Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Behemoth is Waiting for You

Here's The New Quiz: You Know You Want To

6/8/08 Another update: Q428 should have "but resigned on April 2 citing "hostility" from staff members"

29/7/07 Update on question errors so far: couple of things for those already doing it. Q114 the alliterative species name is meant to begin with the letter "G" and NOT "M". Q244 The Games should be in 1960 not 1950. Q318 The year is 1958 NOT 1975

So, finally, here we are again. Last year, a few of you may remember I put together two c.500-question quizzes with suitably overblown names which I e-mailed out to interested parties in the name of a marathon-like competition which just about anyone in the trivia world, and not only the UK, could take part in. Naturally, the number and difficulty of the questions led to a seemingly natural order of finishers ....

1 Kevin Ashman* (UK) 382
2 Pat Gibson* (Ireland) 346.5
3 Mark Bytheway* (UK) 336
4 John Martin* (UK) 335
5 Dave Perry (US) 308
6 Paul Freund (US) 299.5
7 Ian Bayley* (UK) 295.5
8 Nico Pattyn (Bel) 294
9 Mark Grant (Australia/UK)* 288
10 Dorjana Sirola* (Croatia) 287

(* already entered into The Behemoth)

.... but the aim was always to provide an unique test. Loads of original questions, with very few chestnuts, to be answered in three hours. Both were designed to be an expansive test of general knowledge, which would try to cover every single subject you could think of, as well as a test of endurance, and 108 people managed to return completed answer sheets for the last one, named The Colossus.

I have now set a new one named The Behemoth, which has taken into account many of the comments made by previous participants and amended accordingly, and it is now ready to be unleashed on the public. I know a few of you have been looking forward to it and, hopefully, it will become a far more regular series.

The Price
Alas, the time has come to charge for it, but you do get your money's worth. For a UK sum of £7.50/11 Euros you will receive 505 questions (non-UK residents pay the equivalent in their respective country's currency), whose combined word count comes to approximately 15,117 words. That, I assure you, is a lot. Especially when you have to write and obsessively proof that number of words yourself.

Buying The Monster and The Colossus as well
I am also aware that not everyone will have heard of, or done both or either The Monster or The Colossus. Therefore, you can buy The Behemoth with one of these quizzes (and their answers and errors) for £10/15 Euros and £11/16.50 Euros for all three, so if you fancy getting the lot you will receive 1503 That Quiz Guy-set questions for £11/16.50 Euros (sorry about talking about myself in the third person, but it is better than saying "originally-set" again and again). Bargain.

What is it like?
Read the following testimonials from some luminaries of the quiz world who acted as test subjects:

Ken Jennings of record breaking Jeopardy fame: "A great quiz"

Steven De Ceuster, Founder and President of the Flemish Quiz Ranking, IQA Director Western Europe: "I thought it was a very interesting but testing set of questions, with an excellent geographical spread. I thought especially the sciences and the modern literature questions were hard, but I enjoyed the set very much. I already look forward to the next quiz."

Chris Jones, aka Wiseoldowls: "A very enjoyable quiz and a liberal sprinkling of straightforward questions is both welcome and appropriate. I felt this quiz was easier than the last one (whether my score bears that out is another matter), and I certainly wasn't made to feel stupid by long segments of being unable to hazard a guess."

Pat Gibson, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Jackpot winner, World Quizzing Champion 2007: "It's a pleasure to be your test-pilot. It is definitely a varied, interesting and very testing set which I enjoyed thoroughly. I can only wish that all those people who kindly e-mail me unsolicited investment and pharmacological offerings would switch to sending me quizzes of this quality. Great stuff."

How to enter
You enter by e-mailing I will then give you details on how to pay along with a snail mail address for cheques (and eventually, postal entries) - Paypal, cheque, even cash if you dare - and put you down on the participant list. Once your payment or blood oath (though I will go on trust for everyone I personally know and e-mail them the quiz ASAP) has been received, the quiz will then be e-mailed to you and you can return your answers any time before the deadline - Tuesday, August 21 (11.59pm to be precise) by snail mail or e-mail.

The day after the deadline, Wednesday August 22, the answers and any errors in the questions or helpful additional information competitors have pointed out and would like to share with the world, will then be sent to you by the old fashioned method of snail mail (the cost will be taken out of £7.50 fee, though foreign competitors will receive such sheets grouped together where possible since they will pay less to take part). They will NOT be e-mailed out.

You will get the answers this time regardless
Unlike in previous super-quizzes, everyone will receive the answers even if they do not submit a completed sheet - you have paid an entrance fee, after all. As a bonus for taking part and doing all of the above in the recommended fashion, participants will also receive one of three originally-set (by myself) 100-question quizzes, known by the frightfully imaginative names A, B and C in the post with the answer set.

Participants, whose completed entries arrive after the deadline, will get the answers and bonus quiz too, but will not be entered into the final scorers table.

Ah, but what about the possible rewards? Apart from the chance of competing against the likes of Kevin Ashman from the comfort of your own home and winning the wondrous respect of your peers (which is surely the best prize you can possibly win), there are tangible prizes of sorts.

Cash prizes cannot really work, I am prone to believe, when a quiz relies on the honesty of its competitors since it is done at home where people can access the internet, reference books and their loved ones for the stuff that is teetering on the top of their tongue. Therefore, the overall winner will receive a refund of their entrance fee and free entry into the next huge quiz.

There will also be a refund and free entry again for those who finish number one in each country where there is more than three "Behemoth" competitors.

And to encourage those wary of possible humiliation (though you can enter under a pseudonym if you prefer) and just want to give it a shot, the overall bottom five finishers will also get their money back and free entry, as long as their answer sheet has been returned and convincingly attempted, i.e. filled with top-to-the-bottom with proof they have done their best to tackle it (those with barely any answers and blank sheets will be ignored).

Time limits
You can enter at any time over the next four weeks. You do not have to do so immediately or even next week. Do so on the day before the deadline of August 21, if you prefer living on the edge, as long as you return it in time. Take, for instance, one day to get it over and done with straight away (i.e. received, completed and returned), or carry the test paper around for the weeks in the run-up to the deadline finding a half hour to spare here or there if you are too busy to do the three hour block.

However, you are still limited to three hours to do the 505 questions, which you can divide into whatever time period you see fit (though more than three, single hour periods may be the maximum of what I prefer personally). Ideally, you should do it in one go or over one day, but then it is your choice.

Please do not go over the time limit. Which is THREE HOURS. And PLEASE DO NOT CHEAT BY LOOKING ANYTHING UP.

Remember the E-mail Entry Address & the Deadline!
E-mail: and get your answers in by 11.59pm Tuesday, August 21

Finally, apart from my promising that The Behemoth will be a whole load of fun, here are 20 questions from the previous quizzes to help give you a taster of what is in store:
The Monster
24. Hailing from the island of Samos, which Greek astronomer (310-264BC) was the first to propose the heliocentric model of the solar system?
30. Also known as the Saltpeter (or Saltpetre) War, which war lasted from 1879 to 1884 and saw Chile fight Bolivia and Peru?
72. Which town was called "America's crud-bucket" by Newsweek magazine?
140. The city of Nijni-Novgorod was renamed in honour of which author in 1932, the man in question dying four years later?
202. What did Captain Henrik Goosen catch to his and the scientific world's great surprise in 1938?
234. Which Oscar-winner provided the voice of writer Robin Masters on the TV show Magnum PI?
317. What town and port in Sicily's Trapani province was known in ancient times as Lilybaeum and gives its name to a sweet wine?
365. Also the name of a school he founded in 1968, what training programme in self development was devised by the Bolivian-born mystic Oscar Ichazo?
380. Which musical piece, featured prominently in the Billy Wilder film The Seven Year Itch, is Euphonia Allen said to have written when aged just 16?
455. Praised by such Georgic poets as Columella and Virgil, Italy's Chianina is recognised by many as being the oldest breed of which animal?

The Colossus
2. Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Kenzo are famous names in which field?
23. Also a nickname given to older or grey-haired internet users, which Marvel Comics superhero was originally a young astronomer named Norrin Radd who came from the planet Zenn-La?
116. Also the name of a James Frazer work published in 1890, what gift did Aeneas have to take to Proserpina before he could enter the underworld?
177. Named after the Japanese gymnast who introduced it into competition, what style of vaulting and speciality of Nadia Comaneci consists of a quarter or half turn into the horse followed by one-and-a-half back somersault?
234. In which fictional suburb of Melbourne is the Australian soap opera Neighbours set?
296. What is the S.I. unit of time?
305. The hit single Hate It or Love It was released in 2005 by which rapper who shares his stage name with a David Fincher film and whose real name is Jayceon Terell Taylor?
317. What wood, from a tree of the genus Carya of the walnut family, is used to make lacrosse sticks due to its ability to withstand blows and hard play?
344. The Swede Jan Ove Waldner is a former world champion at which sport?
385. Influenced by African art, van Gogh and Fauvism, what German Expressionist art movement was formed in Dresden in 1905 by Ernest Ludwig Kirchner, Schmidt-Rottluff and others, and was joined in 1906 by Emil Nolde?

The Monster sample answers
24. Aristarchos 30. The War of the Pacific 72. Springfield in The Simpsons 140. Maxim Gorky 202. Coelocanth 234. Orson Welles 317. Marsala 365. Arica 380. Chopsticks 455. Cattle

The Colossus sample answers
2. Fashion/clothes design 23. Silver surfer 116. The Golden Bough 177. Tsukhara 234. Erinsborough 296. Second 305. The Game 317. Hickory 344. Table tennis 385. Die Brucke/The Bridge

Sunday, July 22, 2007

BH119: On it Goes and On and AristOn

Quiz, Festivals, Summer, Holiday, Littlehampton the Cool Capital in Your Fantasies You Londonistas

The Behemoth is coming this very day ... Check the Quizzing website by the end of the day for the details, by which time I hope full, explanatory details will have been posted... G'wan g'wan g'wan

NB: The following words were written before the blurb for the BH118 post. Because I am "an enigma" and wasn't in London and was back home-home at the time

Festivals and Ennui Warping My Brainwaves
Compiling this BH bored me for some mysterious reason. I went on, yes. Ploughed on and on as tempus fugit. I made it pass the century mark. I could even have gone on further. Oh yes. Call it the lingering curiosity that grips my mind in a comforting cradling hold and the unstoppable urge to splurge on the words (this may have something to do with me being back in LA and having no internet connection, meaning I get down to all the work I never do in London because the distractions are too powerful to resist; distractions including looking at the internet, chaining search terms on Google that pop in my head, finding music to listen to and download - this world wide web that is actually a sticky spider's web I always struggle to unglue myself from and only succeed in doing so after an average of six hours.

But, for now, I can conveniently blame all that on the usual post-musical festival daze and illness and recovery. Here in my airy, sun-dappled bedroom I feel like I have more room to breath and stretch out on the sizeable floor area, which I estimate to be 10 times bigger than the rented equivalent in KX, though this space deficit problem is exacerbated by my inability to maintain bare floor space in the London bedroom. If I see a patch of exposed carpet, a newspaper, magazine, book, postcard or piece of clothing is then mysteriously dropped on it, probably because I really want to annoy myself at a later date with added picking-up cleaning duties. I do it to myself and that's what mildly hurts.

More BH Quiz Bumf
But back to the BH quiz talk ... I sourced this one purely from a couple of papers and four books, including:

The Rough Guide to Cult Pop: so awesome I'm glad I pilfered it from a pile of books nobody wanted in the office; I would give it a loving, hands-on home and it would help me with the more interesting and quirky corners of this thing we call POP music .... talk about, pop musik.

Trevor Montague's A-Z of Sport: The Compendium of Sporting Knowledge: still solid as a rock, but noticeably lacking in the more interesting stuff you will find in every issue of the Observer Sport Monthly supplement ... it could be made a lot more engrossing with the introduction of the short human stories about sporting events, much more miscellany and putting all the admirably compiled lists into some context which would help the reader remember because they would chortle: "How amusing! What antics!" or "What a ghastly bastard!" The book's growing weakness is the way its heavy emphasis on the stats and lists of winners is becoming increasingly mind-numbing every time the book is opened one more time. Yet thinking about it, it probably couldn't be done much better any other way. You think it could be padded out well though with some of the aforementioned suggestions, considering its smaller length than its general knowledge equivalent.

Chambers Biographical Dictionary: thousands of dead nobodies sinking into further obscurity and nearer the abyss of the completely forgotten with every passing year and so much irrelevance, yet the irrelevant stuff will probably be perfectly acceptable because what was once difficult has become a chestnut and so on; nevertheless you will always find immense amounts of good, useful biographical details in it.

The Saturday broadsheets: always something to be reaped; journalists often have to pad their articles with slightly superfluous facts.

And my increasingly bland looking Philip's Encyclopedia: Comprehensive Edition:my old Hutchinson's ragged monster with pictures and subject timelines and proper attention to detail - like adding the foreign titles as well as the English ones - craps on it mightily despite the fact that I bought it in 1997 ... it's still good. On the other hand Philip's is predictable and dull. If it was a colour it would be a slightly weak beige. I do not recommend it.

Otherwise, apologies if you're getting a bit of a functional, pizzazz-lacking vibe from this particular number BH. You cannot win them all, satisfy everyone all the time, conjure up more apologetic cliches and you certainly cannot set a consistently awesome yet awesomely brutal long quiz every time.

(Also, more writing follows the 103-question quiz. I decided to put the quiz near the top because, obviously, there's a lot of writing and it goes way down the page. This time, I thought it was better to serve my trivia-hungry constituency first, and leave the other stuff as more of a bloated main course)

Zanother of Zose QuiZZes
1 Given the scientific name Pinus contorta, what is the only pine native to both Alaska and Mexico and has a name referring to the native Americans' use of the trunk as building material for their tents?
2 Which seaport on the estuary of the River Nervion, near the Bay of Biscay, is the capital of the Basque Country province of Vizcaya?
3 Responsible for the development of the touring company, which Anglo-Irish playwright and actor-manager wrote and adapted nearly 300 plays, the most successful of which were his comedies and romantic melodramas like London Assurance (1841) and The Octoroon (1859)?
4 By what name is the mosque and shrine Qubbat al-Sakhrah known in the English-speaking world?
5 Which leading artist of the Italian Baroque worked with Annibale Caracci on the Farnese Palace in 1602 and influenced Poussin and Lorrain with such landscape paintings as The Hunt of Diana and Landscape with St John Baptising?
6 Which radioactive metallic transuranic element of the actinide series was identified by US nuclear scientist Albert Ghiorso and colleagues as a decay product of U255 from the first large hydrogen bomb explosion?
7 The tall, perennial herb fennel is a member of which family?
8 Repealed in 1844, the "gag rules" were adopted by US Congress during the 1830s to prevent the discussion of which subject?
9 Home to more than 800 islands making up 10 per cent of the total land area, which country's largest island is Saaremaa?
10 Which of the three groups of elementary particles are the messenger particles?
11 For how many paces may the ball be carried in Gaelic football?
12 Which rock musician released the 1970 album Band of Gypsies?
13 How many counties comprise Northern Ireland?
14 The songwriters Lieber & Stoller left Atlantic in 1964 to start their own label, which was home to the girl groups the Shangri-Las and the Dixie Cups, but it closed abruptly amid rumours of run-ins with the Mafia. What was it called?
15 Olga Korbut invented which two moves she showed off at the Munich Olympics, one performed on the beam and the other on the asymmetric bars?
16 The NBA team the Detroit Pistons were located in which city when they lost the play-off final series to Syracuse Nationals in 1955 and the Philadelphia Warriors the next year?
17 Attaining a length of c.80cm/31in, the African crested is the largest type of which herbivorous rodent to be found in Europe and Africa?
18 Which grandfather did Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, succeed as ruler of the principality in 1949?
19 Which founder of the 19th dynasty of ancient Egypt (reigned c.1320 to 1318BC) was a general under Horemheb, who chose him as his successor?
20 Derived from the Italian for "projection", what is a three-dimensional sculpture projecting from a flat background, and has such levels of protusion as alto (high), basso (low) and mezzo (in between the two)?
21 Also a designer of De Stijl furniture, which Dutch architect's masterwork, the Schroder House in Utrecht, was arguably the most modern European house of its time on its completion in 1924?
22 In rowing, what term describes using two oars rather than one?
23 Who composed the theme from the film Love Story?
24 Which Dutch pop group had topped the UK singles chart for a month in 1976 with the Jonathan King-produced song Mississippi?
25 Often cited as the world's finest ever sticksman and called "The greatest drummer ever to draw breath" by contemporary Gene Krupa, which short-tempered perfectionist was loathed by many of his colleagues and became known as the man Frank Sinatra hated most in the world?
26 Which one-time undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion, an American of German descent, was nicknamed The Livermore Larruper?
27 Also the first amateur to win the tournament, which golfer broke the Scottish monopoly on the Open Championship in 1890 and became the first Englishman to win it?
28 Who became the first Formula 1 champion to win the Indy 500 in 1965?
29 Which successor to the Varangian king and founder of the first Russian state in c.862AD, Rurik, made Kiev his capital with the state becoming known as Kievan Rus?
30 Which later work of Vedic literature dating from c.650BC, whose name means "session" in Sanskrit and are also referred to as the Vedanta, take the form of dialogues between teacher and pupil discussing the essence of the universe, reality and man's salvation?
31 In which country did Francisco de Miranda lead uprisings against Spanish rule in the late 18th century?
32 Which Belfast-born jockey, who retired in December 1999, was known as The Prince?
33 Which football club did Alf Ramsey manage in 1977, his only league appointment other than his 1955-63 stint at Ipswich Town?
34 Which club won the first European Cup final to be staged in London when it triumphed over Benfica 2-1 in 1963?
35 Which poet and singer translated Jacques Brel's songs into English, his versions bringing the Belgian songwriter a wider audience and resulting in Seasons in the Sun and If You Go Away becoming huge hits for Terry Jacks, Westlife and New Kids on the Block, although the former song is said to have "bizarrely emasculated" the vitriol of the original?
36 The pop group Madness took their name from the title of a song by which ska musician?
37 The father of noted conductor Yan Pascal, which late French cellist celebrated for his interpretations of Bach and Elgar made his concert debut in 1931 and, in 1957, became a professor at the Paris Conservatoire, where his pupils included Jacqueline Du Pre?
38 Medan, Palembang and Padang are the largest cities on which island?
39 Ruth St Denis and Ted Shawn were innovators in which field of the arts?
40 Where did the Democratic Union Coalition form the first non-communist government for more than 70 years in 1996?
41 Equal to 27.32 days, what type of month is the time from full moon to full moon and is longer than the sidereal month at 29.53 days (one revolution with respect to the stars) rather than 27.32 days due to the motion of the Earth around the Sun?
42 Famous for its contribution to naturalistic drama, which theatre was founded in 1898 by Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko?
43 Which German physicist's 1958 doctoral thesis concerned the emission of gamma radiation by radioactive nuclei within crystals, and gave his name to an eponymous effect?
44 On his greatest voyage, which French explorer followed the Mississippi to its mouth in 1682, naming the land Louisiana and claiming it for his country?
45 Which late American composer of original and exotic music produced such works - some of which reflect his Armenian ancestry - as Mysterious Mountain (1955) and And God Created Great Whales (1970), and wrote 67 symphonies?
46 Which chemical element is one of Bob Geldof's middle names, along with Frederick?
47 Hungarian, Ostyak and Mansi (or Vogul) comprise one branch of which group of related languages?
48 Hanga Roa is the chief town of which volcanic island in the south-east Pacific Ocean, the most isolated in Polynesia?
49 Which capital at the foot of the Gissar Mountains was founded in the 1920s and was known as Stalinabad from 1929-61?
50 Which 1965 Margaret Drabble novel was filmed as A Touch of Love?
51 Which Austrian physicist and mathematician is most famous for a prediction he made in an 1842 paper on double stars?
52 Author of such pamphlets as Revolutions de France et de Brabant (1789), which French revolutionary was responsible for provoking the mob that attacked the Bastille in 1789, but was guillotined in 1794 having aligned with Danton?
53 Hindus refer to which evergreen and coniferous Indian cedar that yields a fragrant oil from the snowy slopes of the western Himalayas as "the tree of god" and has spreading branches which droop or "weep" at their ends?
54 Named after a local town, which group of giant chimpanzees deep in the Congolese jungle are said to kill and eat lions, catch fish and howl at the moon, and have been found by European scientists to be feasting on a leopard carcass?
55 Which 25-strong group of presidents' and monarchs' chefs meet in Monaco every year in July for an annual dinner, having spent a week carrying out a culinary tour of France?
56 Castigated in the press due to the organisers' alleged mistreatment of some Pygmy musicians, the Festival Panafricain de Musique is held in which capital city?
57 Hailing from China's Inner Mongolia region, what is the name of the world's tallest man (he currently measures 2.36m or 7ft 9in)?
58 Also from Inner Mongolia, which 73cm/2ft 4in tall man is believed to be the world's shortest man?
59 Which Dublin-based group is the owner of Magners cider?
60 Located in the suburbs beyond Berlin's Grunewald forest, which traditional lakeside bathing spot celebrates its 100th anniversary this summer after a long refurbishment programme? And what became the first modern urban beach to open in the centre of the German capital in 2002?
61 Much associated with the city of Salvador da Bahia on the northern coast of Brazil, which bean patties came to the country with slaves from west Africa and - resembling a large spicy falafel - is best eaten in combination with salt-dried prawns, chilli salsa and salad as an evening dish?
62 In 1938, which Austrian-born molecular biologist, who became a naturalised British citizen in 1943, began a lifelong x-ray crystallographic investigation of the structure of haemoglobin, which he termed "the molecular lung"?
63 Known for The Hard Nut his version of The Nutcracker and dancing the part of Dido himself in Dido and Aeneas, whose "Dance Group" opened his new show, Mozart Dances, at the Barbican to a mixed critical reception in early July?
64 Created by Bloomsbury publisher Liz Calder and co-founded by her husband Louis Baum, Flip is a four-day long international literary festival held in which Brazilian fishing town?
65 Subtitled The Epic Story of the World's Most Valuable Coin, Alison Frankel's new non-fiction book tells the tale of the last gold coins to be minted in America, the vast majority of which were melted down during the Great Depression with the remaining few being illegal to own as they are still property of the US government, although one was allowed to be auctioned off by Sotheby's in 2002 for $7.59 million?
66 A tribute to the 1905 Hjalmar Soderberg book Dr Glas that reprises the same characters. whose novel, Gregorius, narrated by the titular and repugnant rapist-pastor, won him Sweden's August prize in 2004?
67 Born in Radzymin, Poland, the son of a rabbi, which 1978 Nobel-prize winning author emigrated to the US in 1935 and produced such novels as The Family Moskat (1950) and the story collection The Spinoza of Market Street (1961)?
68 What nickname, meaning "top hats", are given by football fans to the allegedly corrupt figures who run Brazilian football?
69 Subdivided into the Tertiary and Quartenary periods, what is the most recent era of geological time, beginning c.65 million years ago and extending to the present?
70 Which colonel assumed control of Central African Republic in a bloodless coup in 1966 and proclaimed himself emperor of what was now an empire rather than a republic in 1976, before he was deposed three years later?
71 Which Romanian city, just 10 miles from the frontier with Moldova, was the capital of Moldavia from 1562 to 1861 and features such notable buildings as the 15th century Church of St Nicholas?
72 In which city is the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquartered?
73 In which in vitro fertilisation technique, abbreviated ZIFT, is a fertilised egg returned to the Fallopian tube, from which it makes its own way to the uterus where it then divides to form an embryo?
74 Which Ukrainian writer, who changed his name to A.Anatoli after defecting to England in 1969, published the novel Sequel to a Legend (1957)?
75 Which city in Argentina, the country's largest oil refinining centre and a major exporter of it through its port Ensenada, was called Eva Peron from 1946 to 1955?
76 Which Zulu chief became President of the African National Congress in 1952 and became the first African to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1960?
77 At which hospital did Florence Nightingale found the Nightingale School and Home for nurse training in 1860?
78 Named after the village in central Nigeria where remains such as the small clay figurines that are among the first African sculptures were found, which ancient African civilisation flourished from 500BC-200AD?
79 His country's first prime minister, which Burmese statesman took power in 1948 but was ousted by the military in 1958 and again in 1962 after he had returned to government, and having endured years of exile returned to Burma in 1980 where he was later placed under house arrest before his death in 1995?
80 Produced by the pituitary gland during a woman's pregnancy, which hormone stimulates the uterus's muscles, initiating the onset of labour and maintaining contractions during childbirth?
81 Author of L'Eau des collines (1963 - the novel adapted into the films Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources), which French dramatist and film director adapted his "Marseilles" trilogy - Marius (1929), Fanny (1931) and Cesar (1937) - for the screen?
82 According to the 16th century Swiss physician Paracelsus, the human body primarily consisted of three elements, which if separated would cause illness. One was salt, but what were the other two chemical elements?
83 Belonging to the order Holotricha and including such species as bursaria and aurelia, which genus of freshwater, ciliated protozoans are characterised by their 'slipper' shape, defined front and rear ends, an oral groove for feeding, food vacuoles for digestion and an anal pore for elimination, and two nuclei?
84 Which strong membrane of connective tissue lines the body's abdominal wall and covers the abdominal organs?
85 Which Swiss educational reformer wrote the 1801 book How Gertrude Teaches Her Children?
86 Prozac works by increasing levels of which chemical - a vasoconstrictor - in the brain, it being represented by the second S in the acronym SSRI (as in Selective _____ Re-Uptake Inhibitors)?
87 A speechwriter for FDR and Oscar winner for his screenplay for the 1946 film The Best Days of Our Lives, which US dramatist won four Pulitzer Prizes for Idiot's Delight (1936), Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1938) and There Shall Be No Night (1940) and his memoir Roosevelt and Hopkins (1948)?
88 Once world famous for its silk, which province of south-west China - capital at Chengdu - is almost completely surrounded by mountains and is the most populous in the country, its eastern part comprising the most prosperous area too, in the heavily populated Red Basin?
89 Holy Roman Emperor as well as king of Hungary, Germany and Bohemia, Sigismund secured the succession for his son-in-law, the first ruler of the Habsburg dynasty, before his death in 1437. What name did his son-in-law use as ruler?
90 Which Stax soul star got his big breakthrough when, having been driver for singer Johnny Jenkins, used the final half hour of one of Jenkins' sessions to record These Arms of Mine after the session had gone awry?
91 The Rochdale-born Johnny Clegg, having settled in South Africa as a child, found international fame with his second multi-racial band, known for their blending of Zulu music and slick European production, although little UK chart success came their way, the single Scatterlings of Africa stalling at no.75 in 1987?
92 Which game is known as Gude in Brazil, Jorrah in parts of Africa, Pallina di vetro in Italy, and has US varieties called Ringer, Immies and Mibs?
93 The Australians Catherine Cox, Sharelle McMahon and Eloise Southby and the Englishwomen Alex Astle, Tania Dalton and Jo Steed are renowned fillers of which position in netball?
94 Independent SC of Delhi, HTHC Hamburg, Port Commissioners, Jockey Club Rosario, Braunschweig and the Southgate Club are club sides in which sport?
95 What term describes a mathematical quantity that has only a magnitude, as opposed to a vector, which also has direction; mass, temperature, energy and speed being examples?
96 Which English men's finalist shocked tennis fans in 1933 when he wore shorts to play in at Wimbledon?
97 Deriving its name from a planet or Roman god, which element was discovered in 1940 and was the first of the transuranic group of elements?
98 What was the final novel in Paul Scott's Raj Quartet?
99 The most densely populated region of Bolivia and site of such famous ruins as Tiahuanaco, which area also includes the seat of government at La Paz, lying close to Lake Titicaca?
100 Simon "the Liberator" Bolivar achieved no real success in his attempts to free South American from Spanish rule until his victory at which 1821 battle led to the liberation of New Granada (Columbia)?
101 Laura, a US photographer who documented her voyage along the Rio Grande from source to mouth and the Navajo people who lived on and lined its banks in 1945 - the book of which was published in 1949 as The Rio Grande: River of Destiny; the Cumbrian-born William, a vicar of Boldre in Hampshire who was satirised by William Combe in Dr Syntax (1809); and child actor turned ballet dancer John, who became artistic director of the London Festival Ballet in 1962(-65) and created notable roles in Frederick Ashton's Le Reve de Leonor (1949) and Anton Dolin's Variations for Four (1957). What is their shared surname?
102 Which company launched the benzodiazepine drug Valium in 1963?
103 Also known by the name Lydia Kamakaeha Paki, who married John Dominis, the son of a Boston sea captain in 1862 despite her being engaged to a Hawaiian prince and became queen of Hawaii, and therefore the last monarch of the Hawaiian islands, on the death of her brother King David Kalakua in 1891?





Answers to BH119
1 Lodgepole pine 2 Bilbao 3 Dion Boucicault 4 Dome of the Rock 5 Domenichino 6 Fermium 7 Parsley 8 Slavery 9 Estonia 10 Gauge bosons 11 Four 12 Jimi Hendrix 13 Six 14 Red Bird 15 Korbut Salto (an aerial blackflip) and the Korbut Flip (a backflip-to-catch) 16 Fort Wayne 17 Porcupine 18 Louis II 19 Ramses II 20 Relief/rilievo 21 Gerrit Rietveld 22 Sculling 23 Francis Lai 24 Pussycat 25 Buddy Rich 26 Max Baer 27 John Ball 28 Jim Clark 29 Oleg 30 Upanishads 31 Venezuela 32 Richard Dunwoody 33 Birmingham City 34 AC Milan 35 Rod McKuen 36 Prince Buster 37 Paul Tortelier 38 Sumatra 39 Modern dance 40 Mongolia 41 Synodic month 42 Moscow Art Theatre 43 Rudolf Ludwig Mossbauer 44 Rene Robert Cavalier Sieur de La Salle 45 Alan Hovhavness 46 Xenon 47 Finno-Ugric 48 Easter Island 49 Dushanbe in Tajikistan 50 The Millstone 51 Christian Johann Doppler 52 Camille Desmoulins 53 Deodar 54 The Bili apes 55 The Club de Chefs des Chefs (Club of Leaders' Chefs) 56 Brazzaville (Congo) 57 Bao Xishun 58 He Pingping 59 C&C Group 60 Wannseebad, Strandbar Mitte 61 Acaraje 62 Max Perutz 63 Mark Morris 64 Parati (as in Festa Literaria Internacional de Parati) 65 The 1933 Double Eagle 66 Bengt Ohlsson 67 Isaac Bashevis Singer 68 Cartolas 69 Cenozoic 70 Jean Bedel Bokassa 71 Iasi 72 Vienna 73 Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer 74 Anatoly Kuznetsov 75 La Plata 76 Albert Luthuli 77 St Thomas's Hospital, London 78 Nok 79 U Nu 80 Oxytocin 81 Marcel Pagnol 82 Sulphur, mercury 83 Paramecium 84 Peritoneum 85 Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi 86 Serotonin 87 Robert Emmet Sherwood 88 Sichuan or Szechwan 89 Albert II 90 Otis Redding 91 Savuka 92 Marbles 93 Goal shooter 94 Hockey 95 Scalar 96 Bunny Austin 97 Neptunium 98 A Division of the Spoils 99 Altiplano 100 Boyaca(/) 101 Gilpin 102 Roche Laboratories 103 Liliuokalani


Body Damage Report
Back to personal whiny physical woe and the post-fest recovery. The festivals always damage me. The pertinent question is therefore how badly did Latitude lash and drain my body? Okay. Progress is cantering along at a bearable gait, while I am free of physical exhaustion, the mental side still needs to do a little catch-up. The four rock-hard umbo-like facial spots caused by Latitude-blocked pores are subsiding; the body parts I exposed to the blazing Suffolk sun are no longer radiating the humming heat of scorched, rapidly browned epidermis; lastly and still worsely, my swollen left arm is not quite the petrified wrist of pulsing pain, weeping lymph and scary potential for gangrene, with swollen flesh so tough and durable you might think that, for just one sec, you could relate to the beneficial skin problems experienced by The Thing of Fantastic Four fame. But it hasn't been so grating today. I have even stopped rubbing it (because that will make it so much better) since I started to rub Voltarol around the afflicted area ... oh, I'll stop there. But I do detect a soothing softening replacing once bulletproof skin, only through a reedy and annoying tickly voice to encase my throat and cause me to make disturbing growing sounds.

Escape To Novelty
But I am sure, bloody certain actually, that I need some sort of holiday involving reliable sun, total relaxation and forgetting all about the exhaustion of last month's gallivanting before the summer is out. There's also something about a truly oppressive, low level gloom and the way it can trap you in a foul mood and punch you down, forcing you into doing all sorts of mindless rubbish. It has happened far too often this rainy season, resulting in some truly Olympic standard internet faffing about. Otherwise, the ravenous monster that be daytime TV-related will undoubtedly feast on my desire to live yet again. The spirit suffers so. Won't someone stab Jeremy Kyle in the eye? Won't someone chop Antony Worrall-Thompson's head off with a very large cleaver? These gits are eating my soul. And I'm letting them do it. So if a trip to foreign climes be in the offing I mighty verily jump at the idea and hug it in a death embrace of love. It's the fleeting escape from that old routine that I am currently craving (though bear in mind it might just be an shattered post-festival me talking here and in a few days I will sink into a state of strange contentment as I sometimes do). A mere week or two swapping my rutty environment for the unfamiliar, seeing new buildings, eating weird and greasy foreign muck in a range of restaurants, marvelling at foreign chocolate bars, spending quality sunburn time absorbing the solar rays that make me feel better and lighter while lying on on a sandy beach rather than a spine-crippling pebble mass (which I could really just set up in my back garden if I am unable to reach the UK escape velocity) - you're right Sheryl, a change would do me good.

Latitude Mashes Glasto
Maybe, I merely crave novelty making a passing trip through my life at the moment ... also, one of the reasons why I loved Latitude. It was different. It was bloody lovely. The change of scenery evoked the kind of tangible excitement I hadn't felt in an age at a music festival. It was a complete contrast to Glasto, which I thought was good fun thanks to the brilliant and fun company I kept, but occasionally, a humdrum feeling overcame me. Then I remember the full-on, sensory overload experience I have been trying to block out. It was another muddy Glastonbury spent soaked to the bone despite waterproofs. The mud was unbelievable and astonishing in its merciless spatter and stick qualities and the ability to reform into several impressively different colours and consistencies. But, frankly it was bearable because all this crappy weather was only to be expected. Miserable past experiences from 1997 and '98 inure you to it along with wellies, but then you come back home and look at the photos and dispiriting memories of the relentless regularity of rain showers that ranged from pulverising drops to annoying, seemingly eternal pitter-patter, and the shearing cold that eventually succeeded in cutting through every layer, and the inability to sit down anywhere on the ground unless you wanted to do a very convincing impression of someone with creamy, nuclear diarrhoea. The good music was scant compensation. And you dream of the days when Pilton Farm was bathed in transcendent sunlight and you remembered wearing t-shirts and speck-less trainers and everything seemed so much more ... dry. Dry is a very good thing. It really is. And now they become such distant, faded memories that make the present seem so much more diminished.

Contrast it with the Latitude experience: no mud, sunshine shooting down, forests filled with actual, bona fide shoe trees and people dressed as angels being poked with sticks by a woman-in-drag dressed as a lumberjack, campsites with space galore, less people, less dickheads, always someone or some band to see and, more often than not, an act that you had been thankfully brainwashed by Uncut magazine into liking and buying months before to get you ready (see The National and The Hold Steady and a whole load of 30-and-over musicians shunned by NME), a communal feeling of amiable vibes forever coursing around the site, the Literary Tent and the Live Aid style rendition of Danielle Steele's poem Jam, easy access to everything, toilets that behaved, idyllic scenery, a beautiful lake and a bridge of sighs that mellowed you out instantly just by looking at them, laid back feel and psychedelic sheep and a surprise round every corner, small children playing in the grass that has just been urine-sprayed by the blokes who couldn't wait two minutes to use a proper toilet, and mucho beer drinking under our aforementioned yellow star: enjoyment augmented by our cunning can smuggling operation. Latitude beat its behemoth of a Somerset big brother hands down, though at least Glasto destroyed the insect threat by basically drowning the little blighters. That is one thing I can think of. I'll get back to you on that one ... with another one ... maybe.

I've got another one: £8 for a no frills Latitude booklet. No little round the neck mini guide and no TV listings style clash-awareness stage timings list. We were forced to create our own with pencil and paper!

Sunny LA Option
Or I could stay at home-home for a few more days (they said it would be torrential showers today, but I only see the lovely hometown sunshine filling the streets outside) and roam LA's shingle shores and cool hip beach, play a bit of pitch 'n' putt with the bro, read more Anna Karenina whilst deckchair-sunk in between diving into the pleasantly tame surf and trying to walk to France at low tide, before rocking up to the polished wrinkled purple turd of a dining establishment on the East Beach, where born and bred locals have been outraged by fancy hamburgers costing £9.50! Them's Brighton prices ... it's a bleeding diabolical liberty!

But, what about a local value comparison, despite my never even sampling the East Beach Burger? £9.50 at the EBC still cannot best the Wetherspoons sub-£4 Beer and a Burger deal: Spoons may deliver a minging microwave-abetted hunk of blackened cow bum, but it does it cheaply enough so you don't care. So long as the very reasonably priced beer is numbing the taste receptors on your tongue and your stomach is being filled with some kind of protein, no matter how carcinogenic, along with the kind of pointless, joyless chips that taste best when they are slathered in salt and sickly sweet Spoons ketchup, You see it's all about getting a good amount of digestible matter into your body, even if does not quite fulfil the dictionary definition of "food", and getting a pint with it. That's what's really important. Drink. With alcohol in it.

Apparently, Thomas Heatherwick's giant clam was polished at the last minute to achieve more of that classy driftwood sheen, which is odd because organic or inorganic stuff, including numerous large-ish sea creatures reduced to piles of rancid translucent goo, washed up on these shores is often drained of any vibrant life colours, is at least half-obliterated by the roll and rock and rack of the English Channel and is always about as approachable and attractive to touch as a rusty pail of poo-poo. If they wanted an authentic beach look in fitting with the surroundings they should have just dumped 3 tons of maritime-themed scrap and special LA-themed trash on the cafe, giving it a real Trainspotting by the Sea flavour. Edgy, yeah. I remember a large hypodermic coming out of the sea's surf once in my teens: a no doubt deadly needle-torpedo slowly flowing towards me, then fast then slow and so on due to the crashing monotonous, almost languid, routine of the breaking waves. It missed me by at least 10 metres. Phew. I then took a few moments to wonder if I would prefer being pricked by the used hypodermic needle or being chomped by a Great White Shark. I had a terrifying fear of needles at the time, so this dilemma was not pondered lightly.

However, I have certainly never seen a huge purple clam rest up on our impure shores. No doubt LA's wild, unruly youth will soon realise its metal shell casing (or whatever durable substance it is made of) will a provide perfect venue for their regular beer bottle target practices, a enjoyable prospect no doubt enhanced by their perception of this metal monstrosity as a Greebo-Posho den of twats. What else is there to do on a weekend night other than propel glassy and pebble projectiles at inanimate buildings and targets that baffle their tiny minds? That's the LA way: if you don't like or understand something you hit it with something else.

But here's a thought: the movie Transformers is coming - oh yeah, baby. Wouldn't it be cool if the East Beach Cafe was really an elaborate promotional stunt for the Transformers movie and it turned into a giant robot on the film's release date on the 27th? Then, it would make a lot more sense. However, if this was so, in my wildest opium den fantasy, I am assuming that the giant roboscrap o' crap would flee LA as soon as it could do the CHEE-CHOO-CHOO--CHOO-CHEE-CHOO (er, transliteration of what I believe the transforming sound to be) having already stayed here as an inanimate eating venue for far too long, having been driven mad by its schizophrenic mix of patrons and gawkers and deadly native LA wisdom heard spouted from every table till it could take no more.

Finally, is the Daily Telegraph completely off its rocker?
Talk about idiot journalists writing complete and utter bollocks. Take this review of the East Beach Cafe from the Telegraph's July 14 "Britain's top 30 seaside restaurants."

22. East Beach Café
Littlehampton, West Sussex (01903 731903;

Forget the old image of sandwiches and Mr Whippy ice cream, the humble seaside caff is now cool. With this architectural metal marvel, Littlehampton has moved way up the hipometer, casting Brighton into the shade. Built on the site of the existing seafront kiosk, sitting inside this extraordinary building, made of layers of patinated steel, is like being in a shell. It's slick, modern and clean - don't expect any cute seaside clichés. Food, by contrast, is traditional - bacon butties and potted shrimps, washed down with Laurent Perrier Rosé.

Price: about £30 per person. House wine: £12.

Casting Brighton in the shade? This is LA. It casts about as much shade on Brighton as a stinging nettle would on a Kew Gardens greenhouse. You, the author of this review, live in a La-la-land-London and really need to get a grip on reality and not resort to outrageous statements. I feel compelled to launch a response in some media outlet to Littlehampton's apparent sudden rise to the apex of cool (the modus operandi of sexing up many a dull town is to focus on something amazing and out of the ordinary happening to it - like the arrival of an enigmatic hunk of scrap metal - and then using it as a pretext to say attention-grabbing things about the place). These journalists must be proscribed in the fashion of Sulla, Octavian and other very reasonable and barbaric Roman historical figures. It is the only way to stop them.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

BH118: The Lost Quiz

It had totally flown my mind that I had a BH quiz done, dusted and primed to go during the middle of last month, then somehow I was hit by a super duper dose of priority amnesia that has fogged me all July and the back end of that horrible month of Juuu ... June (ugh), which may have something to do with all the mentally and physically shattering festival action and sleeping in fields on rocky bits and ants nests and either almost drowning in lakes of liquid Somerset mud or getting burnt to a disturbing shade of browny orange by the harsh-but-lovely-all-the-same weekend Sun that beats down on Suffolk. Whatever. What was lost is now found: I discovered it hidden underneath BH117. Call it providence and rejoice in a suitably restrained fashion. Okay, don't then. You know eating a nice biscuit would have sufficed.

Excuse me if you think a few questions are a bit out of date, but it is a month late and I can't really be boffed about making pernickety amendments at the moment. After all, I have my fourth Eggheads audition tomorrow! NUMBER BLOODY FOUR. But funnily enough, the first time I will have met the production company in person. How shall I behave? Who knows? Though the temptation to be rawkus and loud, a bit like Alexis Arquette but not utterly and completely pointless, is nestling in full view of in my mind's eye, winking seductively. Whatever happens, it will be very very interesting. Especially when I am called upon to sell myself to the producers and researchers and say why I should be on the show:"BECAUSE IT'S ALL A LOAD OF..." Mwaha-ha-ha-ha and so on in a villain's overblown mock laugh until the smokers' cough kicks in and I collapse on the fall drowning in my own silliness and then rise up in giggles when I am reminded of Kevin Eldon's evil hypnotherapist mwa-ha-ha-haing even more and swirling those cheeks like a wheel of mental fortune ... which is, of course, my true lifelong ambition. I may buy a cottage in the country and rename it My Own Silliness and yeah, you get the idea. But anyhoo, like Dr Strangelove, or at least someone somewhere in that particular Kubrick jalopythingameejig, oh film that's it; I have learned to love the Bomb aka Eggheads. It sturdy, character-driven quiz with one or two questions every episode capable of furrowing my brow in exquisite puzzlement. Suffice to say, there's not a sodding chance in hell or hades or any unbearable underworld that they will let me on. If not the first time, then NEVER. Still, it's always nice to go back. You see Thomas Wolfe? You can. And get a strange contentment from the same, repeated result.

Quizzalicious ... Oh Yeah
1 Which French actress has been highly acclaimed for her role as Edith Piaf in the biopic La Vie en Rose?
2 A recent convert to MySpace, "His Holiness Karmapa Trinlay Thaye Dorje" is also known by which religious title?
3 Which 51-year-old French conceptual artist has made waves at the Venice Biennale thanks to her being inspired to create an artwork in which she passed on the email her boyfriend used to dump her (signed off "Take care of yourself") to 107 women professionals, who were each photographed as they read it and were invited to analyse the said missive according to their job; the piece being aptly titled Prenez soin de vois?
4 In which make of car did Giuseppe Farina win the first F1 championship in 1950?
5 Which 1887 H Rider Haggard novel is subtitled A History of Adventure?
6 What does the word "doner" as in doner kebab mean?
7 Whose 1957 play Beat Generation, a story of railway workers and drinkers, was rediscovered in a warehouse in 2005?
8 Who composed the theme to Channel 4's Countdown?
9 Also starring Kirk Douglas, which 1965 Otto Preminger war film features John Wayne playing a character called Rock stuck in the middle of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and its aftermath?
10 In 1936, Owensboro in Kentucky became the last ever place to host what kind of outdoor event in the US?
11 Which English racetrack features the Craner Curves?
12 On which remote Orkney island does the Master of the Queen's Music Peter Maxwell Davies live?
13 Which culinary movement was founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy in 1989?
14 Which private equity firm, whose managing partner is 45-year-old Leicester-born Damon Buffin, owns such businesses as the AA, Homebase, Travelodge and Birds Eye?
15 Which University of Kentucky professor is the author of the multi-million selling Down's Syndrome themed novel The Memory Keeper's Daughter?
16 The spectacular migration of millions of which orange-and-black butterflies thousands of miles across North America to the mountains of Mexico is apparently being threatened by illegal logging?
17 Winner of the 2007 Man Booker International Prize, Chinua Achebe is a member of which Nigerian ethnic group?
18 Which bright grey metallic element (no.24) was discovered by the French chemist Louis-Nicolas Vauquelin in 1797?
19 Which Dutch town or city is home to the Frans Hals museum?
20 Who is the female author of the crime thriller Through a Glass Darkly, which features the hero detective Guido Brunetti?
21 Derived from the Hebrew for "pioneer", what name was given to a member of a group of immigrants to Israel who established the first agricultural settlements or kibbutzim?
22 The highest-ranking Soviet KGB defector ever, which former double agent has been made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George?
23 Roman Catholics are up in arms because which composer's newest piece, The Beautiful Names, will premiere in Westminster cathedral and sets the 99 sacred names Muslims give to Allah to music?
24 Named after a shop she opened in 1971, which fashion designer's new perfume is called Let It Rock?
25 Having left Paramount, the Marx Brothers made which film their first MGM production?
26 Who directed the French comedy classic Le Million (1931)?
27 Who co-designed the cover of the album Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band with artist Peter Blake (who himself was paid only £200 for the job)?
28 The 14-year-old actor Thomas Turgoose plays the lead role of Shaun in which 2007 film?
29 Who composed La donna del lago, the first Italian opera to be based on a Walter Scott novel, which would inspire 25 more in the 20 years after its 1819 premiere, among them Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor?
30 Gala, the Russian-born wife of Salvador Dali, had previously been married to which French poet?
31 Based on his dispatches from Africa, Travels with Herodotus is the last book of reportage from which acclaimed foreign correspondent and writer, who died earlier this year?
32 What three-letter abbreviation, whose full name is translated into English as "from the founded city", referred to the time in Roman dates from the foundation of Rome, this being 753BC, a year that was set arbitrarily by Varro?
33 Which effervescent mineral water from a spring in the Ahr valley derives its name from a place near Bonn in western Germany?
34 Named after an early pioneer in the field, what production role does a "Foley artist" perform on a film?
35 The name of which 1615 comedy by George Ruggle satirising lawyers may be the origin for a word used to describing a person in a derogatory way?
36 In which 1931 film did James Cagney describe another character as a "dirty, double-crossing rat"?
37 Whose famous quotes include: "Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies" and "Shit has its own integrity"?
38 The college founded by a group of Jesuits who had walked up the Serro do Mar in 1554 and aimed to convert the natives was the basis for which major South American city?
39 A 19th century French pastry cook, with the surname Paulmier, apparently gave her first name to which small sponge cake that is often coated with jam and coconut?
40 Deriving its name from the French for "sloe" due to its dark colour, which smooth silk or woollen cloth is used for making the uppers of shoes and gaiters and was formerly used in clergymen's and barristers' gowns?






Answers to BH118
1 Marion Cotillard 2 Black Hat Lama 3 Sophie Calle 4 Alfa Romeo 5 She 6 Rotating 7 Jack Kerouac 8 Alan Hawkshaw 9 In Harm's Way 10 Public hanging 11 Donington Park 12 Sanday 13 Slow Food movement 14 Permira 15 Kim Edwards 16 Monarch butterfly 17 Igbo 18 Chromium 19 Haarlem 20 Donna Leon 21 Chalutz 22 Oleg Gordievsky 23 John Tavener 24 Vivienne Westwood 25 A Night at the Opera 26 Rene Clair 27 Jann Haworth (his then wife) 28 This is England 29 Rossini 30 Paul Eluard 31 Ryszard Kapuscinski 32 AUC (ab urbe condita) 33 Apollinaris 34 Sound effects creator 35 Ignoramus 36 Blonde Crazy 37 Gore Vidal 38 Sao Paulo 39 Madeleine 40 Prunella

There's more to life than books, you know, but not much more

Scattered from the South Coast to the Capital
I sometimes ache a little bit in the heart region when I think of all the pop culture flotsam and jetsam - CDs, DVDs, videos, books books books - that I have spent thousands of pounds collecting, gathering and foraging for in the cities of England and Scotland. And yet, none of it has been united in one single monolithic collection block of pure awesomeness since I was at university many many years ago (okay six). I imagine it would make for the kind of sight that would make me instantly think: "Wow! That was an incredible waste of money. I could have travelled round the world for a year or more. Seen beautiful and awesome things. Experienced the thrill of total travel and made friends that would comprise a global community. Instead, I'm asking myself why I bought four Menswear singles and wondering why I bought so many Varnaline albums. As for the hundreds of videos! Who knew technology and my own desire for far smoother picture quality would screw me like that, and so royally too."

Apart from my new-ish DVD collection, built from scratch since the start of my residential stint in Rainy London Town far away from thieving crims associated with my brother who pillaged my first two bids, my CDs and books have suffered from the diaspora effect, caused by my constant flitting from hither to thither, hastily dumping batches and boxes in places and forgetting I ever did, and working in an office for a few years, a time when owing to sleeping in my living room I felt like I had no possessions at all and was merely glad to get through the working day without catastrophic fatigue and stress hastening a full body collapse. They have been divided and packed away, sifted and separated in a kind of sickeningly trite Sophie's Choice comparison; meticulously built collections broken three or four ways, and becoming so fractured and mislaid that long ago I fell into the meh-laziness trap of buying tracks off iTunes I knew I already owned somewhere in the multi-site CD labyrinth of my own confused making. I promise myself: one day they will be reunited. Every missing part. And it will be a happy day. A joyous day.

Geek Book Treasure Trove
But there is a far more viable related aim: I would really love to have a certain, special subdivision of my book collection together in just one place, piled in vertiginous towers of factage: the thing that be a quizzer's ammunition store. The books that are the power behind my slightly wonky throne. My LA bedroom is currently dotted with reference books, encyclopaedias, quiz books, trivia collections, miscellanies, specialist dictionaries, general histories, travel guides, film review compendiums and many more information-imparting chunks of literature, each of them offering something different and something potentially crucial for competition preparation and my q-writing in the future.

The same goes for my London abode: there is a large plastic box containing about another substantial portion of the collection, bulging to the brim so burstingly that the container has cracked in countless places and will surely disintegrate in one explosive movement thus causing the dozens of books to crash onto my feet and shatter each metatarsal into dozens of pieces if I try to lift the bugger up. And yeah, you will probably say that maybe I should take some books out first. Then I'll say I watched the Michael Douglas/Catherine Zeta-Jones episode of Star Stories again and that I so admire the deeds of "geriatric strongman" Kirk Douglas that I must try and lift really heavy things to emulate him, no matter the potential cost in physical injuries. So there. (If you see a loitering barrel, please let me know ...)

Naturally, other useful books - love that first Observer Sport Monthly Top Tens compilation book and the superlative PoW quiz book - lie willy-nilly in locations secluded and low where they are liable to be whacked out of shape or scarred with paper abrasions by clumsy footwork. I think one of my Best Pub Quiz books is till on the table in the hall. It's a bit toss, so I'm not that boffed.

Fear of Being a Sad Git
Now if only they were all brought together to become one - and excuse me for going off on a bit of a self-indulgent once again on this blog but I genuinely feel a slight tinge of strange sadness at this inconvenient division - in a giant and imposing bookcase looking sorted and organised in impeccable fashion and ready to be perused, then I would feel a kind of bliss-flavoured peace knowing that hopelessly broken quiz book collections can be reconciled if you put your mind to it and believe that incredibly geeky dreams can come true. Serenity would reign, wrapping me in its soft embrace. Just gazing at the mahogany-encased proof of my autism-enhanced ultra-nerd powers in wonderment. Certain visual proof that a type of sad bastard parasite can creep up on you without you realising it, and it did so years ago, and there is nothing you can do about it infecting and mutating your very being to marry it with its nefarious geek DNA. But the SBP got me long ago. It's too late for me. I let it grow inside my body for all these years and now this thing inside me had changed me irrevocably. No, don't look back. Don't let it happen to you. I'm lost. Gone. Still, love my quiz book library though. It's ace! I really must get some NHS specs to fully savour its awesome dimensions. And a nice baggy racing green sweater with a huge pattern of dog on stitched on the front that I can wear to satisfy this sudden urge to do a 48-hour Doctor Who marathon. I never even knew I liked the Doctor before. [alert: stereotype pee-pee take no 1]

And relax...

Perhaps, that self-disparaging yet fantastical tangent riffing on the tragedy of a man who forms an emotional attachment to his quiz books and actually misses them when they're not around, and is overcome with melancholy when he realises they are unable to combine and working together as one like the Dinobots and therefore release their ultimate power, yes, ULTIMATE POWER, is the very reason why they are kept apart in haphazard, dishevelled fashion despite this irritating me to the point of making muffled banshee screams when I can't find the particular book I want (where is my Pears Cyclopedia 2005? Please tell me).

It may be a subconscious impulse; even a safe guard. The fear of the sad bastard taking control allied with good old bad vanity pulls me back from the brink. A mental alarm clock always resounds in my mind causing me to return to what I call "real life". Enough with the books and the related projects and the saying no to social engagements. It is time to go out. Maybe party a little bit. But is that really real life? Or is that just a superlative Joan as Policewoman song I saw her play at Latitude?

"We Have No Future"
Sometimes I have no idea what real life is. If, in the terminal long term, it involves the well trodden path of car-career-marry-house-kids-slowbraindeath-retirement, then could you excuse me if I say I don't quite want to buy into it all. Now I could say that all I want is my independence and freedom, like the Littlest Hobo, singing Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home), and nothing can sway you from your chosen life as a lone wolf. And then, like a bolt from the blue decking you in the face, you meet someone who you begin to think can change your life and all the defiance melts away. Life, as John Lennon said, is what happens to you when you are making plans. The future is unwritten and the fear of this unpredictability and sudden onrush of events and emotions will drive us into all sorts of crazy and lame-assed decisions that for the majority of us will result in the marry-house-kids default setting. And we won't mind a bit, so long as we are happy.

I Begin To Talk About Trainspotters. You Say Eh?
You could say that hobby obsessions are a substitute for real life. Everybody thinks they are and, naturally, if they take over your life you will take up some position on the weirdo scale, which utilises the stench strength of BO is one of the key determinant factors. On the other hand, you can also carry on like it is some secret life which you barely mention in your friends' company, only then they bring it up and you have to admit to yourself that it can be genuinely interesting to civilians and normals, before they start mentioning the TPQ. Ouch ooh. The monetary term "£200,000" has become a jokey-hurtful weapon wielded by mates far too regularly. They know my weak spot. Then, for some inexplicable reason, I think of the trainspotters who roam the northern ends of the platforms at Clapham Junction indulging in possibly the most harmless yet most mercilessly derided pastime in all the pop culture kingdom and think my own abiding obsession at least gets me on to TV, get invited to celebrity quizzes and allows me to represent my country at something that genuinely requires talent and hard work (Yeah! British bulldog spirit! With a small Filipwegian shot added to make a fine patriotic yet multicultural cocktail!). That is part of my own obvious reward. It's quite nice. The CJ trainspotters are more likely to end up on well, take a wild guess, but they may share time with Fiona Bruce. [alert: there I go with the hurtful stereotyping again no.2]

Leave 'Em Alone, You Knobs
Being an allegedly elite quizzer, people seem to genuinely believe you are a genius when you, as I have said time and time again, really have a flypaper mind that can't let thousands, possibly millions of little tidbits of information escape your brain, which are probably too crammed by now with things like the derivations of foreign dogs name to allow truly creative and intelligent thought. Nevertheless, the genius description acts as a surprisingly strong form of immunity against geek accusations. Illusion is all. So keep the enigmatic act. Works well for me. As for those (poor) guys lingering in sometimes disturbingly shifty ways, I imagine the possibly hundreds of rail passengers who pass them and see their unsavoury hairstyles and careless clothing ensembles and start shouting vile piss-take abuse at them or giving them a quick fire round of rude hand gestures. The gricers, however, are only doing something that instils a content feeling in them and maybe even happiness or summat that excites enough of their enthusiasm to keep them coming back again and again for donkey's years. They do it because they enjoy getting their idea of a regular reward and I genuinely feel sympathy for them because those train travellers, who choose to be odious idiots, cannot understand the purpose of a hobby that inspires the fire of curiosity and search for the complete in their hearts and bellies. Something that keeps your enthusiasm alive; surely a thing we all crave.

Yet anyone who aggressively and wholeheartedly pursues any sport or pastime, take chess, bog-snorkelling, football, air guitar, squash, magazine competition winning, juggling, Sudoku, or even freakin' QUIZ, and willingly immerses him or herself in it will understand how their finding something you love doing and doing it on a regular basis can make life seem that much more sweeter and enjoyable. And, of course, communities of like-minded individuals will, in most cases, welcome with open arms anyone who shares their enthusiasm for their chosen pastime. Through such doors new circles of friends away. Social contact with other members of the human race certainly constitutes one essential facet of real life.

Spotting the choo-choos makes the gricers happy, or at least let out an imperceptible grunt of satisfaction. Setting and competing in quizzes makes me happy (well, 95 per cent of the time), which is why I do them and I wouldn't have started doing them if I hadn't found how easy it came to me and how good I plainly was; displaying immediate precociousness always helping someone when taking up any pastime. It eases you in and erases many immediate fears, especially if it is a competitive situation. Confidence follows and grows, though I learned over the years that I was then sadly deluded about my trivia powers, but the delusion kept me going through those sixth form and first couple of uni years. Then I was in the safety zone by age 19. Who cares about the fully rounded real life when you are doing something you think you could never tire of, make friends with countless other trivia fiends and maybe grab a little glory and get on TV at least 20 times? It's not exactly real life as normals would see it, but sometimes it's a far more interesting and exciting life replete with many a surprise and opportunity to mingle with minor celebrities. Quizzes never fail to amuse me, and neither does the realisation of my increasingly belligerent competitive edge. Thankfully, it only truly rises and blooms like a atomic bomb mushroom cloud inside me on championship/GP days. So please take this into account if you think I'm being a tad stand-offish on one such Saturday. Go blame Jesse if he's around.

Acceptance of a Bad Habit
Oh, the books! My preciousessss. (Reminds me: still got to read Trainspotting in its my Manhattan book skyline) It would be years before all of that quiz literature could be used properly, carefully swept minefield-style etc because for a start I know have too many already and, for seconds, you are still compelled to buy new books, better books, even more comprehensive books. It is one compulsion I never mind giving into. New general knowledge questions are forged in the world of current affairs every day. It never stops. Though, I sometimes think, you can never have too many quiz books - GK is so random that every one you buy will have something different or something you have never thought of or seen before. By expanding your collection, you are in fact giving yourself more options, spreading your bets (never rely on just one or two of the classic fact compendiums like the Pears Quiz Companion because they are so well known and repeatedly used that serious question setters will look elsewhere to find source material he is assured much of his chosen audience will not own and have spent at least three or four years thumbing through) and giving yourself the chance to cope with any scenario. Except histories of and guides to the British canal system. And books of 20th century British military aircraft photographs. There is some shite I will not bite.

Anyway, I realise I moved enough books into the KX when I started living there almost two years gone to prevent my mother from being able to use her rear view mirror on the car ride up. I estimate that 75 per cent of my stuff was composed of literary material ready to be piled around my room as if they were medium height garden walls or leftfield literary barricades. Since then I have doubled the tally - the piles have swayed and collapsed several times - and they are mostly real novels, written by people who have nothing to do with the trivia life, I'm sure the likes of Jonathan Lethem is far too slaked with Yankee Doodle cool to grasp the significance of the quiz as a British cultural phenomenon and VS Naipaul, well, he would probably set fire to any quiz answer sheet proferred to him, fling it to the ground with a swift wrist flick and then piss on the ashes with contemptuous, truly intellectually-driven vigour. But then, I'm only speculating here.

Hippocampus Overload
It is hoped that proper novels will exercise my brain and stretch my imagination and fine-tune my ability to string a decent, flowing sentence or - and this is ambitious - even a paragraph together, rather than turning reading into some sort of mechanical stuffing process as I do with trivia books; my mental routines having been trained mighty hard over the last decade to pipe the good, quizzy stuff straight into my now engorged hippocampus without my consciously forcing myself to remember because my brain instantly knows it is the stuff needed for future GPs and championships, for future glory days and for invoking knuckle-gnashing when near misses couldn't quite make it out of my long term memory in time, and identifies the ingested info as high priority material, while things like acquaintances' names and birthday party dates are dumped in the mental trash bin as they will NEVER EVER come up in a quiz will they?

Social Networking Site Philosophising
The thing is now many of us have mobile phones, e-mail accounts and Facebook profiles to remember all those details, or at least check up on them or message our mates to remind us or get the info we want. Our social memory is becoming externalised in the form of FB photo albums of last night's trip to the club or the weekend's festival and swapping of wall postings and such and such, and, though it is sad in a way, it does make everything much easier. The computer becomes a vital device for facilitating this thing we call friendship because maybe it is easier to do everything while ensconced in our bedrooms, relaxing and not speaking, just tapping away after coming home from a tiring day at work. Talk is overrated. My phone manner sucks, tripping and mumbling, leaving seconds of icy silence, then talking too fast. We can type so much faster these days and yet also take our time when we want to and polish our increasingly witty written styles. Well, at least everyone is getting better at whacking out words in a coherent manner. You know, I'm not even sure I'm joking or not when I make such a wild statement and I think of many random forums I have chanced upon lately and realise that, nope, it's just my mates and acquaintances who can converse along the internet highways and byways in a reasonably amusing and sometimes high-larious manner manner. The vast majority of people who hang around on messageboards and forums many, many hours every day are in fact borderline illiterate morons who really need to sort out some of their anger management issues, but not until after they have been taught to read and write, properly this time.

Facebook Killed The Bibliophile In Me
One thing I do hate about the social networking tsunami is that it has vaporised my yen for reading novels whilst tucked up in bed. The profile patrols take a long time, which is why I have banned myself from going on the evil FB more than three times a day and then for only ten minutes each from now on (um, I say that, and yes, I may well adhere to these conditions). And all while the fiction-loving side of my brain that yearns for stories other people have made up, inspiration, larger than life characters, amazing wordplay, outsider insight, emotional warfare and tenderness, the vague promise of a decent plot (I'm never so bothered with that element) is left to whimper, lonely and unfed like a ragged Dickensian gutter-boy the colour of porridge left out in the sun for a week, begging me to fill it with that Thomas McGuane novel I've been trying to start since July last bloody year for a start, having been left to survive on the unsatisfying stops and starts of dozens of books that get left stacked up in depressing little piles of inadequacy everywhere. I must get back into the habit. Must find the time (I know I have oodles of time ... maybe, it has something to do with setting the mood).

Astonishing News Flash
Because books are great. That was it! There is no better form of immersive entertainment. Nothing can match the alternately heartwarming and exhilirating feeling of finding an author who dazzles you by performing tricks with words and uncoiling erudition that you leave you gasping with admiration and jealousy, but more importantly speaks to you in an utterly convincing voice that sinks its hooks into you and drives you helter-skelter to the end: writers like Saul Bellow, Vladimir Nabokov, Michael Chabon and Tobias Wolff who make you completely forget the existence of an outside world from page one of their books (well, more often than not). Call my book habits aspirational too. Reading the very best as I see the mid-late 20th century American masters, the centuries old classics and the culty ones, as are my preferred areas of the literature world, can only instil ambition in the wannabe writer by delineating the true possibilities of literature and remind you of the countless fascinating stories that remain untold and are just waiting for you to try your hand at tackling. You may let such ambition be polluted by a touch of self-delusion, but if you do not try, you will never know. Failure is better than nothing since it will teach you so many more lessons. Especially sharp lessons about the people management skills of leading literary agents (grrrr... I'll show him ... what did the 16th century clergyman George Herbert say? "Living well is the best revenge." Ah. Not "Killing a man's testicles back into his own body is the best revenge" then. Well, they both have their merits)

Antisocial Book Habits
And nothing feels better than getting into a reading habit that gains momentum as your addiction to the printed word becomes near-uncontrollable, causing you to aim for one novel a day at its zenith of consumption, read novels while walking down London streets and into lamp posts (only a minor bloody bump on my forehead ... nobody saw it, I hope) and, impatient with the lack of optical-cerebral activity whipping a book out while there is a lull in conversation in the pub and instantly becoming a pariah simply because you cannot help yourself from sneaking a page or two whilst the attention of the table is firmly directed away from you.

One real life bad habit flashback:: Sticking on my MP3 player (RIP) and diving back into Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man on our train journey back home after seeing the White Stripes suck big balls at the Ally Pally, I was asked by Morgan: "What's the matter with you? Er, don't you like us anymore?" No, no, no, I protested, and waited a beat or two to resume the seclusion. While Chris was malfunctioning on account of a massive sweating bout and was therefore unable to pass comment, I heard Jamie sneer a jokey "Twat!" before I slipped my headphones back in. But this book was too much to resist. It was James Joyce! Being comprehensible and being brilliant. How could I resist? So on I read, as everyone else stared out into the blinking lights and soft orange glow of south London the packed urban tableau slowly disintegrating before finally disappearing and yielding to a cloak of Stygian darkness enclosing green Sussex pasture after pasture. I didn't utter another word until we disembarked at Worthing. The novel had simply struck me dumb. It was that good. Never mind my frightful, shut-up shop rudeness.

So: books. They are awesome. Word.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

BH117: A Quickie Before Weekend Festivities

Ahh. Oooh. Muh-whoa. Sorry, I'm making a bunch of indeterminate sounds and fake words because I am due to attend a music festival set in some charming Suffolk woods this very day, and I have left everything to the last minute; what with the rushing around the shops, buying festival crap and making excuses for missing deadlines that make a great WHOOSHING sound as they pass me. Hurrah for my powers of forward planning!

Anyhoo, a quiz before I go (prolly has some errors in it, but what can you do in such a time-urgent situation) ...

1 The Egyptologist Zahi Hawass recently identified a mummy found in an unadorned tomb as that of which woman, the fifth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of ancient Egypt?
2 Which South American country celebrates its Independence Day on July 5, having secured its independence in 1811?
3 Which corporation introduced Spam on July 5, 1937?
4 Known by the scientific name Strix aluco, which owl species resident in much of Europe and southern Russia is said to injure more people than any other European bird?
5 Taking place on July 3, 324, at which battle did the Constantine I defeat Licinus, causing the latter to flee to Byzantium and the former to assume his role as emperor of the whole Roman emperor?
6 On July 3, 1767, an eponymous midshipman discovered which island on an expeditionary voyage commanded by Philip Carteret?
7 The newspaper Adresseavisen was founded on July 3, 1767. It is which country's oldest newspaper still in print?
8 Surya is the Hindu god of what?
9 Where is the world is the Borovansky Ballet based?
10 What term describes a solar eclipse in which the Moon does not completely obscure the Sun, with a thin ring of sunlight remaining visible?
11 The second Monday of which month sees the celebration of Commonwealth Day?
12 The phrase "the moment of truth comes" from which sport?
13 Which Swedish photographer is known for his 1965 book on foetal development, A Child is Born?
14 In which sea did Icarus drown in Greek mythology?
15 Which deposed Tsar of Russia was murdered in prison in 1764?
16 According to some sources, what did Louis and Jacques Breguet invent in 1907?
17 In a musical, what name is shared by Big, Little, No, Four-eyed and Eat-all?
18 What word for a good for nothing was originally a word used to describe a White Republican southerner after the US Civil War?
19 What two colours are used for the lines on ice hockey rinks?
20 Who was the last avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism?
21 Knighted in 2000, which explorer completed the first surface crossing of the Arctic Ocean in 1969?
22 Guillaume Carle was the leader of which French peasant revolt?
23 What does the musical direction "tenero" mean?
24 Which Spanish architect (c.1485-1550) designed the great Palace of Charles V in the Alhambra, Granada (1527-68), noted for its circular colonnaded court, in an Italian Renaissance style said to be worthy of Raphael or Bramante?
25 Which saint gives his name to a Latin cross fleuree with each arm terminating in three leaves, like the fleur-de-lys, although the base is usually pointed?
26 Which well known word derives from the Sanskrit for "fate"?
27 What term describes a stalk which attaches a leaf to a stem, as well as the section that connects the abdomen and thorax of a wasp?
28 Who wrote the 1993 best-selling novel The Celestine Prophecy?
29 In which sporting competition is the Coupe des Mousquetaires awarded?
30 On July 10, 1796, which mathematician and scientist discovered that every positive integer is representable as as sum of at most three triangular numbers, writing in his diary his famous words "Heureka! num=Δ + Δ + Δ."?






Answers to BH117
1 Hatshepsut 2 Venezuela 3 Hormel Foods Corporation 4 Tawny Owl 5 Adrianople 6 Pitcairn Island 7 Norway 8 The Sun 9 Melbourne 10 Annular eclipse 11 March 12 Bullfighting 13 Lennart Nilsson 14 Aegean 15 Ivan VI 16 Helicopter 17 Moe 18 Scallywag 19 Red, blue 20 Kalki 21 Sir Wally Herbert 22 Jacquerie 23 Tenderly 24 Pedro Machuca 25 St James 26 Karma 27 Petiole 28 James Redfield 29 Men's Singles at the tennis French Open 30 Carl Friedrich Gauss

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Primose

I actually meant to write "A Promise"

Been away so long. I can't actually remember what I've been doing but things go a bit weird in the summertime. Last year it was the World Cup, lying in my bed recovering and going to Littlehampton beach. This year it has been sleeping in the living room and going out and wasting time like it was an Olympic sport. Looking back at the last month, I can safely say it's been pretty rubbish on the whole, but I am in a surprisingly jovial mood coming out of it. I think. Fatalism runs strong in me. Don't worry, though.

Anyway, quizzing has been somewhat off the agenda when it comes to the blog, but I have almost finished doing up the 505/Behemoth quiz. It will be released on Monday, hopefully. I have written an intro essay with instructions. Took me bloomin' ages. I have also almost portioned out the Lulu quiz book questions in the right categories, only to find that I have written too many for the science and sports sections. My weaknesses become all too apparent. God willing, that should be sorted before this sodden excuse for a summer has petered out. So, as you can see, it's the same old, same old. One day these projects will be fully realised, including the remodelling of my ginormous pop culture quiz memoir. I primose.

Ta ta. I'll offload summat here tomorrow.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Part II: Understand This

Here's the second part of that TPQ-related rant/reflection I had started on a few weeks before. Since I've written it, I might as well publish it here, though I have to warn you: It may not actually make sense and goes on for a bit. Quite a large bit in fact. You wouldn't believe the stuff that doesn't get printed here sometimes. My first Deal or No Deal diatribe I believe could have provided solid grounds for my permanent committal to an asylum.

Jonathan Swift once said something along the lines of dunces always ganging up on the clever folk. Of course, he could have just surmised that from being bullied as a clever arse schoolkid, but it will tell you something about how sympathies fall and narratives are constructed to please the majority of people on TV quizzes.

In TPQ's case, as in all quiz shows, the empathy of the viewers will always settle on the side of the underdogs when the favourite is constantly being bigged up and expected to smash his opponents. And when the upset comes, it makes for an exciting, wonderful surprise. Predictable outcomes are such a let down, while we still remember Hereford United beating Newcastle United in the muddy old skanky days (okay, I wasn't alive at the time, but I taped it one FA Cup final day and couldn't stop watching Ronnie Radford launch the most famous giant-killing goal of all time). Now that was a classic upset everyone loved, except for my mates Paul and Ben and any other Geordie.

But my major problem with the unthinking television quiz viewers is that they love nothing more than seeing who they think are regular Joe/Jo winners appearing to conjure up good knowledge from absolutely nowhere, while also amazing them with their incredible recall and the ability to shock and surprise the viewer at home and perhaps invite the immortal quiz exclamation of disbelief "How did they know that?". Simple. He or she read it somewhere IN FILTHY REFERENCE BOOKS that happen to be full of quiz answers, watched quiz shows obsessively, read those fact compendiums we all get deluged with at Xmas, attended pub quizzes religiously and generally done all these things that help pack their mental fact-bank with impressive knowledge. Everybody does it. Everybody practices in their own way and gets the competitive bug if they find themselves in such a situation. I understand that Steph was actually part of a pub quiz league for 16 years. That is brilliant and devoted preparation in itself. I mean, that was by my estimate at least 5 years before I even deigned to start watching quiz shows at all. But when Mark and I's "professional" credentials were blurted out on screen it suddenly made everyone else look like Sunday afternoon footballers plucked from their local park. The problem is that on prime-time TV quizzes, the equalisation factor is there from the start and affects contestants' chances in subtle and random ways.

I cannot understand this bullshit adherence to the amateur spirit; call it the quizzing Corinthian thang that confers professional status on anyone who has spent a fair-to-substantial amount of time improving their knowledge. Are you Corinthian clods bloody idiots? Everyone you see seriously competing is doing middling- to-major revision/learning time, I guarantee you. While you give the ones who stay schtum a pass and who you therefore assume to be law-abiding citizens who gained their knowledge through "normal" means (newspapers/magazines/TV etc), but the people who mention titles, tournaments and question-gathering - even the cursed computer files! - who are often the people in this wonderful nation of ours who are doing more than anyone else to promote quizzing and get people in this country involved in a fantastic, social pastime, get it in the neck for taking it too seriously and giving forthright opinions on the state of British quizzing, and are therefore regaling the dunces at home with names, places and information they had no idea about before and have great difficulty understanding, which means they'll relate to the threatened-looking and sympathetic regular-looking contestant who likes their local pub quiz and nothing more. Seriously? Are you kidding? Of course, you can take it seriously. Here's three important and persuasive reasons why: MONEY, MONEY, MONEY.

Ever since the launch of Millionaire, all those years ago, the chance to win thousands, if not the big million, has made such work a necessity due to the highly lucrative rewards on offer. You can win seven figures, and the ones who have problems with the "pros", are suggesting that it can be done just by turning up on the day with a tabula rasa mind, using psychic powers to channel the Cosmos's almighty vault of knowledge into your vacant brain. Honestly, if you ain't seen the question ever before, you're screwed. What's better certainty or hope?

You - ye hypothetical chimera of past dumb contestants I have just genetically engineered in my mind - maybe should have done a bit more work before getting your one and only chance to sit opposite Mr Tarrant. (I audibly gasp then start shouting at Hot Seat occupants, whose gaps are quite unbelievable and betray the fact that they should have done a little bit of work - "I have no idea". You silly sod. What made you think you could make it anywhere after you made such a huge effort to get on the show. You did the really hard work to get into the high chair, why didn't you wait a bit and flick through Pears Quiz Companion or the Montague A-Z obsessively for a few weeks?). To anybody, who comes away with a few thousand (no offence to any mates that have, this is aimed at those who really missed out), if you had done a bit more work, okay a shitload more work, then you would have got further and won a lot more money. Like a PRO. That's the facts, I'm afraid (and, my word, it is multiple choice. The answer is there! In front of youse!).

Quizzes are a lottery, yes. Yet every time I hear someone say "you can't revise for this sort of thing" it angries up my blood no end. Yes, you can. You can revise. You just have to sink a lot of time into it. The benefits will show up soon enough, including the feeling that your brain is swelling to unimaginable dimensions (that may be cack, or encephalitis). Because quizzes are a lottery, the more facts/tickets you absorb/buy, the more likely you are to win the things. Don't you see the logic in that?

Of course, there's no point in starting the night before. Try weeks, even months, if you are prepared to. It will bulk up the GK and increase the sharpness. It makes recall increasingly crystal clear, whilst weighing down the brain at the same time with good fact volume. A paradoxical way to improve, but still. It will do you good. It's tiring, but worth it.

But having said that, when you learn for a tournament, at times you will realise that you are not cramming for that particular competition. You know that you are doing it for the dozens of GPs, TV shows and championships due to take place in the years to come. It's delayed gratification, but it is worth it. Just look at me (well, not in light of TPQ final): steady progress up the rankings over the last eight years. And all because, of some good old toil, which I've loved anyway. You might be surprised by how much you will enjoy your time reading and learning stuff and satisfying your curiosity. The chance is if you like quizzes, then the work will not actually seem like work. It may even come to resemble fun.

So many people forget that intelligence is innate, but general knowledge facts are most certainly bloody not. I'm lucky that I decided to have an only slightly raucous teenhood (okay, I had been thrown out of sixth form parties for illicit booze smuggling and done all sorts of silly, brain damaging things, especially on Friday lunchtimes when I lurched into English class with Chris, as it became obvious that both of us were pissed as farts), but I made it my mission to pack in the base knowledge I needed to compete at a decent quiz league level. I feasted on the chestnuts, ran through every quiz book I could find, and laid the rock solid foundation that got me past a substantial portion of the serious quizzers I had come to know by the time I was about 19 (8th in the British Championship in my first event ... not bad). I knew I had to catch up, and I did, and compartmentalised my life quite well too to take on the challenge. Ever since the intensity has reduced. I did the basic work a long time ago. Sure I am still writing questions, but these are for the prestigious championships (Euros and Worlds) and were therefore ruddy hard and incomprehensible to anyone used to questions on English football grounds and Fireman Sam having a dog called Pilchard.

What truly frustrates me is that these "search for the finest quiz player in the land" TV shows could make their questions SO much harder (TPQ's history questions were 10-year-old level, everything else was really female fashion/weekly mag-oriented, the sport was okay), and they would still find contestants who can cope with them. They could hurl correct answers at us so bloody hard that it would amaze everyone who watched. And yet they're afraid of the audience at home being baffled and perplexed by the incomprehensible trivia exchange. It's sad. They haven't even tried unleashing such a show. Try it, please, dear TV people.

How do you know they won't like it if you don't give them the full-on elite quizzer experience? If we can be startled and amazed by a Federer-Nadal rally, in which we see constant moments of genius and quick-thinking and we have no idea how they are capable of producing them but can plainly revel in the spectacle, seeing two awesome quizzers going head-to-head and performing at their supreme best, I believe it could be almost as riveting as any elite-level sport (almost, remember). People love seeing competition played at its highest level. Maybe, this is because they are enthralled by watching something that is completely beyond their capabilities. Same with darts, snooker and a whole lot more televised guff.

It hasn't really been done before (yes, I'm still thinking that Mastermind's GK questions are still aimed a notch or two below usual level; and University Challenge is a conferring quiz, with idiosyncratic starters and a love of tedious "quotation" questions). Though I have suggested that individual England's national team standard players should take on UC teams on their own to see what happens. My guess is that we would hand their collective ass back to them.

That's my tuppence (see the website for the My Beautiful Game outburst ... my last raging against the dying of the light after the show's last broadcast). Some end credits, however: The TPQ crew and researchers were friendly, brilliant, patient and generally lovely. The Quiz Gods and Jamie T were great and do the celebrity crowd proud. The studio was an ice-box. The questions a mite too trashy but still fine really. Jamie Oliver would have puked his guts up in outrage at seeing the food laid on for us in the green room. Wardrobe, despite my diva-like behaviour, always took care to find me the acceptably fashionable opposite of the branded, gloomy cool clothes I feel compelled to wear and I thank them dearly for it. Other than that, any aggro has largely evaporated to leave pleasant and enjoyable memories about the whole experience. In the end, you never remember the times when you found yourself waiting around for so long that climbing the walls and pretending to be an enraged spider monkey seemed like an ace idea.

My only mild regret is perhaps drinking until 3 in the morning before being called to the studio at 9. I function very very badly with anything less than 8 hours shuteye. At the moment I'm racking up 12 hours in the recovery period. Nice. Here's hoping life returns back to its trusted, foolproof, humdrum routines soon and I can look towards the horizon for the next challenge or two, once my mind and body has regained its pre-TPQ equilibrium.

And that is the last thing I have to say on the matter.