Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Slight Return Part 1

Forgive me for the following jabber, if you don't mind

Howdy. It's been a few weeks. My excuse is that I have been spending a lot of time sleeping and watching the reimagined version of Battlestar Galactic - hey, it's ace. It's nothing like the old one with the same stock footage and the boisterous bushy hairstyles and unfortunate fabric choices of the late late 1970s. It's serious like ... Iraqi war allegory ... dark as a January afternoon ... and so on. Oh, and Bridget Jones's gay friend plays a scientist who causes the near total annihilation of mankind because he's frakking an Amazonian blonde Cylon with hypnotically odd eyebrows. In her first scene she snaps the neck of a newborn baby. There's a gruesome schlucking sound. You see? Now you want to watch it. You know you do. Try here. Your impending addiction will burn time and eat the days. Exactly what the doctor ordered for these winter months.

Anyhoo. Quiz stuff. Jotting down a few illegible notes has opened my eyes as to what I have missed out on documenting with this blog. There's been things happening, oh yes. So what I will do right now is just spray some random thoughts concerning the said events in cursory detail accompanied by some smart-arse bon mots in your faces. But at least I am blogging again, albeit only because I have work and tax deadlines bearing down on me like seven-foot tall mutant wolf-beasts slobbering their icky mouths above my head. They must be fed. But being a bit of a ninny, I choose procrastination. I love the frisson I get when I realise I have just fooled myself into thinking that I have somehow created time in which I can bugger about on the interweb. Indeed, invented "time" with the power of my mind! The laws of physics have nothing on me. I can feel the frisson now. Ooh. The piquant thrill of digging your own grave as it were. Yet I digress...

First Item
I have seen previews for Benidorm. It is an ITV sitcom, which means it will be irredeemably shite. No, ifs or buts. It will most certainly be a fetid bucket of stinky donkey knackers. However, why am I bringing this up? Because Johnny Vegas is playing a "Lancashire pub quiz champion". He has met serious quizzers: me, Trevor Montague, Peter Ediss, Chris Hughes and others because he appeared on the same edition of the Big Breakfast as we did and even sat next to us and started ripping us new ones, so I'm wondering who he has based his character on.

But since the dude he's playing is holidaying at a sun, sea, sex and sangria resort with his mother, I'm guessing he has seized upon the Norman Bates demographic of the quizzing world and added a depthless appetite for fat pies and various cholesterol-laced heart attack snacks. Inaccuracies are inevitable and have already been sighted; reading this article suggests that his mum coaches him and accompanies him to quizzes. Reality is not a friend of this premise. Quizzers' competition company is always comprised of similar-aged saddos, not the women who brought them into this crazy, mixed-up world. Now that would be too weird.

And do you know any "pub quiz champions"? I don't. Not with the "pub" bit in the front. Sniff, bleargh, grrrr. Terminology alert. These TV scriptwriters ... they deserve scourging with hot whips. They know nothing.

Plus, he has been given the nickname "The Oracle". Which champion quizzers have nicknames? No one. And if they exist, they are probably quite derogatory and said out of the subject's earshot (I'm expecting a few people to step forward here and quote some example ... go on then). Then again, I am fussing in futile fashion. It's a bleeding TV show and is already a tissue of gorram lies. They use us up and spit us out. Sometimes they just ignore us. Sometimes I believe TV and "quizzes and quizzers" have kind of the same relationship as the Spartans had with the Helots, i.e. a very one-sided one where the lesser partners feel they're being exploited and screwed, often to death, on the terms of the said relationship because the Laconic ones have sculpted muscles and superior weapons. In ITV's case it is money and cameras. Since I don't know where this cracked analogy is going, I think I'll quietly drop it in the metaphorical bin, whistle Sweet Georgia Brown and scurry on in a sheepish manner. Wait. The only question remains: will it be as good as Duty Free? Methinks nobody cares.

Went back to Northampton for Nic's annual Quizzing GP. And yet again I finished 4th. I can't say I am disappointed or elated. But it is what I'd consider a nice simmering and pleasant feeling. When I consider that I haven't done any quiz-related reading or written any questions, apart from the newspaper ones to put bread on my table ("bread" being code for Chinese takeaways and Domino's pizzas), for a whole two months, I have to conclude that my performance was none too shabby. Nic and Hugh's questions were very good: thoughtful, wide-ranging and most importantly, interesting.

Still, I counted 24 SHKs (Should Have Knowns), some of the open goal misses almost compelling me to headbutt many a hard stone surface with a fast jutting motion. My burn rate should always be kept below 10 SHKs, but it seems my last few months of quiz abstinence has seriously obnubilated the mental pathways and encouraged the cultivation of some deadening moss along those once gleaming and spotless neural avenues. Although I have to ask myself: can I bring myself to dive back into all that prep and fill more files? I'm unsure. I have other things to get on with. A life (he tells himself again, for the gajillionth time). Also, looking through all those thousands questions (which I did today) makes me think - and I've said this many a time before - that I should make an effort to learn the ones I have already written rather than resume previous aimless and time-consuming practices and thus wonder why I have written the same question half a dozen times without being conscious of my folly.

I need to tighten up on my sport and physical world too, if I am to improve my scores by a vital five or six points. However, I must choose one or the other for efficiency's sake. It is quite the dimela. Sport is more interesting to me but relatively lacking, while I only need to polish a lot of pre-existing scientific-related knowledge that happens to come out all wrong and misshapen at crucial moments during the individual competitions. I will ponder this further in camera.

However, my personal highlight, apart from jumping up and down like a crystal meth-crazed macaque when I guessed correctly that the LA Galaxy play at the Home Center Depot, was Nic's excellent Euro-style quiz in which we (William De Ath, Mark Grant and sorry but I don't know your name and should have really asked) turned over a team that included Bayley, Pat and Nick Mills 61-49. I'm starting to like the format. I like the dilution of personal responsibility. Mistakes don't seem quite so bad because your other team-mates have to at least yield to the incorrect answer's airing. Therefore they also dine on the guilt and pain of lost points. No blurting out things that make you scream like a cop in a movie, whose trusty partner has got his guts blown out by a demented sallow-faced crim. Nope, everyone in the side utters a shared, stifled curse.

Going to the opposite, increasingly crepuscular end of the scale, my lowlight was not getting the pH question despite my hearing it in a pub quiz on Monday. I got it wrong the first time and since I was mildly sozzled and playing in the pool room and therefore not really listening to the answers since I was beginning to think I had actually transformed into THE Efren "The Magician" Reyes and was playing in suitably inspired fashion (well, I ended up winning 3-2), the correct answer was muffled in my memory, clouded by Littovel, scrambled by continuous nicotine intake. And muff-scrambled it remained. I even wrote down the same rubbish - "Percentage". Ugh. Careless, so very careless. Also, not getting Akenfield and Mick Foley hurt me in the bad places. I've written a newspaper question on the first and seen much TV coverage on the latter as well as his autobiography at a number of friends' houses ("Why you want to read that? Are you training to be a twatty lunkhead?") . And yet they stayed obscured and prevented from possible vocalisation. I should really start taking huge doses of folic acid and start a local campaign to save my brain. Tis a worthy cause. You know its unusually large size nearly killed both me and my mother when I was born. That's a true story by the way. She still complains about the *AHEM*.

Better news: I did beat Kevin on Art and Culture thanks to a 5/6 tie-break score. That doesn't happen very often and so I have enjoyed coddling a soft and warmish glow in my solar plexus as a result since Saturday. I shall give it a name; how about Gimble? (Then again, I couldn't believe some of the rubbish I put down in that round, should have got three more. Should have, could have, didn't ... the past is so rubbish. You can't do anything about it, so you try to mould the present differently and it turns out just as crappy anyway, complete with a whole load of new regrets. Won't someone please do a 12-week course on "How to make your past less crappy and pain-ridden by dealing with the present in a sensible and far from reckless fashion"? Alternatively, amnesia could be a very good option ... eternal sunshine and all that. Have you got a hammer? If I had a hammer...)

A brief word or two on Your Country Needs You. Yes, Your Country Needs You to go on TV and take part in a rank and pointless two-hour tossfest, which was about as riveting as having someone pour sulphuric acid on your goolies ... over a period of two hours. England represented by that actor from Eastenders, who has actually evolved from weasels rather than humans according to BBC scientists, and Chesty Klass from I'm a Celeb and that band with the deviant apostrophe. Alan Davies on one of his worse QI days would have done better. At least he tries to answer quiz questions on a regular basis and may even be improving. I suppose they thought it would be far more fun to have these down-to-earth, publicity hungry whores than famous people with operating brain cells. There are so many. Not that I can name any right now. I see a Carol Vorderman in my mind's eye, and I apologise for conjuring up such a cliched choice. However, I don't think Will Self or Susan Greenfield would have been up for it.

If they're going to do it next time can't they do it with hobos and hookers gathered at a moment's notice off the streets of the respective UK capitals? Because if you don't have teams which purport to represent the finest quiz brains your nation has to offer, then you might as well pick some colourful people with faces that bear the weight of their tragic and sordid pasts. With interesting stories to tell and numerous addictions to tend to, if at all possible. Not bland middle England with their sensible everything. Well, it's only an idea. Or maybe hobos and hookers would be a better pub name, in a lighter vein certainly than "Free the Paedos"* (If you think I just grasped that from the thin air and you don't get it, cos that is plain sick, I'm making references to cult Channel 4 sitcoms and am about to make another one ... because I am silly and in thrall to slightly hellish yet somehow exciting and comforting visions of Generation Y late-twentysomething slackerdom)

But going back to the show: Ye gods, it made 1 vs 100 look like "f***ing Shaft"* as the old Peggster once said. If there are tapes, they should be burnt immediately. The incinerated remnants will then be covered in quicklime and buried deep in the ground. Safe from harm. Possibly on Gruinard.

No, haven't seen the new series of Pokerface. If they have stuck with the inane between the rounds chatter then I certainly will not be tuning in. What you want is more competitive pressure and a blistering tempo, not cosy interviews with useless gits who hate on the survivors who outwitted or outclassed them and try and make excuses for their arrogance/stupidity/ignorance/retardation/stupid clothes. Or maybe, dare I say it has become a half-hour show. Of course, for all I know it has probably been reduced from its hour-long running time and I am talking a load of rollocks. Just had a look. It's still an hour. May God have mercy on the souls who watch the whole thing. I will pray for you.

Saw a repeat of the Deadly Knowledge Show today. This may well be the worst quiz show on TV, but paradoxically this makes it a far better viewing experience that any of the above. Because it is so hilariously inept and peopled by dim, whooping students, who otherwise would be eating cockroaches or burning their pubic thatches if The Word was still going strong. In fact it is so bad that I have made notes for blog entries on three separate occasions, but have somehow not been able to bring myself to post them. They will forever remain sarcastic words and exclamation marks in my notebooks taking up expensive Moleskine space. There was something so nihilistic about them that I simply left them where they lay. But let me convey exactly why I did write my way through the show, not once, not twice, but THRICE. I have my special reasons.

Aimed at people under 25, the premise is that DKS covers high and low culture - thus a question on the rock band Nirvana actually segues into a one on Buddhist concepts due to the tenuous semantic link. However, the high culture questions are so moronic, with four choices: e.g. What is the second highest mountain in the world? K2, G4, L6, B8, that you realise it is really trivia with the substance of belly button lint packaged as hardcore highbrow stuff (seemingly highbrow simply because they happen to just mention the name of dead famous people like Stalin, then ruin this cunning facade by asking them what country was ruled by the said bundle of genocidal laughs) for absolute eejits who think books are well gay and that smashing your brain up with drug-benders and binge-drinking most days is the way to go.

A trained baboon could win it because all it has to do is choose an answer and never provide an original one that burst forth from the potentially teeming memory vaults in your brain. The shocking pink-arsed creature merely has to shriek in the right places, and chances are that it will and take home the thousands of pounds that count for its regular show prize. And I'm sure the dumbest simian would never have contended that 50 Cent was the godfather of Drew Barrymore as one female contestant did. Even our presenter Dave Berry, the compact Cockney version of T4 Welsh cocknose Steve Jones and therefore even more useless and annoying, took the proverbial pee sample.

Suffice to say that if you watch it, and if you have a proper job then thankfully you will be spared this atrocity exhibition, a gruesome sensation will overcome you equivalent to the feeling of your brain shrivelling and necrotising because it is so deprived of proper stimuli that the honking, insane laughter of the braying mongoloid youth-cursed audience, allied with banter so regressive a well-adjusted five-year-old would think it beneath them to even think of uttering it, is permanently destroying precious memories, the capacity for rational thought (let alone lateral), Broca's area, (deep breath) and bits of other really important grey matter.

It is deadly because it first destroys the viewer's will to live and then his thought factory. Ha ha. You see what I did there ... and I think, maybe I do miss this blogging lark. Yes, I miss writing loads of senseless, deranged toss. Interspersed with enough trivia questions and pop culture references to distract you from the true extent of my madness, natch.

Yes, there is more, but not right now. The mutant wolves are starting to nuzzle my earlobes with their surprisingly rough tongues and may sink their fangs into my head if I don't at least try and meet just a teensy weensy bit of the deadline. Whenever that may have been. Yesterday morning at 10am perhaps?

Part 2 sometime soon ... I promise

* Peep Show and Spaced btw ... for people who won't ever get questions right about Bill Hicks. I'm not being wilfully and grossly offensive. I'm just plagiarising from far finer comic minds. It's only natural (as Crowded House might say ... and there I go again ... I Can't Help Myself)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Break

Worried correspondents have texted and emailed me to enquire about my health due to the radio silence here and they and you will be glad to know that I am not typing this from the netherworld. No, not at all and thank you for your slightly misplaced concern (I don't think along the lines of "Blogito ergo sum" ... I was perfectly alive and well before I started this cyberspace noodling lark). I thought I'd just use the Xmas holidays and the post-festive period to take a little breather and do ruminative things like bitch about how dreary January is and sort out stuff like my tax bill (now that's scary).

And, maybe, I also wanted people to realise just like Joni Mitchell that you don't know what you've got till it's gone. I do this for free. It takes time and effort. Not that I want to start on a patronising and self-indulgent lecture on the nature of blogging. I'm sure you understand.

I am, in fact, considering some quiz event and TV options, you know stuff like that. Getting back into work and generally returning to some sense of normality - spring, summer come quickly please.

However, I fear it was one of those holidays which I want to have a holiday from: emotional rollercoaster on multiple fronts. Partying hard etc. Unlike Amy Winehouse, if they asked me to go into rehab, I might just say: "Yes! Yes! Yes!" The amount of rust or, er, brain damage sustained during may well have been apparent during the first QLL match back on Tuesday. I scored 4 - my lowest ever in the history of my time in the league. I could blame the questions (now that would be a surprise), but there were one or two two-pointers that should have raised my final tally above the embarrassing levels, or is that depths?

Nevertheless, we still won (40-38 vs. Atletico) and stay unbeaten at the top of the league. Time for a subdued "yippee".

Anyway, I think I may clean up my room and have myself (no practical resolutions for me this new year; they be of the creative and ambitious kind). I just thought I'd tell you that. Byeee.

NB Posts will be sporadic until TQB's first anniversary next month, but may appear here from time to time, subject to all manner of kinds of health and willingness.