accounts once they’d saved 100 pennies in their piggy banks. Walker’s home in Richmond is now a National Historic Site.
1. The 1987 documentary “Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll” commemorated whose 60th birthday?
A) Chuck Berry
B) Bill Haley
C) Jerry Lee Lewis
D) Little Richard
2. The lyrics of “Hail to the Chief” come from the 1810 poem “The Lady of the Lake” by whom?
A) Elizabeth Barrett Browning
B) Sir Walter Scott
C) Walt Whitman
D) William Wordsworth
3. Hiram was the first name at birth of which U.S. president and noted memoirist?
A) Gerald Ford
B) Ulysses S. Grant
C) Rutherford B. Hayes
D) Harry Truman
4. In 2016, Dr. Orchid replaced which character in the board game Clue?
A) Mr. Green
B) Mrs. Peacock
C) Professor Plum
D) Mrs. White
5. Where would you find the oldest and longest boardwalk in the United States?
A) Atlantic City
B) Cape Cod
C) Coney Island
D) Venice Beach
6. Scientist/inventor Nikola Tesla is pictured on the 100-dinar banknotes of which European country?
1) The 1987 documentary “Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll” commemorated Chuck Berry’s 60th birthday.
2) The lyrics of “Hail to the Chief” come from the 1810 poem “The Lady of the Lake” by Sir Walter Scott.
3) Ulysses S. Grant was born Hiram Ulysses Grant.
4) In 2016, Dr. Orchid, holding a Ph.D. in plant toxicology, replaced the housekeeper character Mrs. White in the board game Clue.
5) The oldest and longest boardwalk in the United States is in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
6) Scientist/inventor Nikola Tesla is pictured on the 100-dinar banknotes of Serbia.
WEEK OF FEB. 22
While Vladimir Lenin was stoking the fires of communism in Russia, his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, was right by his side. In the early years of the Soviet Union, she promoted women’s causes, advocated for more libraries and served in political roles related to education. These days, her most visible legacy might be Krupskaya, the St. Petersburg chocolate company founded in the 1930s and named in her honor.
Labeling someone who’s resistant to the spread of technology and automation a “Luddite” isn’t really an insult. The original Luddites were skilled textile workers in the early 19th century who noticed that the increased use of machines in factories led to them being replaced by low-wage, unskilled workers. Hoping to preserve their jobs and draw attention to their plight, Luddites destroyed or sabotaged factory machinery. It wasn’t that they hated machines; they simply didn’t appreciate unemployment.
The Iatmul people of Papua New Guinea traditionally carve their canoes in the shape of a crocodile. Their homes, community buildings, ceremonial objects and even their garments are decorated with crocodile motifs as well, because the Iatmul creation myth says that a crocodile was responsible for the formation of the world. The crocodile shaped the land from primordial ooze and carries it on its back. When the crocodile is at rest, everything’s fine. When it moves, earthquakes occur.
The year 1818 was a busy one in the Shelley household. Percy Bysshe Shelley published his poem “Ozymandias,” and Mary Shelley published her best-known work, “Frankenstein.” At the time, both works were published without the authors’ names. Percy used the pseudonym Glirastes, which means “dormouse lover” (an inside joke between them). Mary published “Frankenstein” anonymously. After its success, her subsequent works, such as “The Last Man” and “Lodore,” were credited simply to “the author of Frankenstein.”
Vermont takes its name from the French “verts monts” or “monts verts,” meaning “Green Mountains.” Our 14th state nearly had another name, though. For about six months in 1777, while trying to break free from land claims by New York and New Hampshire, the territory put forth a proposal for independence as the colony of New Connecticut.
The 1935 film “Grand Hotel” has the rare distinction of winning the Academy Award for best picture while not receiving a nomination in any other category. That’s despite an all-star cast that included Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery and both John and Lionel Barrymore. Only two films to date have won the best picture Oscar and no others. “The Broadway Melody” was one. The other, “Mutiny on the Bounty,” is the only film to have three stars — Clark Gable, Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone — with best actor nominations.
1. To protest a tax increase, Lady Godiva shed her clothes and rode on horseback through the streets of what city?
A) Coventry, England
B) Dresden, Germany
C) Florence, Italy
D) Rouen, France
2. The word “sabotage” is related to the word “sabot,” referring to a type of what?
3. Present in crocodiles, camels and several species of birds, a nictitating membrane is a retractable protective covering for what organ?
4. In William Carlos Williams’ poem “This Is Just to Say,” the narrator confesses to eating what fruit from the icebox?
5. Verdigris is a greenish patina that commonly forms on which metal?
6. Which real-life mother and daughter received Oscar nominations for the same film?
A) Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli
B) Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson
C) Diane Ladd and Laura Dern
D) Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher
1) To protest a tax increase, Lady Godiva shed her clothes and rode on horseback through the streets of Coventry, England.
2) A sabot is a type of wooden shoe.
3) A nictitating membrane (from the Latin for “to blink”) is a protective covering for the eye.
4) In William Carlos Williams’ poem “This Is Just to Say,” the narrator confesses to eating plums that were “so sweet/ and so cold.”
5) Verdigris is a greenish patina that commonly forms on copper over time.
6) Real-life mother and daughter Diane Ladd and Laura Dern received best supporting actress and best actress nominations, respectively, for the 1992 film “Rambling Rose.”
TRIVIA FANS: Leslie Elman is the author of “Weird But True: 200 Astounding, Outrageous and Totally Off the Wall Facts.” Contact her at [email protected]