The State of the Contestant Nation
Ach. A Saturday evening in, spent watching what passes for quiz shows these days. It is all too much to bear.
I subjected myself to the celebrity pairs Weakest Link special. I wish I hadn't. The questions, with the endless variation on the give two options - one correct, the other insanely idiotic (e.g. what is the capital of Wales? Cardiff or Cardigan?
), has really got to me. The others are pretty stupid too. But then again it was all for charity. Charles and Diana Ingram, the former of whom is now promoting himself as a novelist rather than infamous convicted quiz cheat (which is what everybody else thought), were the most knowledgeable on show, which ain't saying much to be fair. Tragically, they proved themselves to be exceptionally humourless in the chat after their inevitable dumping out and complained they should have stayed on because other pairs like Ralf Little and Will Mellor from Two Pints of Liquid Cow Dung and a Packet of Morons, were far worse. Pur-lease I mean, don't they even watch the show? Nowadays, the best always get the boot thanks to stupid and more Machiavellian players. That's just the way it is.
Still, Diana Ingram still scares the bejesus out of me though. Has she ever smiled in her life? Is everything to be taken so seriously? Is her hair dyed with dead crow? Is she into drinking fresh human blood? Sadly, their steely determination to win completely overrode the whole let's have a laugh charity spirit of the programme and must have slightly deranged them. Charles tried to smirk a few times in the way that people who don't get the joke but attempt some semblance of a giggle because they don't want to feel left out of the convivial community laughs. But Mrs Ingram's facial expression was still stuck in that disturbing rictus, like a deeply concentrating predatory beast waiting one split second before they pounce and feast on some prey's carcass. Even when you thought she was trying to be deadpan funny, she came across as a malevolant dominatrix with a stare so steely you would be impaled on it were you to find yourself trapped in its doomy glare. I think I'm going to have nightmares about it. If all this helps them shift (DJs and possible heralds of the Apocalypse JK and Joel won by the way; "won" being a relative term on these shows) a single copy of clownish half's no doubt very magnum opus, then I am surely an aubergine.
But then it was In It To Win It
with Orangey Dale Winton. Now it's an okay concept. Dull, but okay. The questions are pitched perfectly for a Saturday night audience and most importantly with their multiple choice questions allow anyone, and I mean just about anyone, to win enough money to get a nice car and some decent plastic surgery.
The thing is, and this really gets my goat, they do seem to put just about ANYONE on. The ignorance of the contestants (except for the nice lady who went away with nothing having won two undeserving others tens of thousands) annoyed me so much tonight, I was actively wishing and cajoling the mighty quiz gods to make sure the thickies didn't win a single penny and send them scurrying home ashamed by how empty their brains were.
For instance, one fella couldn't identify the creator of Sherlock Holmes. One of the most famous fictional characters in history. Then I realised he had probably never read a book: Nuts magazine and the instructions on a pot of hairwax, yes. A proper book with dozens of pages and nothing but text, no. That would certainly explain a lot.
I mean, what do they ask at the auditions? After ascertaining that prospective contestants are able to write their name in joined-up writing, they might ask questions like, who is the British Prime Minister? Or, in which city do the football clubs Spurs and Arsenal play? Wait, those questions might be a bit too hard without three options. Or do they just select people on the basis of the old quiz show cross-section: a middle aged lady, one bright and sprightly lad, one man with a paunch approaching middle age, one apparent ethnic minority and a youngish blonde woman. A good old, mind-numbingly boring spread. They might say personality, what they really mean is the ability to grin inanely.
However, I came round to thinking it was some hilarious exercise in the theatre of the absurd. There was fun to be had. There always is if you look hard enough The great thing about IITWI is that people are encouraged to produce their answer by thinking aloud and using their no doubt astonishing powers of reasoning and deduction. So when the contestants don't have the correct answer cocked and loaded (fat chance), they begin to apply what they see as faultless logic gleaned from good old reliable life-knowledge, when in fact they are digging a deep ditch that they are about to drive into with many, many words of gobsmacking silliness.
Take these two examples from this evening's show:"Now the opera Don Giovanni sounds Italian so it must be written by an Italian. So not Beethoven or Mozart, it must be Verdi!" "I don't think Samuel Pepys wrote a diary in the 17th century. Sounds a bit too early. Must be 18th or 19th. 18th or 19th. Eighteeeeeeenth or nineteeeeeenth. 19th!!!"
You see? So funny your guts might jump out of your gob in an uncontrollable act of laughter.
But, what do I know? I who look down at these mere mortals from a pedestal of towering quiz experience are far worse off financially than the aforementioned man who couldn't muster a Conan Doyle from his memory. He won £22,000 when he guessed that Canada was the second biggest country in the world after Russia. Ooh, the jammy so and so. And yet. The sheer happiness written on his face perhaps made up for the fact that some of the answers he gave me drove me so far up the wall that I needed a ladder to get back down. The joy of all that filthy lucre so easily earned! This was the greatest moment of his life and I couldn't possibly begrudge that. Ever.
Casting aside the green-eyed monster that perches on my shoulder and whispers devilish things in my ear whenever I watch a money prize quiz show, I have to remember too: It's only a game show. It's only a game show (I repeat to myself as I ponder another of life's fantastic injustices). After all, it's not like real life, is it?*Dumb answer explanations have been spruced up a smidgen and edited for comedy effectRant Over. Questions On.
1 Under which man's rule, described by Dio Cassius as being "devoted to boys and to wine"
, did the Roman Empire reach its greatest territorial extent?
2 Perhaps the most important Anglo-Irish poet of the 19th century, whose collected poems, Lays of the Western Gael
, were published in 1865 and his major antiquarian work, Ogham Inscriptions in Ireland, Wales and Scotland
published posthumously in 1887, while his major verse work, the long poem Conal
came out in 1872?
3 Executed at Auschwitz in 1942, what was the real name of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross?
4 What was Dmitri Shostakovich's Second Symphony
5 Developed by the eponymous Central Committee secretary who developed it in 1946, which Soviet cultural doctrine proposed that the world was divided into two camps: the imperialistic, headed by the US and the demcratic, headed by the USSR?
6 Which US actor, tap dancer and choreographer rose to prominence in 1996 starring in the George C Wolfe-produced musical Bring In 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk
and was a cast member on Sesame Street
and has pushed the envelope of rhythm tap dancing in the last two years, collaborating with his band The Otherz and in 2004 partnering with spoken word artist Reg E Gaines and saxophonist Matana Roberts in the John Coltraine-inspired improv session If Trane Wuz Here
7 Judith Rossner is best known for which best-selling 1975 novel, inspired by the murder of schoolteacher Roseann Quinn?
8 With the three virgin martyrs - "Saint Margaret with the dragon, Saint Barbara with the tower, Saint Catherine with the wheel"
- at its heart, which group of saints are venerated together in Roman Catholicism because prayer to them was thought to be particularly effective, especially against various diseases; the practice originating in the 14th century in the Rhineland largely due to the Black Death?
9 Which German architect (1687-1753) developed a refined brand of Baroque archiecture with such buildings as the palace of the Wurzburg Residence and the Rococo pilgrimage church of the Vierzehnheiligen
in the Bavarian hamlet of Bad Staffelstein?
10 Elia Levita, or Eliahu Bakhur meaning "Eliahu the Bachelor" wrote which work in 1507-1508, said to be the most popular chivalric romance in the Yiddish language and, which is, according to Sol Liptzin, "generally regarded as the most outstanding poetic work in Old Yiddish"
11 Grown for the liquid wax in its seeds that is refined into an odourless and colourless oil used in cosmetics as a moisturiser, what shrub native to the Sonoran and Mojave deserts of Arizona, California and Mexico has the scientific name Simmondsia chinensis
and is the sole species of the family Simmondsiaceae
12 Located about 75km from Lviv, what Ukrainian castle first features in historical document dated 1327 that states it was given by Pope Boniface IX gave Halych, a Catholic bishop, as a gift?
13 Also known as the Ramayana Monkey Chant
, what form of Balinese music drama originated in the 1930s and is by circle of 100 or more primarily male performers wearing checked cloth around their waists, percussively chanting and throwing up their arms in a depiction of a battle from the Ramayana where monkeys help Prince Rama defeat the evil King Ravana?
14 The Bulldozer Revolution or 5th October Overthrow led to whose downfall in 2000?
15 Where was Queen Lili'uokalani usurped in a coup d'etat by a group of European and American businessmen in 1893?
16 Led by the Zwickau prophet and weaver Nicholas Storch, which 16th century German sect of Anabaptists effected an absolute disdain for human knowledge, contending that God would enlighten his elect from within themselves, and give them knowledge of necessary truths by visions and ecstasies with which human learning would interfere, while also claiming that to be saved one must even be igorant of the first letters of the alphabet?
17 What unprovoked murder by Arabs of 68 Jews, which began in Jerusalem's Old City, took place on August 23, 1929?
18 What Iron Age culture is named after the eponymous archaeological site on the north side of Lake Neuchatel in Switzerland, where a rich trove of artefacts was discovered by Hansli Kopp in 1857?
19 Don Beach, a.k.a Don the Beachcomber kickstarted what kind of restaurant culture in the US when he opened an eatery in Hollywood in 1934 that served Cantonese cuisine and exotic rum punches with evocative tropical decor?
20 Built during the era of the Umayyad caliph Umar II, the ancient Islamic monument of the Khamis Mosque is believed to be the first mosque ever built in which country?
21 When the future King William III landed in the Devon fishing village of Brixham he also gave his three-word motto to the town, which retains it to this day. What is it?
22 What vitamin was first discovered by Umetaro Suzuki in 1910 and was first called aberic acid?
23 What is the third longest river in Europe after the Volga and Danube?
24 Which pop singer appeared uncrdited on the Black Eyed Peas' global hit Where is the Love
and at the end of 2003 recorded the song I'm Lovin' It
, which was used by McDonald's as the theme to their I'm Lovin' It
25 The acronym VHB is used to describe what constuction technique?
26 Who wrote at least two of his all-time classic novels at his home, 16250 Greenwood Lane in what is now Monte Sereno, California?
27 Whose Law of the Minimum
is a principle developed in agricultural science which states that growth is controlled not by the total of resources available, but by the scarcest resource or limiting factor?
28 The Danube originates in the Black Forest in Germany as which two smaller rivers that join at Donaueschingen?
29 Upon seeing which waterfalls did Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly exclaim "Poor Niagara!"
? It also features the Garganta del Diablo ("Devil's Throat"), a U-shaped 150m-wide and 700m-long cliff which marks the border between Argentina and Brazil.
30 In which Australian city is the O-Bahn Busway, the world's longest and fastest guided busway?
31 The hymn Dear Lord and Father of Mankind
is taken from a poem about hallucinogenic drugs by which American Quaker poet of the 19th century?
32 Where would you find a "targa top"?
33 Makers of the Dolomite Roadster and Gloria Six, which motor manufacturers began as a "Cycle Company" in 1897 and branched out in 1902 into making motorcycles at their works at Much Park Street?
34 What did the Gyokuon-hoso
signal and what did it literally mean?
35 In what year did the Panama Canal open to traffic?
36 Commemorated in the Old French epic poem The Song of Roland
, what battle of August 15, 778 saw a Frankish army led by Roland, prefect of the Britanny March, defeated by Basque forces commanded by Bernardo del Carpio?
37 What two-word military term has been used by the United States intelligence agencies to refer to any classified facility that is officially denied by the US government?
38 Which African country is divided into one city and five regions, including Ali Sabieh Region, Tadjourah Region and Dikhil Region?
39 In which country was the Cole Inquiry set up in November 2005 to invesigate the country's companies' alleged improprieties regarding the UN Oil-For-Food Programme?
40 Whose forces defeated and killed Macbeth at the Battle of Lumphanan in 1057?
41 In 1309, the city of Rhodes surrendered to the forces of which Benedictine religious order, thus completing their conquest and establishing their sovereignty?
42 Dug into the side of the Erusheli mountain in southern Georgia near Aspindza, which cave monastery or so-called "Cave City" was founded by Queen Tamar of Georgia in 1185?
43 Nicknamed La Ciudad Blanca
("the white city") becase much of the sillar, a pearly white volcanic rock was used in the construction of its colonial era Spanish buildings, what city in southern Peru stands at the foot of the snow-capped volcano El Misti and was founded on August 15, 1540 by Garci Manuel de Carbajal, an emissary of Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro?,
44 Known as "Mother of Cities"
because it is one of the oldest cities in South America, what city was founded on the feast day of the Assumption on August 15, 1537 by Juan de Salazar and Gonzalo de Mendoza?
45 What August 15, 1599 battle saw an Irish rebel army led by Hugh Roe O'Donnell successfully ambush, near the town of Boyle in northwest Ireland, an English force sent to relieve Colloney Castle?
46 Ultimately deriving its name from the Wolof for "to eat", what is the common name given to 150 different varities of plants with starchy tubers that belong to the genus Dioscorea
47 Which Portuguese Catholic saint was born Fernando de Bulhoes in 1195 and holds the record for the second fastest canonisation in history, being declared a saint 352 days after his death, and becoming the patron saint of the Italian city, where a basilica hosts his relics to this day?
48 What was the real name of the 18th century Knaresborough-born roadbuilder "Blind Jack"?
49 Author of the poem Death and the Maiden
that was used by Schubert for his celebrated song in 1817 and later string quartet, which German poet (1740-1815) was otherwise known by the nom de plume of ASMUS and wrote such poems as Der Mensch
and Die Liebe
50 E, Nesbit wrote about which fictional middle class family fallen on relatively hard times in her books The Story of the Treasure Seekers
(1898) and The Wouldbegoods
51 In which year was Napoleon Bonaparte born?
NAnswers to BH92
1 Trajan 2 Samuel Ferguson 3 Edith Stein 4 To October 5 Zhdanov Doctrine 6 Savion Glover 7 Looking for Mr Goodbar 8 The Fourteen Holy Helpers 9 Balthasar Neumann 10 Bovo-Bukh 11 Jojoba 12 Olesko Castle 13 Kecak 14 Slobodan Milosevic 15 Hawaii 16 Abecedarians 17 The Hebron massacre 18 La Tene culture 19 Tiki culture 20 Bahrain 21 "I will maintain" 22 Thiamine or Vitamin B1 23 Dnieper 24 Justin Timberlake 25 Very High Building 26 John Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men) 27 (Justus von) Liebig's Law of the Minimum 28 Brigach and Breg 29 Iguazu Falls 30 Adelaide 31 John Greenleaf Whittier 32 On a car (a semi-convertible car body style with removable roof section) 33 Triumph Motor Company 34 The broadcast of the unconditional surrender of Japan by Emperor Hirohito on August 15, 1945; it means "Jewel Voice Broadcast" 35 1914 36 Battle of Roncevaux Pass 37 Black site 38 Djibouti 39 Australia 40 Malcolm III 41 The Knights Hospitaller or Knights of St John or Order of St John of Jerusalem 42 Cave City of Vardzia 43 Arequipa 44 Asuncion 45 The Battle of Curlew Pass 46 Yam 47 Anthony of Padua 48 John Metcalf 49 Matthias Claudius 50 The Bastable family 51 1769