BoL Lingers in the Mind
(...but it is most certainly is not, and I've only just realised)
Brain of London  final-qualifier night is, for me, the most stress-drenched quiz event of the year. I find it even more nerve-wracking than the Final 10 stage of the EQC. I'm as serious as the noted prognosticator on matters of power - THE Durron Maurice Butler - when he talks about matters of oncology.
It's a three-stage ordeal - if you're lucky to survive each cull - of frayed nerves, dumb/beautiful luck, crushing frustration and occasional shouting, both silent and punch-punctuated*, that whips up a maelstrom in my mind whenever it comes around and whenever it's in progress. Because giving the answer in an oral fashion, or in my case, mumbly spurt, is what gets you the marks. We are deprived of the luxury of sitting there, people of leisure, pondering the stars and the meaning of liff, then ahhh, writing down the answer to a question you first read 90 minutes ago, without the disconcerting gaze of at least eight people trained on you and only you. Waiting for answers. To emerge from yer yapper.
* see my Semi-Final squealing when realising that a wrong answer ("Lanzarote!" QM: "No" Me: "NOOOOOO!!!") meant I was giving bonus attempts on geography - yes, multiple geo-Q opportunities - to some dude called Jesse Honey, who has an affinity for maps, islands, volcanoes and place names and all that geographical malarkey, or so I am led to believe. Who wouldn't scream when imagining that this is a bit like asking him questions like: are you wearing boxers or briefs, or going commando? Yes, I know it's tough, especially when trousers happen to be covering them at the moment.
Saying rather than writing the answer - which you can always cross out - creates the gut-clenching, sweaty-palmed tension, as it does on popular wireless broadcasts like the British Broadcasting Company's general knowledge competition, The Brian of Brittan, or something of a similar nomenclature, and which should not be confused with Brian of Brittany - who be the fool that makes such a silly boo-boo? (And while we're at it, let us ponder the hypothesis that the programme has never been quite the same since that 18-year-old won it. Hmmmm. Pondering now. How about - "Maybe"?).
The difference is that this is a 'Brain' quiz tournament where the questions are harder and former champions return every year. And that competition for places is so fierce that qualification for the final 32 is a bloody brilliant achievement (just look at the BoL2 field: some fantastic talent there), and when you get there former and reigning World Quizzing Champions and Mastermind legends are waiting to eat you up, like half-time buffet. Oh, and most of the games you get to play will probably take place in a room usually reserved for the changing of sports garments.
This is probably why I love it so, as it is one of my two or three favourite quiz competitions of the year (meaning, the three-round qualifier for the Final). And therefore one of two that is most likely to transform me into a gibbering idiot, unsure of his true worth let alone his standing as a quizzer.
And yet, like some 'juniper bush in the desert' miracle, I made it through to my fifth final in six years. Whoop-whoop. Scores: 17, 20, 17. Best total points aggregate/average, with 54/18? Surprising. That's a first.
Toppermost score of the night, with that TWO-OH-oh-yeahhhh. Thank you Goo Goo Dolls and all those modern US rock bands (except the Plain White T's, who I called "The T-Shirts" IDIOT), my now dormant (thinking about it) love of Funny or Die, Don Warrington, uglified Charlize Theron, sisal and so on.
All in all: very satisfactory.
But let's be honest, aside from my knowledge of more obscure Greek mythology saving me in my very first game, I had a relatively uncluttered path straight to the final four.
My first two rounds saw me openly thank the god of picking random numbers to determine match line-ups, whom I will now name LOTTUS.
I avoided, and this is just off the top of my head and isn't meant to offend those I've omitted because I made a reasoned judgement call concerning those quizzers I deem able to induce well-earned fear in me:
Sinha (whose pained screech yowls I would have emulated had I been subjected to the same foursome-chosen fate), Stainer, Bayley, Willer, Honey, Fuller, N. Paul, Grant and THE ASHMAN, because he burns, nay incinerates everything and everyone in his path to the final and leaves, er, only their ash (I know, I know, my textual attempt at turning Kevin into some kind of awesome comic book force, along with implying he is a destruction-loving villain - his rep draws comparisons to Galactus - and further attempts to mythologise the Quiz World needs a lot more work. And a cleaner handle on ambiguity. Because aren't most of us friends? I couldn't lie and saw WE).
Sidetrack over: Lottus demands a mighty sacrifice - I'm thinking one hell of a raging hecatomb (which I think was really just an ancient Roman excuse for a giant summer barbecue) - for allowing me such a smooth and straightforward passage to the Semis, and a Semi-final that was bumpier but was still fine by me: given the straight choice between one or the other, everyone knows which one they'd opt for.
But I was still uneasy and nearing a state of mild nausea, while fearful of thinking and uttering the wildest crap imaginable (it's happened before at BoL and will happen again) AND adopting an arm-folded, stoney-faced countenance that suggested I was waiting for a judge to sentence me to a 10-year prison term for conspiring to destroy all human happiness. And yes, I maintain this one truth, BoL is one of my two or three fave quiz events of the year.
Remember what one of my favourite writers said, even if he was probably shit-faced at the time: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."
By the way, I'm not saying I've passed the test of having a first-rate intelligence. I'm not even saying/writing/typing/whatever that the two previous paragraphs are actually related in ANY WAY at all. I'm just putting a fancy quote out there. Picking it at random from a whole pile I'm keeping under the sofa I am sitting on at the moment. Because don't we all love quotes? I am neither trying to control your mind, nor introducing original kernels of thought into your fertile mental-stew. Mmmm, delicious, Fertile Mental-Stew. Not a disgusting Mental Stew like Papaitan. Created by an obvious mentalist. Who was, I am assuming, a Filipino or Filipina.
And now I'm beginning to think that Megaton of Worry I bring with me on the night (analogous to my Bode Miller-ing events when hungover***), has a positive effect on my performance, related to the fight or flight response.
In five of those six years, I reacted by fighting ... in a way (the other one: a 2009 semi-final where the ITV detective [show-sounding] duo "Bayley and Honey"** double-teamed me with their airports and geography and, ugh, science, and my much-used and very useful entertainment cache of weaponry was barely touched). And yes, I know that is already the second time I have mentioned the pure red terror in my heart that awakens when I go head to head with Jesse on geography, which should really be called "Honeography" [pronounced HUN-ography]. What you didn't like that neologism? How about Jessography? No, then ignore this silly footnote...
** (Tagline I can't be bothered to "craft" at this moment in time: Something castle structure or cooking leaf-related combined with a sweetness gag coming down on crime like some kind of icky sweet herb sauce ... making the hunted rural crims, motorway service workers or murderous kitchen staff, their particular area or expertise ... GAG ... ON JUSTICE!)
Adrenaline kicks in, kicking open a few hitherto dormant fact-filled brain cells and releasing VICTORY. (A trio of examples triggered by beneficent electric fear: where did Lake Urmia come from? Or the plant, honesty? And Merope? That last one was because I remembered something Trevor said to the daughter of Valerie Leon in this epochal article: I say 'epochal' because it spawned Eggheads for a start).
Then when the actual Final comes around, when it really bloody matters, that fear of failure has long gone; the void being filled instead with relief that I made it to the final four yet again. The result? A far from optimum performance. Relief is not a good emotion to take into a title match. I realise that now.
I take less risks and don't, as in previous rounds, feel comfortable enough to go bonus attempt/calculated guess crazy. Because once you're so far gone with those guesses and everyone else is passing up their own potential attempts with a "nope", it frees you to sling as much 'mud' as you can, especially when it is there is the relative liberty of that fifth and final round. The mud often has a surprising tendency to stick.
So say anything. Sometimes that anything is a miraculous answer.
This epiphany has something to do with 2012's effort. Last year's final - 8 points and 4th place - was the nadir of all my BoL title attempts so far. Relaxed from the get-go, I soon expired and became a spectre at Mark's fact-feast. Two bread-and-butter art questions elicited guhuhhhhhs from moi: I forget Dale Chihuly. The only truly famous glass/weird chandelier artist in the entire sodding bloody world. The name Claes Oldenburg became a complete stranger to my mind and mouth.
More strengths become weaknesses: I blanked out all those former Soviet republic second cities that litter my blog and QB (Mark G reminded me of 'Gomel' yet again on Tuesday; why so cruel, Mark? I may start doing my Grant-focussed Rafa Nadal mantra again, if such behaviour is repeated).
And all because I was acting like one of those "just happy to be at the Olympics, using a duvet for the first time ever and not eating sorghum and only sorghum twice a day" guys.
I hadn't nursed my nerves properly. They needed to be on edge. Four finals in 2nd, 3rd and Last spot, and I finally get it. They needed that electric frisson of "I will look like a massive tool in front of this giant crowd if I do badly", or maybe, if you don't answer questions correctly, puppies, kittens and other fluffy breathing cute fluff-balls will die ... in numbers beyond your comprehension! So, repeating things I was saying mere paragraphs before because it needs to be drilled into my thick and some might say rather over-sized skull: fostering Fear is the Key, ... as well as a novel by Alistair MacLean that bored my pants off!!!
(I'm sorry that's what I do; I reference: it's a chronic problem getting worse by the day. It's becoming an hourly occurrence, as I absorb more and more entertainment info, books and so on. A phrase spoken innocently by a co-worker will trigger something in my brain and release the words, like "Duran Duran single"! Or "Mark Hamill as the ...!" And they will look at me, like I'm mentally deficient; a) because I've undoubtedly said whatever I was saying way too fast; b) they're either appalled by my bad taste (in bad films and crappy TV, or wild use of colourful epithets****) or they have no idea what I'm talking about, let alone heard of the film or TV series I've invoked, making me realise I might as well be citing fictional television series that I've imagined into being just for the sheer fun of it all.
So, returning to the most pressing talking problem - a) - while keeping the 'reference-mania' in mind, imagine someone reading this blog out loud at three times the speed of a normal person, who enunciates with none of the clarity, pauses and all those things that make for merely passable oratory.
And the people who remind me of this are right.
There have been several occasions when I've just spouted pure "Bortomtese" out me gourd, and I'm thinking immediately: "What was that? It sounded like: "Wadda-see-bram-crrrrlll-zzzz". And if I can't understand what I just said, because I honestly didn't, how in hot, hairy hell can ANYBODY ELSE comprehend my trademark esoteric gibberish? So I really hope they're psychic.")
But, dudes, the problem ain't the deficiency, man. It's the extra proficiency that pushes me into a new kind of idiot savant category, populated by people who've consumed far too much pop culture and now need to harness it for monetary or artistic purposes, otherwise it's downward spiral into the Comic Book Guy social category (wow, that's this blog's second epiphany right there, he says in a quasi-third epiphany).
That's the excuse I've only recently formulated and have decided to use from now on, without fail. Mmmmkay?
Anyway, I ... gotta eat ... To Be Continued
***"Miller subsequently claimed his remarks were taken out of context and said he only raced with a hangover the day after celebrating his 2005 World Cup title". Yeah, just like Villa Park and my doing the first WQC in the middle of a stag weekend.