Sunday, April 29, 2007

BH112: The Incredibly Rubbish Journey

Pictured above: The first and hopefully last time I will ever arrive at Clapham Junction train station walking on the railway tracks rather than on an actual train

You are advised to skip this rail-related rambling if you just fancy the quiz questions. I do go off on one, and then another, then I take a tangent and so on. Rant and rave, rant and rave...

I've never had cause to complain about the state of the British railways and have never had one of those horror stories of being stuck in a train carriage for two or three hours more than I should have. Until now.

Earlier this evening some unfortunate lady decided to "trespass" on the line at Battersea Park. In other words, or more truthfully, taking away the BR euphemism, she decided to commit suicide by throwing herself on the lines at the vital London Victoria station juncture and apparently failed, but was still occupying said rail tracks and doing weird things of an unsubstantiated rumour variety (I heard some random snatch of mobile conversation concerning someone refusing to take their pills at 9pm. Probably has nothing at all to do with the said track-jumping incident, but hearsay and conjecture do spice up such narratives no end.

So for what seemed like an ice age, first we were stopped (the time was 22.31) mere yards from the finishing line, were regaled with silence and, then even worse, were regularly disappointed by the train conductor, who kept on saying: "We still have no information on the current situation" and was "severely" apologising every ten minutes, which only made everyone irate. This was enlivened by him saying "the hands is out of my matter". Because everyone thought, wow, he's an even bigger clown than we thought. He don't even speak proper.

The waiting around for an hour (we were only ONE minute from the station) I could stomach to a certain extent. It was when they cut the power to the entire train that got everyone worried. Every light went out. The whole train sounded as if it had wheezed its last breath. The disturbing thought that we would have to live the rest of our lives on this train flashed across each of our minds. What a bogus journey. Because pitch black train carriages are not pleasant places to be for nigh on 35 minutes. Especially when your phone has died and your laptop has joined it in dead battery heaven. No one could see anything and when one lucky woman revealed her ringtone to be the theme from The Exorcist, well, it was creepy weird (though how we laughed in the dark and dreamed of pea soup after the initial shock).

I mean, I've seen many a trashy disaster movie. One that sprang in my mind was Airport '77. Granted nobody was lapping up cocktails or happily dancing around in their swimsuits and our train had certainly not found itself trapped underwater (in the Bermuda Triangle no less!), but you noticed the familiar, very filmic sensation of mildly blissful ignorance that wraps around you before something really baaaad happens. And changes your lives forever. The calm and then the storm. Eeek.

You realise too that this is one of those 'public transport tipping the once serene, upstanding citizen into the realms of madness' scenarios. Remember that episode of The Day Today (which, when I think about it, was insanely JG Ballardian, just like the Noel Edmonds killing Clive Anderson scene in Brass Eye)? Well, at least those commuters had the benefit of sunlight. We had nothing. Demons always come in the dark (well, according to John Malkovich in In the Line of Fire).

However, there were a rare few comedic bright spots. The female half of the PDA-mad couple sitting near me and notching up a particularly schlucky kpm (kiss per minute) rate of ten, saying in all seriousness: "Imagine if we hadn't bought sandwiches, how would we have coped?" as if she had forgotten bringing impervious winter clothing to a night spent trekking across the Antarctic, and was thinking what would have happened if she was wearing a bikini. I loved the incredulous moans of the naive European students too: "It's amazing there's no emergency lighting". I did feel like saying this isn't the Starship Enterprise, love. It's a Southern train. You're lucky it doesn't still run on steam. And yet, a little sadness shuddered through me that foreigners, and in particular these fine Teutons, who had come to these shores with high hopes of Britannia were going to leave it with vitriolic opinions on our transport system (as they should in all honesty). Oh dear, Dr Beeching.

But the truly worrying coup de grace came when they announced: "We are doing an emergency evacuation from the front of the train. Everyone must leave". So we got up - the dread growing in our hearts - and slowly made our way to the front to jump from a five-foot drop. I saw one poor woman who had sprained her ankle and was babbling incoherently as a result. Nasty.

It's just that when they use words like EVACUATE you start thinking the kind of stuff that triggers paranoid terror fantasies in your head, and you really desperately want to get the hell out of there as soon as possible. And, of course, some distraught child had to start crying in that screaming, uncontrollable way kids do when they are terrified. I did wonder when this natural soundtrack to such events was going to start ringing through the train. It took about 20 minutes from lights out till the awful screeching began, which was a kind of blessed relief, and he soon piped down anyway. However, true British resolve ensured that everybody waited their turn and slowly made their way off. Our innate orderliness in times of distress can be a blessing.

Then, as we made our way at snail's pace, we were told by some cheeky policeman that the train was ready to go and get the power back on, and that we - the people who were emergency evacuated - were now holding everything up since a half mile long line of us were forced to walk by foot along the train tracks into Clapham Junction station (a kind of "first" you might tell someone about if you were bored out of your mind ... oh wait, that's what I'm doing right now ... well, ho hum). I can tell you it is a rocky path lined with concrete slabs with disturbing see-saw motions. No wonder only trains and gruff men wearing fluorescent vests are allowed to negotiate it. I felt especially sorry for the folk with hefty luggage. Some looked as if they needed a Sherpa or two to help them tackle the rocky terain. I can also tell you about walking beside a whole trainload of cheeky gits heading south shouting: "Helloooo!"

Any reflected cheeriness on our part and revelling in the hardy spirit of the oppressed, but still resilient train traveller was eradicated by the plain fact that they were in a hulking meanie of a train speeding past us and we were only inches away from being squished since one false step in a bumpy stone pile would have resulted in a catastrophic fall.

Naturally, after getting to the safe haven of the station, I missed all the tube rides back to KX and got two meandering buses and finally made it home at 1.30am, having left L'A at 19.30pm. I had so many plans for the evening. I was, er, going to do some freelance work and study in a very studious manner. Maybe. Or, perhaps, I was going to watch four episodes of Scrubs in a row, with a side order of House and another viewing of the Peep Show episode from last Friday. Make your mind up as to which course I would have taken. Please think the best of me.

So self-indulgent rant over (sorry). I have quiz questions!

Quizzy Quiz Quiz
1 Australia have not lost a World Cup cricket match since they were beaten by which team at Leeds in 1999?
2 Which Japanese motor manufacturer have produced a response to the BMW Mini in the form of the Swift Sport?
3 Which performing group included Louise Clark, Flick Colby, Babs Lord, Ruth Pearson, Andi Rutherford and Dee Dee Wilde?
4 Margaret Thatcher, feeling ashamed at the lack of grandeur compared to such residences as the Elysee Palace, employed which architect to refurbish No. 10 Downing Street in the 1980s?
5 The result of a collaboration between electronics company CAEN spa and the Switzerland's STABIO Textile SA,which Italian company is the first fashion brand to successfully integrate fibre optics into its fabric: "a fine mesh of transparencies and colours suggesting a star-filled sky"?
6 In Spain, El Celler de Can Roca, El Raco de Can Fabes, Mugaritz and Arzak are what kind of renowned establishments?
7 In Spain what are Victorio and Lucchino, Purification Garcia and Hoss Intropia?
8 Which Japanese company is associated with the Atrac music file format?
9 Which Englishman, who coined such phrases as "let there be light" and "the salt of the earth", was strangled and burned at the stake near Brussels on October 26, 1536?
10 Which US company, the second largest chemical firm in the world after BASF and headquartered in Midland in Michigan, is the company behind Styrofoam brand insulation (and is the world's largest producer of plastics) and the pesticide Lorsban and was founded in 1897 by an eponymous Canadian-born chemist?
11 The only hijacking of a British commercial aircraft occurred in 1970 when members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine took control of a flight with 20 schoolchildren on board. What was the airline?
12 Which 4km long and 2km wide island is the smallest of the Ionians?
13 Shot in only six days, which cult B-feature film of 1945 was directed by the bizarre German intellectual Edgar G Ulmer and starred Tom Neal, who had been blacklisted by Hollywood due to being jailed for manslaughter, as a doomed accidental killer driving across the US?
14 Which Swiss city hosts the world's leading watch and jewellery fair (originating in 1917) that opened on April 12 of this year?
15 The official residence of the American Vice-President is "Number One ... ... " what?
16 Sepah is the state-owned bank of which country?
17 Which Dostoevsky work from 1846 is a bleak tale of poverty, love and the hope of redemption, written as a series of letters between the second cousins twice-removed, Makar Devushkin and Varvara Dobroselova?
18 Later presented in a different formulation by Einstein in 1905, who first proposed the theory of relativity in 1900?
19 Which pair wrote The Seven Deadly Sins as a "sung ballet" in 1933?
20 Meaning "the hammer without a master", the work Le Marteau sans maitre was first performed in 1955 and is said to have established which composer's reputation as a fiercely cerebral modernist?
21 Super giant slalom winner in 1992, which Italian skier later won the women's Olympic giant slalom in 1994 and 1998, and also won silver in the slalom at the latter games?
22 How many bets in total make up a Super Yankee (aka a Canadian)?
23 Who was Ralph Nader's Vice-Presidential candidate for the Reform Party in the 2004 US Presidential election?
24 In 1853, which Ethiopian chieftain reunified the country and proclaimed himself Emperor Tewodros II?
25 Which Italian nun and philosopher wrote Dialogo in 1378?
26 Which Greek astronomer from Cyrene calculated the tilt of the Earth's axis in c.240BC?
27 Living between the years 1170 and 1220, which German poet's only complete work is the Middle High German epic Parzival?
28 What is the largest of the six counties of Northern Ireland?
29 Emperor Charles V appointed which artist as his court painter in 1533, later resulting in one of the earliest equestrian portraits, Charles V at Muhlberg (1548)?
30 Which 1913 Alain-Fournier novel, whose English titles have included The Wanderer and The Lost Domain, tells the story of 15-year-old narrator Francois Seurel who falls in love at first sight with a beautiful girl, only to spend the rest of his life searching for her?
31 Set in the Alps, which downbeat Swiss feminist road movie of 1979 - sometimes nicknamed "The original Thelma and Louise" - from director Alain Tanner shares its title with an month of the French Revolutionary calendar?
32 Which major US city takes its name from the Ojibway for "wild onion place" or the Algonquian word for "onion field"?
33 Jean-Maurice Henri Scherer adopted which name when he became a prominent film director in the late 60s?
34 One of Africa's premier dance bands, the popular music group Bembeya Jazz known for such albums as Bembeya Jazz National come from which country?
35 In which country did Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid supposedly meet their demise at San Vicente?
36 Which Siamese king (1804-68) had 39 wives and sired 82 children and inspired the musical The King and I?
37 The Kazakh smoked sausage qazy is made from the meat of which animal?
38 Also author of "The Banana Trilogy" (1950-1960), which 1967 Nobel prize-winning Guatemalan author and long-time exile has published such books as Hombres De Maiz/Men of Maize(1949), in which he combines Mayan mysticism and social awareness in order to indict dictatorial rule?*
39 In which Italian town will the Bra Cheese Festival be held from September 21-24?
40 Discovered by an eponymous scientist in 1933 when he observed that the earth's magnetic field was expelled from the interior of tin crystals below 3.72K thus indicating as superconductivity appeared the material became perfectly diamagnetic, what name is given to the falling off of the magnetic flux when it is cooled to a temperature below the critical temperature in a magnetic field?
41 What apparatus did US physicist Donald Arthur Glaser devise for detecting ionising radiation in 1952, for which he received the 1960 Nobel?
42 The Russian astronomer Alexander Friedmann proposed which cosmological theory in 1922?
43 Perfected by French scientist Georges Claude in 1902, the Claude process is used to do what on a commercial basis?
44 Hung Hsiu-ch'uan, a Hakka fanatic, led which 1851-64 revolt?
45 The German philosopher Christian Wolf (1679-1734) coined which term referring to a doctrine in metaphysics that contends reality consists of a single, unifying substance?
46 What word for a Muslim doctor of law comes from the Arabic for "judicial"?
47 Sir William Skeffington, Lord Deputy of Ireland and Lieutenant of the Tower of London under Henry VIII, is said to have "fathered" or invented which instrument of torture for compressing the body?
48 The umbelliferous plant Pastinaca sativa produces an edible root used as a vegetable known by what name?
49 Whose short story, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, has been adapted into a forthcoming film starring Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt?
50 The future Edward VII is said to have disliked which 1892 play because he thought that Lord Francourt Babberley, who disguises himself in widow's weeds to help his friends out of trouble, was modelled on his mother?





Answers to BH112
1 Pakistan 2 Suzuki 3 Pan's People on Top of the Pops 4 Quinlan Terry 5 Luminex 6 Restaurants 7 Upmarket clothes shops/fashion design 8 Sony 9 William Tyndale 10 Dow Chemical 11 BOAC 12 Antipaxos 13 Detour 14 Basle (named BASELWORLD) 15 Observatory Circle 16 Iran 17 Poor Folk (Bednye Lyudi) 18 Henri Poincare 19 Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht 20 Pierre Boulez 21 Deborah Compagnoni 22 Twenty six 23 Peter Miguel Camejo 24 Ras Kasa 25 Catherine of Siena 26 Eratosthenes of Cyrene 27 Wolfram von Eschenbach 28 Tyrone 29 Titian 30 Le Grand Meaulnes 31 Messidor 32 Chicago 33 Eric Rohmer 34 Guinea 35 Bolivia 36 Mongkut 37 Horse 38 Miguel Angel Asturias 39 Piemonte 40 (Walther) Meissner effect 41 Bubble chamber 42 Expanding universe theory 43 Liquefy air 44 Taiping Rebellion 45 Monism 46 Moolvi 47 Scavenger's daughter 48 Parsnip 49 F Scott Fitzgerald 50 Charley's Aunt (by Brandon Thomas)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

BH111: Is "It's a Nelson" one of your initial thoughts?

Befoe the Quiz: Proof of the Idiocracy

So I got an e-mail today from one of those sources you end up regretting signing up to, simply because you wanted to have a look at something once and never visited again that site, like ever, but found instead you ended up being flooded with spam-mail for the the rest of your life and can't be bothered to stop the relentless flow by going back to the site.


It was from SRO Audiences. Apparently, it is offering tickets to the BBC's new quiz show "THE PEOPLE'S QUIZ" because "the contestants have now been found" and you might like watching "the sharpest of minds crumble and somebody's dreams come true". It adds "apply now!"

Then it gave the dates because it even had me interested (yes, me!):

Wednesday April 11, Monday April 16, Tuesday April 17, Wednesday April 16

I was gobsmacked. Astonishing that SRO Audiences are offering TV show tickets allowing us to go back in time! They have cracked time travel! Hurrah! I could sit in the audience and see how I looked from the back and shout abuse at myself in a kind of display of cathartic self-loathing.

Er, wait a minute I then thought. How could they? It's a television audiences tickets company. They haven't cracked the thorny problem of the flux capacitor.

I then realised. They were being bloody rubbish! Incompetent idiots. Who sends invites to get tickets more than two weeks late? Oh, SRO Audiences. No wonder the actual audience was so sparse and had to be filmed so carefully. We can blame shoddy electronic communication like this one. In part.

Zat Quiz
1 The latest collaboration between Les Miserables composer Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyricist Alain Boublil is based on the life and adventures of the 16th century chieftain Grace O'Malley, who was one of the last Irish clan leaders to resist the English conquest of Gaelic Ireland. What is its title?
2 Based upon a 1934 George S Kaufman and Moss Hart play, which Stephen Sondheim musical opened on November 16, 1981 and ran for only 16 performances, its "difficult" nature being put down to the reverse chronology of the work in its backwards look at the life of highly successful yet jaded film producer Franklin Shepherd, who has lost such friends as collaborator Charley Kringas on the way?
3 Abandoning architecture at the age of 18 to study painting, which artist did Georges Seurat meet and befriend at the Societe des Artistes Independants in 1884? Together they would develop the pointillist style, and the man in question would execute many paintings of the French coast, including The Port of St Tropez (1901). His other works include Breakfast (1886-1887), The Papal Palace, Avignon (1900) and The Pine Tree at St Tropez (1909).
4 Which German physician and physicist (1821-1894) made his first important contribution to science with a 1847 physics treatise on the principle of conservation of energy, written in the context of his medical studies and philosophical background and discovered while he was investigating muscle metabolism?
5 In which constellation has the potentially habitable planet, Gliese 581 c, been discovered?
6 Who shot and killed John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln's assassin, on April, 26, 1865?
7 What colour are Michelin Guides for travel and tourism, if they are red for hotels and restaurants?
8 Which author is buried along with his wife in the North Carolina town of Asheville?
9 Who wrote the following books on the Carnegie of Carnegie medals shortlist: a) Skellig (the 1998 winner, a tale of a creature which lives beneath a garage) b) Storm (1985, in which a girl discovers the secret of a marsh) c) A Gathering Light (2003, a novel about a real murder) d) The Family from One End Street (1937, a portrait of a working class family) e) The Machine Gunners (1981, a World War Two novel)?
10 Headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan, which clothes company known for its rugged, durable workwear was founded in 1889 to make attire for railroad workers and took its name from its founder, whose first forename was Hamilton?
11 The Djemaa el-Fna, meaning "assembly of the dead", is the huge square situated at the heart of which North African city?
12 The Chaconne or Ciaconna is said to be the meatiest (and fifth and final part) of which JS Bach work (BWV 1004), written during the period 1717-1723 and described by some as the most famous piece ever composed for solo violin?
13 Advocating the dictum "form follows function", which US architect and pioneer of the skyscraper designed the Wainwright Building (1890) in St Louis and the Carson, Pirie, Scott Department Store (1904) in Chicago?
14 Which 1974 Werner Herzog film derives its source material from a teenage boy who appeared on the streets of Nurnberg on May 26, 1828?
15 Which 2005 fantasy-historical novel by Daniel Kehlmann topped the German charts for almost a year and featured the naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt and mathematician and physicist Carl Friedrich Gauss?
16 Winner of the Prix Nadar in 1956 and also director of such films as 1966's Who Are You Polly Magoo?, which US photographer sued Christian Dior designer John Galliano for using his trademark technique of painting over photographs in adverts, recently resulting in Galliano being fined 200,000 Euros in a French court in April 2007?
17 Lyme disease is so named from the location where an outbreak occurred in 1975. In which US state did it happen?
18 While attending Sunday mass, the 17-year-old Galileo noticed a swinging pendulum which would later help him formulate a pendulum theory. In which cathedral did the mass take place?
19 Who founded modern robotics when he invented the first programmable robot - known as the Ultimate - in 1954, and which was used on the General Motors assembly line?
20 Which country has the biggest pension fund in the world with $300 billion in current assets? And which Californian state pension fund is the next largest in the world with assets of $200 billion?
21 Originating in the south-western Indian state of Kerala, which ancient martial art, whose practitioners are sometimes called "Flying Warriors", takes 12 years of training to graduate from disciple to guru and is practised in a matting floor enclosure measuring 21ft by 42ft with a platform housing a guardian deity?
22 The Mursi or Murzu are a nomadic cattle herding ethnic group in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Region in the south of which African country?
23 With a season lasting from June till October, Las Lenas is the premier ski resort in which South American country and is the biggest Andean resort?
24 Which comic book for children, written by Australian cartoonist Norman Lindsay (1879-1969), concerns the adventures of a koala bear named Bunyip Bluegum who lives home to travel the world?
25 While Rocky Marciano was undefeated heavyweight champion over 49 fights, which US boxer was also undefeated as a heavyweight but lost to Harry Greb as a light heavyweight?
26 Which Romanian civil servant (b.1964) has won seven Olympic medals (four gold, two silver, one bronze), more than any other rower?
27 In 2000, the NEAR space probe entered orbit around which deep space asteroid that shares its name with a god in Greek mythology?
28 Which German chemist formulated the third law of thermodynamics in 1905?
29 Which Austrian-born film director won his first Oscar with the 1938 short film That Mothers Might Live?
30 The Austrian chemist Richard Adolf Zsigmondy won the 1925 Nobel for chemistry for his work on what substances, having discovered a water suspension of gold whilst working at a glass manufacturing company and proposing that their shape and size could be deducted from the way in which the particles scatter light?
31 Which Russian became prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet in 1944, earning international recognition for her roles in such Lavrovsky productions as The Red Poppy, Giselle, and Romeo and Juliet before she retired and became a coach with the Bolshoi in 1962?
32 Founded as Nidaros in 997, what city was the political and religious capital of medieval Norway?
33 What name for a footman or flunkey was popularised by William Makepeace Thackeray in a 1846 book, which took its name from a former footman whose real name is James Plush?
34 Andrea Mantegna executed his famous work, the nine-painting series The Triumphs of Caesar (c.1480-95), for which family of Mantua?
35 Chemical number 77, which metallic element's name was coined in 1803 by English chemist Smithson Tennant with reference to the various colours of the element's compounds?
36 What does the J in a J cloth (used for cleaning surfaces etc) stand for?
37 Commemorated in a new book entitled Horizons Touched, which jazz and new music label was founded by Manfred Eicher in Munich in 1969?
38 Known for such albums as Duster (1967), Throb (1969) and Dreams So Real (1975), the jazz musician and composer Gary Burton is best known for playing which instrument?
39 Their 14th studio album, Iron Maiden's latest record is warfare-themed and shares its name with which Powell and Pressburger film?
40 The first quarter profits of Pfizer, the world's biggest drug maker, are said to have been hit by disappointing sales of which diabetes drug?
41 Also known as hundi, which thousand-year-old system has been used as a simple banking method from the Middle East through the Indian subcontinent to China and has made UK news headlines due to it being used by criminal gangs to transfer funds overseas?
42 The Marvellous Spatuletail is a seriously endangered example of which bird?
43 Set up in 1936 on the death of an eponymous US-born pharmaceuticals expert (named Sir Henry), what has become Britain's biggest charity, spending more than £500m a year on biomedical research?
44 Set in Austria at the beginning of the 19th century, which 1850 Verdi opera was based on the Emile Souvestre and Eugene Bourgeois play Le Pasteur, ou l'Evangile et la Foyer and centred on an Italian Protestant priest whose marriage to Lina when he discovers she has taken a lover? It was subsequently revised by Verdi in 1857 into a new opera called Aroldo.
45 What word describes the traditional Japanese thermal baths which use natural hot springs? And which word describes the old public bath houses that rely on tap water?
46 What is the name of the woman embroiled in the pay rise scandal that may bring about the end of her partner Paul Wolfowitz's tenure as World Bank president?
47 Which small onion-like herb is Allium schoenoprasum?
48 Which deep-fried Mexican rolled tortilla takes its name from the Spanish for "trinket"?
49 Which order of regular canons was founded by St Norbert at a location near Laon in northern France in 1120?
50 Meaning "Doctrine of the Elders", what is the older of the two major schools of Buddhism?




Answers to BH111
1 The Pirate Queen 2 Merrily We Roll Along 3 Paul Signac 4 Hermann von Helmholtz 5 Libra 6 Boston Corbett 7 Green 8 F Scott Fitzgerald 9 a) David Almond b) Kevin Crossley-Holland c) Jennifer Donnelly d) Eve Garnett e) Robert Westall 10 Carhartt 11 Marrakech 12 Partita in D minor or Solo violin partita No. 2 13 Louis Sullivan 14 The Enigma of Kasper Hauser 15 Measuring the World 16 William Klein 17 Connecticut 18 Pisa Cathedral 19 George Devol 20 Norway, Calpers 21 Kalaripayattu 22 Ethiopia 23 Argentina 24 The Magic Pudding 25 Gene Tunney 26 Elisabeta Lipa 27 Eros 28 Hermann Nernst 29 Fred Zinneman 30 Colloids 31 Galina Ulanova 32 Trondheim 33 Jeames as in The Diary of C. Jeames de la Pluche, Esq. 34 Gonzagas 35 Iridium 36 Johnson (and Johnson) 37 ECM (Edition of Contemporary Music) 38 Vibraphone 39 A Matter of Life and Death 40 Exubera 41 Hawala 42 Hummingbird 43 Wellcome Trust 44 Stiffelio 45 Onsen, Sento 46 Shaha Riza 47 Chive 48 Chimichanga 49 Premonstratensians as in Premontre 50 Theravada

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

BH110: Cleaning Up Series Part I

So you thought you'd visit this blog and find me spilling (sometimes further) insights and hilariously bloated tidbits on the Transatlantic Challenge, Saturday's TPQ, and tonight's moment of fine collecting glory at QLL Finals Night. And I say: No dice. Not yet. I'll be writing up stuff on the aforementioned shindigs, but not right now. All in good time. All in good time.

I have loads of spare questions swilling around my bucket of quiz at the moment. They're spilling out and making a mess of everything else, like my poor brain for instance, so I thought I'd transform them into a series of BH quizzes (ooh, I remember when I filed one every day ... and that was when I didn't even have a web connection at my London flat ... I must have been crazy, but then again that was a time long before I'd ever imagine wasting hours of every precious day faffing about on MySpace and Facebook) and dump them here as if it were a digital skip o' trivia during the course of this week (every day if you are lucky, and if I can be arsed). Because many readers - you guys! - seem to miss them. Probably because I used to give thousands of them away, like a dang fool, and I found that when I did so, I invariably changed the setting habits of visitors to this blog, to my detriment. If only I had kept some secret ... my scores could have gone up by at least one per cent. That's almost two marks. Bloody loads. Having said that, my not reading the stuff that appeared here and then popped their sadly unfamiliar heads in quizzes mattered proved far more to that detriment that seems to be growing larger with every moment of every passing day (I'm thinking about that funky New Zealand tree from last year's Worlds ... the one that got away always sticks in the mind ... like chewing gum I have planted in a sibling's hair).

Paraphrasing military terminology, I did not so much fire-and-forget, but set-and-forget. Tis the unhappy lot of the question setter. Unlike many of the said esteemed practitioners of quiz construction, I have not resigned myself to the amnesia that sets in and wipes all trace of facts from the memory after I have authored a shedload of them. I do recall about 40 per cent that has somehow found its way into my long term memory. It's that missing 60 per cent that makes me shout a regretful "bugger!" on a regular basis. The prodigal knowledge is the stuff you will always miss the most when you realise it has gone AWOL. You wanted to rely on it, and when it came to the test, you realise it has shoved off and left you dangling like a maggot on a fish-hook waiting to be bitten off by your mediocre ignorance. Why didn't it leave a note, you wonder like a jilted, yet admittedly inattentive lover?

But now, more often than not, I find keeping most of my original questions back (I was going into a poker metaphor here, but further length to this post will only result in your skimming straight to the quiz below) is far more fun. People - in other words my victims and quasi-slaves - go into a kind of cold turkey: missing the "good stuff" they had become so accustomed to. No more copy and paste like it used to be. Then, after months have passed - KLABAMMO! - you hit 'em up Sixties Batman and Robin style and smack 'em with a book packed silly with well-crafted and difficult to find trivia that can only gladden the quiz fiend's heart.

That's sort of my reasoning. And, yes, the Lulu book is coming. I may even have a peak at the questions right now. Just to remind me of the tortuous, painful journey ahead of me in terms of formatting, proofing, verification and choosing a suitable font and colour (classical black and white, or violently vomitous purples and pinks?). It will be months before it makes it out of my laptop. Yes. Dozens of months.

I've changed my mindset slightly with regards to putting out more BH quizzes only because there is less than two months left before the Worlds on June 2, and they furnish me with another means of preparation: keeping me fresh, on the edge, the rest of that finger clicking Al Pacino speech from Heat. I want to do really well: keep on climbing the finishing table, breath the fresher air found at steeper heights.

If you said: "Would you like £200,000 or would you like a world title won with merit over the greatest quizzers in the world?" No, I won't say I'll take the latter and walk into the sunset with shining pride springing in my chest. I cannot lie straight-faced about the comparative importance of the pecuniary enrichment of such a sum. I would still get the 200 gees, but I guarantee I would spend at least half a minute thinking about the glow of prestige coming off me should I regain the title (yes, regain remember? I'm 1930 Uruguay. I'll always be first ... I mean England didn't turn up for 20 years did they? Silly sods. All those World Cups we could be boasting about right now. We were better than Italy in 1934 and 1938. At both playing football and kicking the crap out of the opposition).

And half a minute for something so intangible can appear attractive. But only half a minute. Then real life's economic realities kick in. At least next year you could, hypothetically speaking, use the money to take contracts out on your biggest, most dangerous rivals involving the infliction of major injuries to the vital mid-posterior hippocampus (i.e. the memory store), thus guaranteeing your glorious, Machiavellian triumph and leaving you enough cash left to bathe in champagne and snort caviar till it came out of your earholes. Not that I would ever pay someone to bop the world champion on the head with a crowbar before they got the chance to defend their title. I mean, it didn't work for Tonya Harding did it? Then again, she was rubbish and should have employed professional help. You know, people who run waste management and olive oil businesses.

Sources for this week's unexpected series of quizzes comes from The Guardian, The Times, The Observer, Trevor Montague's Sport A-Z, The Cassell Dictionary of Word Histories, Brewer's Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable and Philip's Encyclopedia - the comprehensive edition (I'm not sure that is entirely true in the case of the last reference book cited, but it really did try its darnedest. Trying to fit the world within the boundaries of a single volume book is quite a hard ask). This citation of sources is just in case you accuse me of summat nefarious and underhand and unoriginal. Truth is I do steal entire sentences and entries, and then I mould them and finally I fling the finished products on here for your delectation. Well, mould a little bit, play a kind of Find the Lady with sentence structure and change the adjectives, invariably to ones that are a bit more rubbish and probably aren't even right at all. Ah, the question setter's art. Or is that thievery and vandalism?

Anyway, please, delectate. I've kept you long enough.

1 Aiding future predictions on the existence of antimatter, Paul Dirac's titular equation describes the behaviour of which specific type of particle; one of two types (the other being the boson) that constitute the basis of all matter, but are differentiated by the way in they spin?
2 Which German engineer designed the 1894 glider said to have made the Wright Brothers' work possible?
3 Which Swiss skier won the men's downhill at the 1972 Olympics before finishing runner-up to Franz Klammer four years later?
4 Which German chemist discovered that proteins are made up of amino acids in 1907?
5 A controversial new production of which 1956 Leonard Bernstein operetta was cancelled by La Scala possibly due to it depicting such political leaders as Tony Blair and George W Bush in the roles of "the five deposed kings" who are seen frolicking drunkenly at a beach party in their underwear?
6 Now playing at London's Almeida Theatre, Dying For It is a new adaptation of the Soviet satire The Suicide (1928). Which Moscow-raised playwright originally wrote it?
7 Hailing from the northern Italian region of South Tyrol where he has set up a network of five mountain museums, who is considered the world's most successful climb having become the first man to climb all 14 peaks over 8000m?
8 Which bossa nova pioneer, father of singer Bebel, is simply called "El Mito" meaning The Legend in Brazil?
9 Which Romanian sculptor achieved a world record for an Art Deco sculpture when his Civa sold for £214,300 in Paris last year, while his piece The Russian Dancers - depicting Nijinsky and Ida Rubenstein in their roles in Sheherazade recently sold for £95,700?
10 Which small creature "unknown to science" and found living in an abandoned phone box by a lonely crocodile working as a zoo nightwatchman was the Soviet answer to Mickey Mouse when it first appeared in a 1966 book by Eduard Uspensky called Crocodile Gena and His Friends that became a cartoon in 1969?
11 Known for her pigtails and miniskirts and her control as "Chairlady" of property development conglomerate Chinachem, Asia's richest woman died of cancer on April 3. What was her name?
12 Of the same generation as Giorgione and Bellini, whose (1450-1525) greatest works are all found in Venice: for example the nine-painting St Ursula Cycle in the Gallerie dell'Accademia, The Apparition of the Ten Thousand Martyrs (c.1515) in the same location, and the scenes from the lives of St George and St Jerome in the Scuola Dalmata di San Giorgio degli Schiavone?
13 Which Scottish golf course is due to host this year's Open Championship?
14 Which member of the 23rd Regiment, later the Royal Welch Fusiliers, received the first Army Victoria Cross for his bravery during the Crimean War Battle of Alma in September 1854?
15 Mark Zuckerburg created which social networking site as a project at Harvard University in February 2004?
16 In a 1985-88 comic book and later cartoon series, which inhabitants of Third Earth derive their power from an "Eye" in embedded in the hilt of the Sword of Omens?
17 An ancient herb that grows across Europe as a weed, which bright blue flower has been renamed starflower by the farming industry?
18 What word describes the clandestine roads - estimated to make up a combined 105,000 miles - are often built by illegal loggers through the Amazon rainforest?
19 Which Latin-named ship found the Mary Celeste drifting off the Portuguese coast on December 5, 1872?
20 Which George Harrison song was excluded from Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and was a dig at the concept Paul McCartney sought to impose on the album as well as the band's publishing company, whose name inspired its title?
21 Known for combining spectacular martial arts with comedy slapstick, the nine-member Yegam theatre company had its first major international success with their show Jump, while their latest is called Break Out. From which country do they come?
22 The Akan (44 per cent) followed by Moshi-Dagomba (16 per cent) and Ewe (13 per cent) are the three largest ethnic groups in which country?
23 Which German conductor (1885-1973), renowned for his interpretations of Beethoven, Brahms and Mahler, emigrated to the US with the rise of Nazism in 1933 and became conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic before returning to Europe as director of the Budapest Opera (1947-1950)?
24 Continually in conflict with Athens during the 5th century BC, which Greek city-state and dominant power in Boeotia reached the peak of its power under Epaminondas in the 4th century BC and defeated the Spartans at Leuctra in 371BC?
25 John B. Kelly senior, father of actress Grace Kelly, was a three-time Olympic champion in which sport?
26 Which martial art has a name meaning "master of merit" in Chinese?
27 Which ancient Greek astronomer first classified the brightness of visible stars in the sky on a scale of one to six?
28 Two sons of Nigel Mansell were given drives in last year's Formula BMW Championship and have begun a full British Championship at Formula Three level as team-mates with Fortec Motorsport. What are their names?
29 Which Afrikaans word for a defensive formation of wagons or motor vehicles comes from the Dutch for "camp"?
30 Which French playwright's 1997 book Hammerklavier was inspired by her Jewish-Iranian-Russian father and Auschwitz survivor?
31 Headed by Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC is the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on what phenomenon?
32 Created by Kiev-based developers GSC Game World, which PC game, set in the ruins of Chernobyl's nuclear power station, became an instant bestseller in the UK and US on its release in March 2007?
33 Nestle, the world's largest food group, has agreed to pay $5.5 billion for the US company Gerber. Gerber specialises in what kind of food?
34 Johan Santana, considered by many to be the best pitcher in the majors, and Freddy Garcia are baseball players from which country?
35 Nicknamed "The Frying Pan", what was the only racecourse in London until its closure in 1970?
36 In 1854, what did the Dutch physician Anthonius Mathijsen introduce for the purpose of bone-setting?
37 Sometimes called the "Japanese Shakespeare", which dramatist (1652-1725) with the real name Sugimori Nobumori, wrote the Joruri (an early form of bunraku) plays The Love Suicides at Sonezaki (1703) and The Love Suicides at Amijima (1720)?
38 In 196BC, the Rosetta Stone was inscribed to record the gratitude of the priests of Memphis to which Egyptian ruler?
39 What 1122 agreement between Holy Roman Emperor Henry V and Pope Calixtus II settled the investiture conflict and struggle between the Empire and the papacy over control of Church offices?
40 Which Turkic-speaking people, originally of Iranian culture, take their name from a chief of the Golden Horde who died in 1340?
41 Canonised in 1925, which French Carmelite nun chronicled her spiritual struggle in a series of letters, Story of a Soul/L'histoire d'une ame, begun in 1895 and published posthumously when she died on September 30, 1897?
42 Resulting from the gravitational attraction of the Sun and the Moon on the Earth, what oscillating movement (18.6 years) is superimposed on the steady precessional movement of the Earth's axis so that the precessional path of each celestial pole on the celestial sphere follows an irregular rather than a true circle?
43 The name of which nation's currency is derived from the Macedonian king and conqueror Alexander the Great?
44 Which small black variety of lapdog derives its name from the Dutch for "little boatman" because of its use as a watchdog on barges?
45 Ptochocracy is government by what sort of people?
46 From the Italian for "almond", what is an area or aureola of oval but pointed light surrounding a painting or sculpture of the risen Christ or of the Virgin of the Assumption?
47 Which 19th century English surveyor gave his name to a unit of volume for timber equal to 1.27 cubic feet?
48 Which US novelist is set to log his entry in the 9/11 genre with his forthcoming book The Falling Man?
49 What three-word name has been given to the disease - Puccinia graminis - that has destroyed harvests in Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia and may spread to Egypt, the Middle East and India; a new strain named Ug99 being found to be particularly harmful?
50 Which former model has released the album No Promises, a collection of 19th and 20th century lyric poetry, the follow-up to her first, Quelqu'un m'a dit?





Answers to BH110
1 Fermion 2 Otto Lilienthal 3 Bernhard Russi 4 Emil Fischer 5 Candide 6 Nikolai Erdman 7 Reinhold Messner 8 Joao Gilberto 9 Demeter Chiparus 10 Cheburashka 11 Nina Wang 12 Vittore Carpaccio 13 Carnoustie 14 Sergeant Luke O'Connor 15 Facebook 16 Thundercats 17 Borage 18 Viscinais 19 Dei Gratia 20 Only a Northern Song 21 South Korea 22 Ghana 23 Otto Klemperer 24 Thebes 25 Rowing 26 Kung fu 27 Hipparchus 28 Leo, Greg 29 Laager 30 Yasmina Reza 31 Climate Change 32 S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 33 Baby food 34 Venezuela 35 Alexandra Park 36 Plaster of Paris 37 Chikamatsu Mozaemon 38 King Ptolemy V 39 Concordat of Worms 40 Uzbeks (Uzbeg Khan) 41 St Therese of Lisieux (Marie Francoise Therese Martin) 42 Nutation 43 Albania (lek) 44 Schipperke 45 The poor 46 Mandorla 47 Edward Hoppus 48 Don DeLillo 49 Black stem rust 50 Carla Bruni

Friday, April 20, 2007

BH109: Offcuts, Irrelevance and Rejects You Might Just Like

NB: sterling and starring TV appearance tomorrow, BBC1 5.55pm-6.35pm and 9.25-9.50pm. Remember those times, if I haven't told you about a bloody dozen times already. No doubt, I will do so again. Cos I'm on the telly like. TELLY.

Blimey, I thought, looking back at the increasingly sparse archives of the last few months, I haven't done one of my BH quizzes in bloomin' ages. So, in an incredible act of charity, I thought I'd unleash a decent number of questions that were a) too long for the Paper b) too silly to be asked of any serious quizzer, let alone a normal human being c) and excess stuff faintly similar to subjects I'm putting out in other eagerly awaited outlets such as The 505. It is nearing completion. I just have to stop writing questions for it, which I'm finding really difficult. Call it a positive psychological disorder. Or call it something as nutty as a mountain of praline. I'll agree either way.

Concerning other developments, I will comment and self-indulge on the topic of recent exciting televised and non-televised events. One day. Maybe tomorrow and, yes, I could go on in Bogart-esque fashion. You get the drift.

However, on a totally random note, this always makes me laugh. I used to live in Bow and the thought of being hunted down by Bricktop for being a "syntactic cripple" forces me to use correct grammar every single day. It's Alan Ford's terrifying teeth. The way they jig about. Yikes. But, obviously, not when I'm writing on this here blog and using such abominations of shorthand words as "cos".

Return of the Quiz
1 Similar to the popular Mangalorean dish kori rotti, which Kurdish-Iraqi dish consists of layers of naan in a sauce of green pepper, tomato, onions and chillies?
2 Bette Davis won an Oscar for her performance as a society belle who offends New Orleans' high society by attending the Olympus Ball of 1852 in a scandalous scarlet dress in which 1938 film?
3 A favourite of Indians living in South Africa, what dish is a loaf of bread with the inside hollowed out and a curry gravy poured inside?
4 Which author is said to have 70 million copies of his adventurer Dirk Pitt - the son of a California senator and who has the sidekick Al Giordino - series in print?
5 A friend of the late drug trafficker Pablo Escobar, which Colombian artist (self-titled "the most Colombian of all Colombian artists") became famous for the "fat people" he portrayed in such works as Familia (1989) and has completed over 80 large-scale paintings depicting the torture that Iraqi prisoners suffered at Abu Ghraib and controversially decided to paint the portrait of Colombia's president Alvaro Uribe, despite the leader's links with right-wing death squads?
6 First gaining popularity during the 1930s and sharing its name with an Indian queen and wife of Caonabo (one of five caciques who possessed the island of Santo Domingo when the Spanish discovered it in 1492), which all-girl orchestra from Cuba was comprised of 11 sisters with the surname Castro: Emma, Bola, Ada, Flora, Ondine, Cuchito, Cachita, Alicia, Elsa Rigual, Millo and Ziomara?
7 The first of his operas to be performed, who completed what has been called the "first ever African-American opera" Koanga, which tells the tragic tale of an African prince sold into slavery, in 1897?
8 Which American actress is due to launch her own fashion label Bitten later this year? Sarah Jessica Parker
9 Guy Noves is the long-standing and hugely successful coach of which French rugby union side, whose home ground is the Stade Ernest Wallon?
10 The Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium is the home ground of which football team?
11 Criticised for stifling youth unemployment, what name is given to the crippling levy on any French company introduced in 1987, which sacks anybody over the age of 45?
12 The work of British architect Will Alsop, the Sharp Centre for Design at Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) has been given what nickname due to its black and white spots?
13 The WWF recently announced that numbers of which animal - the world's biggest wild cat and named after a river rendered in Chinese pinyin as Heilong Jiang ("Black Dragon River") - have come back from the brink of extinction to reach its highest population level for at least 100 years?
14 Who wrote the 1928 novel upon which the 1967 film Belle de Jour, starring Catherine Deneuve as housewife-prostitute Severine, was based?
15 Currently exhibiting a series of photographs taken at zoos over all the world, which photographer (b.1970) first made his name in 1996 with domestic scenes of his mum and dad, Liz and Ray, in their council flat in the Black Country?
16 Without the aid of pacemakers, which Kenyan distance runner known for his free-flowing, surging style broke four world records (10,000m, 5,000m, 3000m steeplechase and 3,000m) in the space of 81 days in 1978 and has been described by Steve Cram as "the best steeplechaser there has ever been"?
17 Siosepol Bridge and the 17th century World Heritage Site Nagsh-i Jahan Square (aka Imam Square) are major tourist attractions in which ancient Iranian city, the country's third largest after Tehran and Mashhad and located 200 miles south of Tehran?
18 Syd Millar is the chairman of which sport world governing body?
19 What does acronym for the Microsoft file format WMA stand for?
20 Adrienne Gerhauser, code-named Lea, who has been put on trial after 20 years on the run, was a member of which German militant left-wing feminist group, an offshoot of the Revolutionary Cells, that took its name from a Kurt Held book and started in 1974 bombed sex shops, embassies and clothing factories during which it believed were responsible for female oppression?
21 Meaning "the god's place" in its Old Persian name Bagastana, what name is given to the rock bas-reliefs at a site near the Zagros mountains in Kermanshah province, known for its carving with an inscription ordered by king Darius I, and is said to be to cuneiform what the Rosetta Stone is to Egyptian hieroglyphs?
22 The Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra has announced which flamboyant 26-year-old Venezuelan conductor as its new musical director, despite his never taking to the podium with a professional orchestra until three years ago?
23 Written between 1496 and 1508 and containing the first ever reference to card tricks and guidance on juggling and eating fire, the world's oldest magic text - De viribus quantitatis/On The Powers of Numbers - was written by which Franciscan monk, who shared lodgings with Leonardo Da Vinci and is believed to have helped with The Last Supper?
24 Founded in 1250BC and rediscovered in Iran's Khuzestan province in 1935 by oil surveyors, the ziggurat Tchogha Zanbil is the world's best surviving example of which civilisation's architecture?
25 The 52-year-old Slovenian Martin Strel made history in April 2007 when he became the first person to swim the entire length of which river?
26 Nanni Moretti's latest film, The Caiman/Il Caimano takes its title from a script given to Bruno Bonomo (Silvio Orlando) whose name refers to which real-life person?
27 The wind turbine maker Vestas Wind Systems is based in which country?
28 Identified by her particular blonde hairstyle, which 47-year-old leader of the 2004 Orange revolution was forced out from the office of Prime Minister by her rivalry with President Viktor Yuschchenko?
29 Located just outside the southern Chinese city of Gullin and home to 1300 tigers, which "Bear and Tiger Mountain Village" zoo is the world's biggest battery farm for rare animals and serves tiger under the name of "conquering king" in its restaurant at 500 yuan/£33 a go?
30 Which country's government is proposing to allow the Mehta Group and its local sugar firm Scoul to clear a quarter (30,000 hectares) of the Mabira forest reserve to grow sugar?
31 The Spanish company Grupo Ferrovial specialises in which kind of business?
32 Which Japanese company has produced the "W"-Daiseikai double line-ups of the eco-friendly all-in-one air conditioner, plasma air purifier and air deoderizer system?
33 Described as "the new King of Wall Street" with a fortune of $3.5 billion, Steve Schwarzman heads which huge "private equity" firm he co-founded with Peter G Peterson in 1985?
34 Dropping Harris from her stage name, which "Princess of Crunk" emerged as an R&B star in 2004 as an 18-year-old and has just released her second album The Evolution, featuring such songs as the single Promise as well as Get Up and Make It Last Forever?
35 Which tremendously gifted thirtysomething pianist, composer and bandleader from Cuba, signed to the German jazz label Enja and dressed by the French designer Agnes B, has released the Latin Jazz album Zazuma?
36 Which Florida city shares its name with the Rolex Perpetual Cosmograph watch, a certified chronometer and chronograph, that since 1963 been found by professional divers to be as important as the gauges on their on-board instrument panel?
37 Which Danish group, whose name means reverberation in their native language, have released the albums Tripper (2004) and Under Giant Trees (2007) to which they have added the sounds of Icelandic string quartet Amiina?
38 Which Toronto-born singer-songwriter has been little seen and heard of since the release of her only full length album Miss America in 1988, though she has produced a soundtrack to the film Apartment Hunting and contributed to Johnny Depp and Hal Wilner's 2006 Rogue's Gallery?
39 Which football team eliminated Manchester United in the semi-finals of the 1957-8 European Cup when the English side was still reeling from the Munich plane disaster?
40 Cite de Soleil has been described as the poorest neighbour in the poorest country in the western hemisphere. In which country is situated?
41 Set on the eve of World War One, which 1914 novel by Charlotte Perkins Gilman features a society entirely comprised of Aryan women being discovered by a trio of male explorers?
42 Sharing its name with a famous cinematic fish, which record label has been launched by albino Malian musician Salif Keita to promote the music of such debut acts as Sina Sinayoko, Ibrahim Nabo and Adama Coulibaly?
43 Which directorial debut by Florian von Donnersmarck concerning the activities of East Germany's secret police, the Stasi, won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film this year?
44 While her latest book Nineteen Minutes concerning a school massacre has topped the New York Times fiction bestseller list, which 2004 Jodi Picoult novel first brought her mass market attention in the UK and concerned two siblings: Kate who has leukaemia and the other, Anna, with a bone marrow match?
45 Which Chinese-American designer, who trained as a figure skater when she was a girl but failed to make the US Olympic team and so turned to fashion, has produced the fragrance Truly Pink?
46 Which reliever became the first Japanese-born baseball player in the majors in 1964 when he played for the San Francisco Giants?
47 The creation of Simon Beckett, which world expert in forensics turned humble GP solves murders in the Norfolk village of Manham and first features in the 2006 novel The Chemistry of Death?
48 Which Hamburg-based Uzbek boxer overcame an 11-inch height disadvantage to take the WBA world heavyweight title from Nikolay Valuev in Stuttgart in April 2007?
49 Also author of Unabomber: A Desire to Kill and The Bell Tower: The Case of Jack the Ripper Finally Solved, which true-crime author, played on film by Jake Gyllenhaal, wrote the books Zodiac (1986) and the follow-up Zodiac Unmasked: The Identity of America's Most Exclusive Serial Killer about the 1960s West Coast serial killer?
50 Which Kurt Vonnegut novel (1982), having depicted the accidental destruction of an Ohio town by a neutron bomb, closes with the words: "You want to know something? We are still in the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages - they haven't ended yet"?
51 Which sportsman's 2006 divorce from his wife Juanita may eventually cost him $150 million?
52 In 1616 who became the first dramatist to be honoured with burial in Westminster Abbey, beside the tombs of Chaucer and Edmund Spenser?
53 Which animal gives its name to Apple's latest version of the Mac OS X line, now due to be launched in October?
54 Heimaey is the only inhabited island of the 15 in which small Icelandic archipelago?
55 Located in London, who designed the St Pancras railway station shed, which was completed in 1868?
56 Which Swedish polemicist (b.1932) wrote about imperial genocide in Africa in his book Exterminate All Brutes/Utrota varenda javel and now historical crimes against Australia's Aborigine people in Terra Nullius?
57 Which US novelist was a bestselling erotic novelist before making his name as a crime writer with Power of the Dog, and has since followed it up with The Winter of Frankie Machine, the film rights to which have been snapped up by Robert De Niro, who may play the eponymous retired hitman?
58 What name is given to the assertion made 90 years ago by Einstein and predicted by general relativity, that spinning, moving objects such as the Earth and other planets and stars distort and curve the fabric of space and time?
59 Which English dramatist's latest play is Landscape with Weapon?
60 Which England resort on the south coast has the motto "Progress"?
61 Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary died with which teenage mistress at the Mayerling hunting lodge in January 1889?
62 The late Austrian musician Falco composed the controversial song Jeanny on the subject of the life of which charismatic Austrian serial killer and author, who hanged himself on the night he was sentenced on June 29, 1994?
63 Which British director's only true failure is considered to be 1979's Black Jack, a children's adventure story set in the 18th century?
64 June Fewett, wife of Clement Freud, is said to have inspired which CS Lewis character?
65 Which famous multinational US company, founded in 1953, manufactures veterinary products under its "Hill's brand?
66 Shortly after his birth, which Roman emperor was given the cognomen Thurinus possibly to commemorate his victory over a group of rebellious slaves at Thurii?
67 A classic example of entropy increasing, which German mathematician and physicist described ice melting in 1862 as an increase in the disgregation of the molecules of the body of ice?
68 Built in 1811, what is London's oldest private psychiatric hospital?
69 Which philosopher's Enneads, aka The Six Enneads, were collected by his student Porphyry c.270AD?
70 Also known as Maladie de Charcot, Lou Gehrig's disease or motor neurone disease, what do the initials in ALS stand?
71 Which Sherlock Holmes short story, first published in February 1892, did Arthur Conan Doyle think was his best in a 1927 list in The Strand?
72 Dedicated in 306, whose "Baths" were the largest and grandest of the imperial baths in Rome and remained in use until the aqueducts that fed them were cut by the Goths in 537?
73 Coined by Oliver Heaviside in July 1886, what term describes a measure of opposition to a sinusoidal alternating electric current?
74 Who gave Alice Roberts the short violin and piano piece Salut d'amour as an engagement present?
75 What is rugby union's Heineken Cup known as in France due to alcohol advertising laws?
76 The American personality psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of Oregon, Lewis R. Goldberg, is closely associated with which taxonomy or descriptive model of personality traits, discovered through empirical research in 1993?
77 What German term, examples of which include cumin, ginger and tea, describes a word that has spread among numerous languages and cultures usually in connection with trade, so that it becomes impossible to establish its original etymology or even its original language?
78 A student of Jean-Martin Charcot just like Sigmund Freud, which Polish neurologist is best known for his 1896 description of an eponymous sign, a pathological plantar reflex indicative of corticospinal tract damage?





Answers to BH109
1 Tashreeb 2 Jezebel 3 Bunny chow 4 Clive Cussler 5 Fernando Botero 6 Anacaona 7 Frederick Delius 8 Sarah Jessica Parker 9 Toulouse 10 Seville 11 Taxe Delalande 12 The Dalmatian 13 Amur tiger 14 Joseph Kessel 15 Richard Billingham 16 Henry Rono 17 Isfahan 18 International Rugby Board 19 Windows Media Audio 20 Rote Zora 21 Bisotun or The Behistun Inscription 22 Gustavo Dudamel 23 Luca Pacioli 24 Elamite 25 Amazon 26 Silvio Berlusconi 27 Denmark 28 Yulia Tymoshenko 29 Xiongsen 30 Uganda 31 Construction 32 Toshiba 33 Blackstone Group 34 Ciara 35 Roberto Fonseca 36 Daytona 37 Efterklang 38 Mary Margaret O'Hara 39 AC Milan 40 Haiti 41 Herland 42 Wanda Records 43 The Lives of Others/Das Leben der Anderen 44 My Sister's Keeper 45 Vera Wang 46 Masanori Murakami 47 David Hunter 48 Ruslan Chagaev 49 Robert Graysmith 50 Deadeye Dick 51 Michael Jordan 52 Francis Beaumont 53 Leopard 54 Westman Islands or Vestmannaeyjar 55 William Barlow 56 Sven Lindqvist 57 Don Winslow 58 Geodetic effect 59 Joe Penhall 60 Littlehampton 61 Mary Vetsera 62 Jack Unterweger 63 Ken Loach 64 Lucy in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe 65 Colgate-Palmolive 66 Augustus 67 Rudolf Clausius 68 The Priory 69 Plotinus 70 Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 71 The Story of the Speckled Band 72 Diocletian 73 Impedance or electrical impedance 74 Edward Elgar 75 The H Cup 76 Big Five personality traits (Neuroticism, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness and Openness to Experience) 77 Wanderwort 78 Joseph Babinski

Friday, April 13, 2007

An Long, Long Essay on Pinewood: Bloody interesting tree info ... NOT

Saturday Night's Alright for Righting Emergent Wrongs

(Written on April 7, but since revised)

Have returned from the viewing party with friends in Bethnal Green and already experienced the hot gaze of three or four smiling, quizzical or knowing facial expressions. Or maybe, I'm just really really paranoid. They are watching me. They always are. You know who.

That was truly bloody weird. I cannot convey to you how weird it was. It began with the aural montage of several other contestants repeating my first name like some mad mantra. I can hear it now *shivers*. It seemed that I was being portrayed was the dark lord of long and infamous renown out to destroy the wonderful dreams of innocent, lovely folk racing for the prize (AND I WOULD HAVE DONE IT AGAIN I TELLS YA. AGAIN AND AGAIN ... stomped them into dusty, insignificant particles ... nothing can stop me now).

I looked away from the screen whenever I began talking in length. Who the hell was that guy? Was he actually the son of the Devil, if I correctly heard the ominous Omen-tinged theme music bestowed upon his slow motion form? That is not the guy who looks back at me in the mirror. That was some freaking weirdo who hung around in corridors waiting for cameraman to look him up and down, very slowly, who then talked in cliches so hackneyed, a greetings card writer would geyser-puke in shame upon merely recalling them from simpler and cornier corners of childhood memories.

Okay. I own up. But here come some rather convoluted excuses. They coerced me to say things, quite gently mind you, and not in an Iranian news conference way, and have told me I am always a bit "guarded" in my comments; always giving credit where credit's due.

Thing is, some of us don't want to come off like complete dicks. Despite requests that we radically up the dickage content of our responses along with appropriate levels of astounding arrogance, so we would project an image of an intensely ambition quiz competitor who would stop at nothing to win the lucre. They wanted fighting talk. They wanted to put a cat among a number of other similarly poked and prodded cats in order to whip up a frenzy of flying fur and slashing, bloodied claws. Or maybe they just wanted everyone to say something interesting. At least once in a while. The odd mildly amusing quip - "They suck so much ass, they are world ass-sucking champions". A flash of sparkling repartee that would have lifted the interviews out of the humdrum mealymouthiness that grips the vast majority of people when put in such televisual situations. It's not our fault that our national character when faced with such a barrage of attention that it would inevitably result in us being ever so polite and would you mind awfully passing me another nice cup of tea.

In the case of this contender I believe I gave them chat that tickled forcefully at best. Because every regular quizzer knows where he or she stands in the ranking scheme of things. I don't care enough to disparage others because if you care too much about quiz competitions to instill even the slightest hint of malignancy in your attitude towards your fellow competitors, then you are lost, or at least on the way to taking a wrong turn up some untoward highways and byways that will be rather difficult to retrieve yourself from.

Isn't it funny how at every Grand Prix, European and World Championship everyone more or less stays in the same place with only minor room for improvement at best? Yes, the years do reveal the slow migration of players up and down the placings, but in the short term from tournament to tournament everyone seems to sit in the same predestined region of the leaderboard at the end of the day, having fallen victim to the usual chinks and weak spots in their overall GK armour.

We know where we stand and are therefore quite content to hold our positions the status quo, and we know we have to work bloody hard and sacrifice life's essentials to change up our seemingly pre-ordained place in this strange, but ultimately quite friendly universe. But I'm not going to go all John Buchanan and ask where is all the decent, challenging competition at? I'm already bored of these inferior quiz beings breathing my air etc, just because I've found myself in the company of contestants who know nothing of the pleasure of traversing Europe to tussle with Estonians, Finns, Norwegians and the all-powerful and possibly supernatural Belgians, or of the annual Nic Paul Northants Grand Prix, which I quite like because I play on the same team as Nic and have the same-ish strengths, except for sport, and ... I could go on. Hubris lies in such stupid and thoroughly insane actions.

Therefore, always assume everyone has it in them to deliver you a smackdown. Sharpen that sense of humility. Keep it monk-style. Keeping it Adrian Monk-style, and therefore ultra-tidy, thorough and diligent would also help. It saves you looking like a real shithead when they actually do beat your sorry butt.

Because on TV anything can happen. Anything. Formats are far dicier than the old reliable written paper and li'l old me has pointed out how superior knowledge has not stopped me from choking in TV quiz show finals in spectacular fashion (but I was far younger then ... yes, I have excuses for the qualified remarks and rejoinders for the realities ... it can get very complicated.)

It is why the Eggheads do lose one in a blue moon. Because if we were working on hundreds of questions handed to our egg-cellent (I wrote that to make you wince and grown, whoever you may be, Willie Nelson, Nick Cave's new handlebar mooostache, Andre the Giant's giant ghost perhaps? - Anyway: I WIN!) quintet and the average joe challengers, so each could show what's what by writing down answers to the same questions, not only would it be the most boring thing this side of The Royal, then it would be a foregone conclusion that the Eggheads win. The more questions, the bigger the mantle of favourites rests on the shoulders of the side with the deeper and wider reservoir of knowledge.

Taking the Eggheads example further: cut down the variables such as number of questions to the bare minimum viewers can tolerate (the minimum dose as it were, before they start wincing in all sorts of pain caused by the paralysis of choice and the boredom of affluence and people's overly convenient, but never less than highly popular supermarket approach to self-mediciation) and markedly increase the chance of answering the said questions by introducing multiple choice answers - with some incredibly inappropriate options that would only be chosen by people who have no right being on a quiz show, yes, not even Supermarket Sweep - and then ensure a definite result can be achieved quickly with as few as questions the audience can bear and without recourse to having to come up with the answer themselves, rather than being given bleeding, cursed multiple choice answers, with choices that are quite frankly as well thought out as The Beatles' mid-1990s new-ish singles releases: the infamous "Free as a Turd" and "Real Bollocks."

And because the sudden death section invariably spells the demise of whichever challenger has managed to get that far and face someone far used to pumping out hundreds of fully formed answers with non-ABC questions. Yeah, to make it more fun on rare occasions stick in a question about skateboarding terminology like a poison pill into the question supply of the more mature than most Eggheads, and see them stumble wildly into a strange and alien world they have never glimpsed before. The tricks of the format trade are at first mysterious, but they have been thought through.

Chance is the equalizer. Much like Edward Woodward popping in for a cameo, I suppose. Introduce the luck of the draw, which you will see in TPQ studio shows, and the playing field is levelled further. It will take you a few fatal mistakes to rule out your participation in the entire show beyond round one (unless you have really bodged it, you'll see what I mean), just as the timing of your tactics in round two is crucial since a single error may cut short a brilliant run of answers and rule you out (sorry, about being cryptic, but you will see).

There is the old "when the questions get easier, everyone catches up" dictum, I suppose. On TNLPQ You'll see the buzzer race become a common feature due to the straightforward nature of the majority of questions. Which is also just as applicable here as a kind of playing field renovator. A simple question will have everyone thumping their personal column-stick light-sabre thing. Therefore, you will never be too sure who goes through despite proven buzzer-speed ability.

Managing the playing field is, as you can see, a crucial component of the TV series, the thing that matters most with regards to each player from each different age category, despite it being a completely abstract ideal. We're really talking about how stealth handicaps - you'll see - can conspire to put out a player who has answered the most questions in the final third round, but which happen to be the most completely useless ones, yielding a lava-red background of desolation. Something which sets the scene for potential final round fixing and therefore a wholeload of lovely excitement and thrillls.

The only objective of the studio shows is to get two players to the final: one by proving he or she has substantial talent and big and brassy enough cojones to overcome three others in round two, if they have not been lucky enough to get to the second round in pole position. The other his or her personally chosen partner-in-destiny, the condemned one that perhaps deserves the most to go to another place because they have failed to demonstrate any worth other than their supreme ability to ever so slightly vex you in ways you thought not possible without going to special classes taught by Jim Carrey in his roles as The Cable Guy and Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber, or has brought attention upon themselves with dumb-accented answers "What the?", "Never heard of it" which make you wonder how they came to be stood in this circular cathedral of Tyrian purple plastic, ranged against some seriously stiff competition. Then again, they too have been through a lot just to get there. Kudos to every single one of the 23 other finalists who have made it along this long and thoroughly winding and time consuming road.

But enough of the theoretical aspects of the format for now. Now let's talk about swelling, ego-swollen skulls. If my head did come off as big, well it is because it is a bit larger than normal. In fact it almost killed my mum (size-ism eh? Not all of us can have manageably small bonces) when she gave birth to me - I may have mentioned some terrible lasting injuries before. Salt baths, don't ya know.

Oh wait, you mean me talking about my achievements? Er, they asked me to state them for the camera. It wasn't like I was pulling them out of thin air and making up qualifications and imaginary trophies of great exoticism and prestige Walter Mitty-style. Neither was I expounding the belief that I had chewed up nearly every quiz-enemy in the land (except Ashman and Gibson) and was now ready for some fresh meat to mince and make some lovely beaten contestant burgers. I'm not a sodding WWE wrestler. I won't wave my hands about like I'm a member of Reef with an unfortunate case of grand mal epilepsy. Although I thought that if I did make things up they would have almost certainly believed me and said this is some "great stuff." It's TV after all. It's not real. And wait a minute, I'm not even sure that anyone is accusing me of being big-headed. I may be shouting in the dark at no one in particular. But then I told you I was paranoid. Very paranoid.

But let's get real anyway - hey, that's a smegging great segue - I was thinking that neither is mere self-belief enough. New Age bollocks is no match for cold, hard, ruthless facts. You have to know the answers to nearly every question that comes up, at least in the case of TNLPQ. You have the best chance of winning with the biggest range of knowledge and the certainty (useful for buzzer purposes, naturellement) of knowing it that comes from stupidly long periods of time spent studying or quizzing with others or seeing your time eaten by a hungry trivia yearning that can never really be satisfied. The latter always calls me back for instance. Like a siren call, mewling: "More, more, more." Resistance, as every devoted quizzer knows, is utterly futile.

The surety of knowing the answer will come because you know exactly the acceptable level the question setters have pitched their little posers at (they have viewers to think about for starters) and have thoroughly gutted such sources is tantamount to an overwhelming psychic advantage. One hundred per cent sure versus fifty per cent and so forth makes all the difference when it comes to reaction time. A supremely confident mind backed up by an arsenal of relevant facts is the ultimate weapon in any quiz show. The very best exponents of these silly arts can simply will an answer into existence by banking on previous experience and instantly ease through their mouths. Because it is quite possible that they really have seen every viable quiz question in existence.

Therefore, it is clear who has the best chance of progressing. Remember I said CHANCE not WILL PROGRESS. See? I told you: guarded. Bases are covered, levels of offence reduced to gentle ribbing levels, mad, bad and dangerous words eradicated. And I will also say that yes, every one of the finalists has a chance of winning TNLPQ. You never know in which direction such forces as momentum (the best of all), confidence (useful) and derangement (the downward spiral) will suddenly take you.

Trusting the luck factor, hit upon a rich seam of your own specialist subjects and it will help you overcome the superiority of the far better general players (see nearly every early favoured University Challenge team that has suddenly been knocked out by hitherto humdrum quartets). In this case the trick therefore is to make sure you have no weaknesses at all. To cover your ass (how substantial it may be, well that's your problem) and make contingency plans for every possible topic.

I will leave it up to others to judge whether I have any, but you know I've always detested motorways, engine parts, old British makes of car (can you tell I don't drive a car?) and aircraft, nursery rhymes, ye old steam railways and associated companies, Lake District geography, Monopoly properties, bingo numbers and the like (see the reasons for the "passes", although I have - HALLELUJAH - finally got to some sort of grips with birds and plants. But fingers crossed, eh?). I spit metaphorically on the cited topics with extreme distaste for their complete and utter bloody triviality. That being my subjective and unfair opinion, which I love brandishing with misplaced righteousness. I cannot bear to look at them, and therefore they become weaknesses, albeit minor ones that act like specks of gravel caught in the sole of your shoe. Ouchy-oochy irritants I can live with, without their destroying my chances against other players or teams. This is opposed to huge, great whopping ones like the whole of American history and classical music that act as gaping black holes from which your chances of winning anything cannot escape.

When it comes to personal choices and the outer fringes of the general knowledge universe, I have always chosen the obscure over the truly trivial - there's a music equivalent. Do you want to nod your head agreeably like some zombie to an alternative US band called Isis or do you want to boogie to an old Vengaboys track? In more classical terms, it is better in my view to go with 19th century Romanian poets or leaders of the Fulani empire no-one else I know in the quiz community has heard of. Better for the soul and brain. Better for stoking that elitist, I don't give two hoots what colour wedges are used for history in Trivial Pursuit urge (I know it's yellow - thanks, mind-numbing, soul-destroying, but ultimately helpful in keeping the brain flexed and ready to do something far more important TNLPQ question sets). Learning and exploring the obscure reaches of what we deem knowledge is in its own way equally and dreadfully pointless, but is still strangely satisfying to do. Sometimes that unique status, that feeling of you and not Jose Mourinho being the "Special One" arises because you are doing something nobody else has thought to do (because they have lives caught up in the real world) is enough to keep the enthusiasm going and hope that one day, yes, one day, your diligent, some might say zealous promotion of them will have seeped into the subconsciousness of another quiz setter, et voila the subject has become more or less acceptable tournament fodder. After all people do get bored of the same crap, but different day. The crap has to change eventually. Then it will evolve over time into a kind of super-intelligent crap that our ancestors would have described as crazily esoteric crap that bears no relation to the crap they had themselves got sick of. Do. You. Get. Me?

But if you have been doing the quiz thing, living the trivia life for years, you are far more likely to come into contact with the questions that will come up. Practice and competition make perfect, as well as honing those pressure-management skills and a competitive instinct that flings more fuel on what was already quite a rampant forest of flames. For instance, you find yourself in the middle of a chain reaction and start get given all that after hours hotel room buzzer quiz action.

Experience counts for so much. Repeats happen constantly if you happen to stick around long enough. Indeed, patience is rewarded mightily in quiz. Your bank of specially gathered knowledge will be rewarded one day. Several repeats happen in individual GP papers written within the same year to cite an obvious example. Familiarity breeds true contentment and confidence with regards to this - yes, you think, I have heard it all before. And collect all the trivia tidbits that passed you by the first time in that league match or whilst watching UC to ensure they will never slip away ever again (I say that and of course they still pass me by in the thousands, despite my desperate, grasping flailing hands trying to stop them flying beyond my reach yet again).

However, TNLPQ isn't Mastermind. It's mainstream popular entertainment, as bright and breezy and in the reckoning almost as sickly sweet as a packet of Skittles (Sours or Originals). Heightening such entertainment will probably involve the digitally superimposition of the number of the beast on my scalp to consolidate my position as the single person who instills ominous bell-tolling fear in those who have long competed against me. Funny how they portrayed the "fear" spreading to those previously ignorant of my minor claims to excellent quiz proficiency (not genius - it's such a loaded word). Very funny.

But we ain't talking about subatomic particles named after Indian Nobel Laureates. We're talking what name did glamour model Katie Price adopt? (Or is that too risque?) In the pyramid of general knowledge that which is required on a mainstream ITV or BBC1 quiz show sits reasonably close to the apex and is a far more finite resource compared to that of University Challenge's knowledge remit, which graces much of the middle and lower sections, a conclusion I have just made from some random, abstract pyramid I have fully realised in my mind in a matter of ten seconds and which filled with knowledge starting at the tip of the top with A is the first letter of the alphabet and, at the bottom, ending in a massive foundation swarming with nothing but indecipherable quadribloodymillions of numbers and letters in genome sequences and calculations so complex they would make Good Will Hunting pee his pants and John Nash poo-poo in his. Therefore, it is far easier to win. Like, duh. Well, of course. But if its set were set any lower it might ask questions about key works in foreign philosophy, foreign film directors, in fact anything that has been dipped in or ripped from a foreign language or culture located far, far away from this sceptred isle.

Then we must remember, it is a People's Quiz. The British People's Quiz. After all, foreigners talk funny and in funny words that sound like SCHNASUSS and BLEREAGGH and OING OING and eat indescribably creepy food like boudin noir, which though they cherish beyond all reasonable limits, we think should have been buried in a landfill. On Mars.

Plus, it is not about being clever or having the brightest brain. Intelligence won't help you answer questions on Avril Lavigne if you've never actually heard of her. Like, double duh. It is about having a retentive memory that collects every random factual scrap in the cosmos with consummate ease and regurgitating it in as quickest time as possible. Then you train it by subjecting the memory store to such prolonged periods of study that it becomes far easier to pick up far bigger volumes of facts and trivia. Tis cumulative. Everything is: memory, study and ruthless efficiency are our key weapons, and the comfy chair and soft cushions. Begin earlier on on this epic voyage - though, of course, some can pack far more efficiently and freely than others since some get the Louis Vuitton equivalent of the luxury carry case with inbuilt table and washing facilities, while others get ultra-reliable Nike rucksacks and others get those awful WH Smith bags which split horizontally at the bottom in a perfect straight line that facilitates the deposit of your newly bought fags, drink and chocolate bars (BASTARD PLASTIC BAG) in the footsteps you have left behind on a train station forecourt (Victoria on Thursday, curse you gods of the rail system) eagerly picked up by any lucky, feckless bastard who neither appreciates Marlboro Menthols, Cherry Coca-Cola or Kinder Bueno bars, but will try and consume anyway with predictably less pleasure and far more retching dry-heaves than any long devoted disciple of the said strains of confection and nicotine and sugar-riven drink - and LO you will be packing your cranium with solid blocks of useless facty goodness. Look at me, my head feels heavy with the weight of knowledge, or that could be a intracranial tumor that is now approaching bowling ball size and will soon endow me with the psychic and super-intelligent powers of John Travolta in hokey-dokey and primarily okay film Phenomenon.

However, let's forget about rivalries, which are so often fought with the one or two people who are more or less on an even keel with you (the margin of error is negligible), and which only rarely break out into knife-fights and arson attacks, I think (give any sport or pastime time to develop and evolve and thrive, and obsessive nutters will eventually ascend the hierarchical ladder through slight but crucial gradations due to a obsessive nuttiness that assumes the only importance in their lives).

It's like I've said before: Quizzers do not generally have enemies. If they are at each other's throats, and being wily, cantankerous and self-righteous kinds of coves forgiveness is a path closed forever, it is because personality defects have made their fundamental nature known to all and sundry and wreaked terrible consequences of the like you will see at every Babyshambles concert.

The personality clash and the subsequent petty skirmishes between friends-then acquaintances then nobodies and finally antagonistic phantoms and finally fully blown you're on my enemies list behaviour. This descends into a helter-skelter affirmation of each other's allegedly superior powers of organisation, of fidicuary (to make money, to outscore and claim the bragging rights, to control team selection) and their attempts to uphold their supremacy by outrageous behaviour aimed at permanent separation. Or at least, one has passed on and come to piss on their one-time nemesis's headstone. Though, I must admit, there are schisms. As we all know.

But generally, we do not sneer at each other from across the room like trigger happy gunslingers ready to dispense especially sharp doses of lead poisoning. It is more of a mainly fraternal-sorority where people subject each other to mild digs and jostling banter that never descends to the depths of saying: "I'm going to do you in this quiz, you bastard. Had it coming a long time. Time to take out the trash, or as it is more commonly known, your disgusting wee-stained chords and your curry and donut jam-stained crappy polyester shirt. Of course, you'll still be wearing them. Because you love them". Brutal honesty is kept safely tight-lipped if the thought ever (rarely) arises. We know each other too well and on too friendly terms to come out with it. Even if the desire to speak out is strong, which is inevitable when you invest any kind of emotion in how well you fare in a competition with rivals you have been vying for supremacy over so many years. The jousting, sometimes bad feeling always passes, because there will soon be another opportunity to do yourself justice once again.

Quizzing, in my opinion, is truly a battle with yourself, to get the most out of your own brain, potential and temperament. If you have succeeded fully in doing so then you can never have failed, and if someone else has beaten you then fair enough, they deserved it. How could you possibly argue with that?

Going back to the TV show
Oh, I know what you want to know. This theorising is really getting on my tits. Where's the televisual dirt? You thought I was going to do my tell-all TNLPQ tirade. I can imagine the increasingly annoyed look on your face. You want to know whether the TV company strung me and done up like a kipper?

Was I stitched up? Who am I to say? Who knows the minds of those who put the pizzazz-strewn entertainment factor into non-fiction reality TV programming across every channel? Maybe Armando Iannucci was horribly prophetic when he imagined a cadre of smug television commissioning editors who constantly chanted "Oh, we're good at TV! We're so good at TV!" when their ideas were either clearly insane or so moronic you wondered if they didn't adopt the David Bowie/William S Burroughs cut-up-randomising technique of just putting words together like "Terrorist Wind Farms" and popping out a show. As if by magic.

No, those are other TV people; Not the production company peeps behind TPQ, who I have to admit I have grown quite fond of. I have to confess that having seen even more studio shows that it is a damn good watch, even if I am extremely biased from being caught up in it all.

But you could work out the Big Story they were going to work up in order to give the show a noteworthy climax. I cannot blame them for doing so. They set you up to knock you down. It is the classic TV show narrative way (plucky underdog defeats mighty legend - irresistible!). Now that's a "good story" as my old newsdesk editors used to say. Therefore you run with the best material.

So you ask of any lingering or even nascent resentment bound to grow into something quite nasty? Nah. Not at all. To be honest and frankly speaking, I didn't get knocked out of the show so it matters not a jot. Look to a future that still exists for now. While, for now, you could see that they had already started foreshadowing future heartbreak. Wait until the first studio show and see what I mean, and remember a few, short key interviews from last night's Final Auditions show. Broken dreams are waiting to play on your emotions.

However, you know what is the worst thing about tonight? Do ya? The most rubbish thing in all the world? I now seem to have Checking It Out by L'il Chris stuck in my brain. Like some kind of nervous system parasite. How did it get in there? It must be rubbish music-themed week on my mental jukebox.

Scratch that. I now have "Knock the Cover Off the Ball" off the soundtrack for The Natural. A brilliant example of a dark, nuanced literary work being transformed into a feel-good mainstream entertainment because the common people want to see heart-thumping home runs sail into the stratosphere, not something to do with match fixing and conflicted but real and selfish human motives that would be like, a real downer, man. Thus ending up as a straight, seamless road to an eminently satisfying conclusion easily understood by an audience who want a bit of uplift and a bit of surprise, but not too much of the latter. Just enough to keep the punters on their toes and make sure the emotional pay-off fits in with every other film they have deemed brilliant in the past. With their goodies and baddies and clearly delineated moral compasses and notions of the dark and the light, the old stories and myths remain the most popular. And so everyone plays happy families in golden cornfields never wondering if such bliss will ever end. Even if we know it must in our own reality of the grey zone.

Look at those lights shatter and blaze in the dark. The electric fountain spray. A bright rainfall of joy. I confess: It has been a long day and I have finished off these thousands of words with an elongated metaphor concerning a 1980s baseball film to illustrate the sometimes disatisfying translation of true, human experience into something digestible for a mainstream audience. A very long and arduous day involving the barring my vision with my fingers and shouting in anguish has been had. I fear I will see better and worse days. More embarrassment will surely be heaped upon my oddly shaped head and loose, ugly jaw.

Random bit of praise: Randy Newman is a genius, but you knew that anyway.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

"Interesting...Very Interesting...Look at his face...Just look at his face"

Knockabout Chatter
While I have been writing something up along the lines of My Defence by Ashely Cole, but with fancy words like "diegetic" and "symbiosis" and only slightly less whining about life's cruel injustices, here are some of the noted text exchanges of the evening. The banter.

NB Bear in mind, my responses are laden with irony, sarcasm and exaggeration. Those who are acquainted with me fully well know my sense of humour is the driest in the land and I can talk some fine crap, yes indeedy. But, to be honest, you can never rule a bit of self-justification out.

CB: Silent assasin?you bloody gay!
JH: Idiot. I knew those answers. Haddock. God. What a prick.
Me: Course u did. Dillweed. Did u like my theme music? In 2003 it was Feel Good Hit Of The Summer. I'm losing my cool cachet.
JH: Of course you are. You are getting old. No longer the rock and roll quizzer. Now you are a quiet assassin. Oh how you have fallen.
Me Not u as well. I was thinking about texture mkay. They've set me up for the fall at 8.50. Steph got 2 more than me. But next week's show [actually, the week after] is much better for me. Even if I smashed someone's dreams and made her cry. Three times.
DB 'quiz legend TQG'?
Me Do you think I call myself such things? I be mortified for the whole evening. They MAKE us say things.
DB Hey,watch out for that dark horse. She's doing it 4 essex blondes,y'know.
Me I did her questions. I got 26 ergo I rule!
DB yeahyeah
RW Congratulations you genius! I'm all sweaty after jumping up and down to bis
Me What? Quiz legend TQG was INCREDIBLY beaten by essex girl steph. Disgusting narration
Me Oh no i'm so sorry. Youre still a genius though!

And for the record: I've never bloody eaten or seen kedgeree. I've only read up its ingredients in a "must look at foreign dishes in vague manner for five minutes" way, so I was grasping white fish out of the air. With similar TEXTURE, obviously. Or so I thought.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Best Season Ever!

Thus, it is time to reflect on the President's Cup season *sigh*. The "Champions League" or something of London quiz leagues finished with Sussex being absolutely crushed and spat out by an on-form Mastermind Club. Well, they did win the whole thing, so maybe it was to be expected. The score was 51-24 (coincidentally the score that Ireland achieved against Italy the previous day in the climactic round of Six Nations rugby matches - spooky eh? Some things are written in the stars, I suppose).

Gavin scored more than we did on his own; therefore contributing to my single player takes everyone on and emerges victorious thanks to a symbiotic mind meld with the question master theory. It's getting there, but may not be fully developed until my mid-40s. Plenty of time then.

The season ended with us finishing with five points: far, far better than the shabby four points tally of last season. Never mind that we won less games, it is the "not losing every match" that really matters. Good old stolid Italian football values. Next season, let's aim for six. Oh yeah.

And oh yeah: I'll be on BBC1 on Saturday at 6.15pm doing A QUIZ. Of sorts. Then later on 8.50pm. I have to be a bit hush hush at the moment. I know you understand. Perhaps, you won't understand me having It's Gonna Be Me by *NSYNC in my head at the moment (the amount of crap I buy off iTunes, you'll never know)

My Hostile
I think the "friendly" ended something like 47-48 to the Sussex side, though Mark had switched sides by then, and it was a three player-four player split. It was a nicely balanced little effort as I'm sure you'll see. Unanswered questions are marked with an asterisk *.

President's Cup friendly 18/3/07

Round 1
1a How high in inches is the net in table tennis?
1b Which celestial object gives its name to the smallest member of the bear family?*
SUN (Bear)
2a What bird nickname was given to the German swimmer Michael Gross?
2b What specific kind of cards would a fusilatelist collect?*
3a Which large island off the south coast of Alaska gives its name to the largest species of bear?
3b The hilariously bad Equatorial Guinea swimmer Eric Moussambani was given which fishy nickname?
4a What kind of food labels are collected by a laclabphilist?*
4b How high in metres is the ring of the goalpost above the ground in netball?

Round 2
1a Roy of the Rovers first appeared in a weekly strip in which comic magazine in 1954?
1b The 1980 film Coal Miner's Daughter dramatized the struggles of which country singer's rise to stardom and won Sissy Spacek a Best Actress Oscar?
2a The Somoni is the currency of which former Soviet republic?*
2b The Soum is the currency of which former Soviet republic?*
3a Which fast food delicacy is believed to have been first served at Louis Lunch's sandwich shop in New Haven, Connecticut in 1900, having been invented by its owner Louis Lassen?
3b In which boys' comic did Dan Dare first appear in 1950?
4a Tragically killed at the age of 30, which female country singer's life was dramatized in the 1985 film Sweet Dreams?
4b Which food were reputedly invented in Saratoga Springs, New York in 1853 when a guest at Moon Lake Lodge complained about his French fries?

Round 3
1a Which Cabinet minister was the subject of the ITV comedy Confessions of a Diary Secretary?
1b Which British heavy metal band had a number one album in 1981 with No Sleep Till Hammersmith?*
2a Consisting of two hemispheres linked by the corpus callosum, what is the largest part of the vertrebrate brain?*
2b John Davison is the captain of which non-Test playing nation at the Cricket World Cup?
3a Steve Tikolo is the captain of which non-Test playing nation at the Cricket World Cup?
3b What two-word name is given to the part of the vertebrate brainstem which regulates the reflex responses controlling respiration, heartbeat, blood pressure and other involuntary processes?*
4a Which English rock group had a number one album in 1980 with Flesh and Blood?
4b Which former Cabinet minister was the subject of the Channel 4 comedy drama A Very Social Secretary?

Round 4
1a Which fictional law enforcer and hero of the American West was created in 1933 by scriptwriter Fran Striker and producer George W Trendle for a US radio series?
1b Which revolutionary event of 1871 ended with the massacre of 25,000 people by French troops in Paris?
2a What scale was devised by Soren Sorensen in 1909?
PH scale of acidity
2b The city of Chemnitz was named after which philosopher and economist from 1953 to 1990 when it was part of East Germany?
3a During the French Revolution, the National Convention delegated power to which Robespierre-dominated committee in April 1793? It instigated the Reign of Terror and ruled France during this period.
3b Which fictional swordsman was created by Johnston McCulley and first appeared in 1919 in the magazine story The Curse of Capistrano?
4a Which Russian city was known as Stalingrad from 1925 to 1961?
4b John Newlands devised the first type of what table in 1864?

Round 5
1a Which American actor has played such movie roles as television Anchorman Ron Burgundy, NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby and the title role of Buddy in the film Elf?
1b What major archaeological discovery did the American Hiram Bingham make in 1911?
2a In ballet, what term describes a turn in which one leg is whipped around?*
2b Which American actor has played weatherman Brick Tamland and the title character of Andy Stitzer in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but is perhaps best known for playing boss Michael Scott in the US version of The Office?
3a Which sporting trophy was named after the Lord of Preston and Governor-General of Canada who donated it in 1893?
3b What ballet term describes the rapid crossing and uncrossing of the feet during a jump?
4a Which Minoan language was deciphered by Michael Ventris in 1953?
4b Which legendary Green Bay Packers coach gives his name to the trophy won by the winners of the NFL Superbowl?

Round 6
1a Winner of Best Female at the Brit Awards this year, which jazz and soul singer has had a number one album with Back to Black and a top ten hit with Rehab?
1b Which singer from Leeds was nominated for a Grammy twice this year for her song Put Your Records On, and has also released the singles Trouble Sleeping and Like a Star?
2a Name either of the South American countries that engaged in the Chaco War during much of the 1930s.
2b Dr Albert Sabin of the Children's Hospital in Cincinnati developed an eponymous oral vaccine for which viral infection during the 1950s?
3a Which No. 8 started his international rugby union career brilliantly in March 1986 when he became the first England player since 1929 to score two tries on debut in a 25-20 win over Ireland?
3b Name either of the Central American countries that fought the Football War in 1969.
4a Named after a Hungarian-born American paediatrician, the Schick Test is used to determine the susceptibility of a person to which acute infectious disease?
4b Which centre scored a hat trick of tries on his England debut against Romania in a 58-3 win in May 1989, the performance earning a call up to that year's Lions tour to Australia?

Round 7
1a Which Russian composer's works include the operas The Fiery Angel, The Gambler and The Story of a Real Man, and the cantatas We Are Seven and Hail to Stalin?
1b The subject of an 1818 Keats poem, which beautiful young man from Greek mythology was loved by the moon goddess Selene and was granted eternal sleep in order to stay forever young?
2a The subject of an 1819 ode by Keats, which beautiful young mortal had the god of love Eros helplessly fall in love with her even though he was ordered by a jealous Aphrodite to make her love the ugliest man on Earth?
2b In a mosque, what is the mihrab?
3a Which teenage film star has just made his stage debut in the role of Alan Strang in the Peter Shaffer play Equus currently on show at the Gielgud Theatre?
3b Which Austrian composer's works include the song cycle The Fair Maid of the Mill, the Wanderer Fantasy for piano, and the operas Alfonso und Estrella and Fierabas?
4a In a mosque what is the minbar?*
4b Which pop singer turned TV acting star has just made her stage debut in a revival of the Christopher Hampton play Treats at the Garrick Theatre?

Round 8
1a What international exchange scholarship programme was conceived by a Senator from Arkansas, who gave his name to an 1946 Act which authorised funds from the sale of surplus war materials to be used for the purpose?
FULBRIGHT scholars (as in William Fulbright)
1b In his 1998 poem Fulbright Scholars, which Englishman wrote: "A picture of that year's intake/ Of Fulbright Scholars. Just arriving - / Or arrived. Or some of them./ Were you among them?"?
2a On this day - March 18 - in 1965, Alexei Leonov became the first person to walk in space. He ventured outside which spacecraft?
2b What is the nationality of Yulia Nesterenko the current female 100m Olympic champion?
3a Set between the two World Wars, which 1938 Elizabeth Bowen novel tells the story of a 16-year-old orphan Portia Quoyne who moves to London to live with her half-brother Thomas?*
3b Who became the first American to perform a spacewalk on the Gemini 4 mission in 1965?
4a What is the nationality of reigning 400m Olympic champion Tonique Williams-Darling?
4b Which 1945 novel by Henry Green tells the story of the servants in an upper class Irish household named Kinalty Castle during World War Two?

Which motor manufacturer was founded in 1925 by Gustaf Larson and Assar Gabrielson?
Who was enthroned as Bishop of Monmouth in 1992?
Who composed the theme tunes to The Avengers, The Professionals and This is Your Life (known as Gala Performance)?*
Which international rugby team from Europe is nicknamed The Oaks?
Who wrote the 1681 play The Soldier's Fortune?