Saturday, September 29, 2007

BH129: Summat for Le Weekend

(Partly inspired by The Observer Book of Genius and Trevor's A-Z of Sport. You must give credit where it is due)

I must off to the south coast. Not much to report that I can think of, despite their being obviously tons of stuff to ponder and rant about, so here is a quiz. Yes, more questions. How could it be any other way?

1 Who is considered to have built the first practical engine, of the internal combustion kind, in 1876?
2 In 1801, who modified a textile loom to respond to a series of punched paper cards and, arguably, invented the first computer?
3 A former pupil of Donatello, by what name was the artist Andrea di Cione better known?
4 What is measured on the Cephalization Index?
5 On meeting Guido Calvanti, Lapo Gianni, Cino di Pistoia and Bruno Latini, an 18-year-old Dante went on to become leaders with these writers of which poetry movement?
6 The Isle of Wight band Level 42 took their name from which novel?
7 Given the title Ganita Chakra Chudamani ("gem of the circle of mathematicians") by Bhaskara II, which Indian mathematician and astronomer (598-668) completed his second work, the Khandakhadyaka in 665?
8 During which conflict was Archimedes killed by a Roman soldier in 212BC?
9 Which American wrote what has been called the first self-help book, Autobiography, in which he detailed the mistakes and successes of his life with a view to preventing others from making them?
10 What did Pythagoras call "the ruler of forms and ideas and the cause of god and demons"?
11 Which scientist married Mileva Maric in 1903?
12 What dish of fillet steak, foie gras, truffles and demi-glace sauce is named after the 19th century composer and food fan who is said to have given the recipe to the chef at the Cafe Anglais?
13 Which brilliant pianist would only play concerts whilst sat on an old armchair his father had made?
14 The only man in history to be acknowledged on the footstone of a king, who was the author of one of the oldest extant medical texts, now known as the Edwin Smith papyrus after its finder?
15 In early Roman myth, what name was given to the attendant spirit belonging to men (women had a "juno"), which were dedicated to furthering the ancestral line?
16 Lancelot Ware and Roland Berrill founded which well-known society, later boosted worldwide by the efforts of Victor Srebiakoff, in 1946?
17 What "honour" did Dr Julie Peterson, now a qualified chiropractor, receive in February 1987?
18 Which 1927 film featured an evil scientist named Rotwang invent a robot named Hel?
19 Which English artist was born with the last three names Steven David Brennan in 1965?
20 Which Venice-based dramatist's best known plays include La locandiera/The Mistress of the Inn (1753), I rusteghi/The Boors (1760) and Le baruffe chiozzote/The Squabbles of Chioggia (1762)?
21 The recipient of an honorary Oscar in 1971, which actress made a joint film debut with her sister in An Unseen Enemy (1912) and directed one film, Remodelling Her Husband (1920)?
22 Which saint's famous treatise, De Exidio et Conquestu Britanniae, probably written between 516 and 547, is the only extant history of the Celts?
23 Which crime novelist is far less well known for a series of detective novels featuring "the DA", District Attorney Doug Selby?
24 Known for extreme Republican sympathies that resulted in his being imprisoned twice, which short-lived French mathematician (1811-32) possesses a reputation that rests on fewer than 100 pages of work of original genius, which include a memoir on the solubility of equations to radicals, and a mathematical testament giving the essentials of his discoveries on the theory of algebraic equations and Abelian integrals?
25 Equivalent to the Roman cella, what was the inner cell or sanctuary of a Greek temple containing the statue of the deity, as well as the sanctuary of a centrally planned Byzantine church?
26 Which Isambard Kingdom Brunel ship was also called The Leviathan?
27 Cut from his dead body by Anton Francesco Gori in 1737, whose well-preserved middle finger is on display in Florence's Museo di Storia del Scienza?
28 According to philosopher Roger Scruton, which of Kant's Critiques (his third in 1790) "is the only work by a major philosopher to have said anything useful or true about aesthetics, as well as defining the subject for the firs time"?
29 Wang Liqin is considered to be one of which sport's all-time greats?
30 Which company's factory at Hamamatsu near Nagoya began life as a clothing factory in 1909 and during the post-WW2 depression diversified into motorcycles in 1952?
31 Which football club won the first European Super Cup in 1972?
32 Employees at the brewery firm of Hockey & Sons are credited with establishing the standard throwing distances for which sport?
33 In which sport did CE Willis win the first Open Championship in 1897?
34 Which Puerto Rican boxer first won the lightweight crown from Joe Brown in 1962?
35 The Germans Thomas Kohler (1964), Wolfgang Schiedel (1972), Bernhard Glass (1980) and Jens Muller (1988) each won the Olympic Men's Singles in which winter sport in those years?
36 Which third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles (b.1960) set a consecutive games record of 2632 games over 14 seasons?
37 The frame of a racket in which sport should not exceed 680 mm in overall length and 230 mm in overall width?
38 What is the world's highest active volcano?
39 Which tennis player won the junior Grand Slam in 1983 and his first Grand Slam title, the Australian Open, in 1985?
40 Written by unknown Norwegian poets of the 9th-12th centuries, what early Icelandic literature collection of poems was discovered c.1643 by Byrnjolfr Sveinsson?
41 Equal to 100 lb (45.4 kg), what is the alternative name for the imperial unit known as the short hundredweight?
42 Which philosopher wrote the Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40)?
43 Co-ordinators of a life sciences research project begun in 1988, what organisation is known by the abbreviation HUGO?
44 Which province of south-central China has Changsa for its capital and is site of Dongting Lake and the farmhouse in Shaoshan village where Mao Zedong was born?
45 Which species of kangaroo, with the large red the largest living marsupial, has the scientific name Macropus giganteus?
46 In 1914, who produce the series Improvisations and Compositions, the first known examples of purely abstract work in 20th century art?
47 A leading member of the Acmeist movement in Russian poetry, what was the pen name of Anna Andreevna Gorenko whose works include Requiem (written in the 1930s and published in 1963, due to its dealing with the Stalinist Terror) and Poem Without a Hero (1962, but begun in 1940)?
48 What is the smallest of the seven states that make up the UAE?
49 Morihei Ueshiba created which Japanese art of self-defence, whose central principle is that of "harmony of energy"?
50 Meaning "achievement of universal peace", what is the reign of the current Emperor of Japan, Akihito, called?









Answers to BH129
1 Gottlieb Daimler 2 Joseph Marie Jacquard 3 Verocchio 4 The relative intelligence of animals 5 Dolce Stil Novo/Sweet New Style 6 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 7 Brahmagupta 8 Second Punic War 9 Benjamin Franklin 10 Number 11 Einstein 12 Tournedos Rossini 13 Glenn Gould 14 Imhotep 15 Genius 16 Mensa 17 Playboy Playmate of the Month 18 Metropolis 19 Damien Hirst 20 Carlo Goldoni 21 Lillian Diana Gish (Lillian de Guiche) 22 St Gildas 23 Erle Stanley Gardner 24 Evariste Galois 25 Naos 26 SS Great Eastern 27 Galileo 28 The Critique of Judgement/ Kritik der Urteilskraft 29 Table tennis 30 Suzuki 31 Ajax 32 Darts 33 Croquet 34 Carlos Ortiz 35 Luge 36 Cal Ripken Jr 37 Badminton 38 Cotopaxi (in Ecuador) 39 Stefan Edberg 40 Elder or Poetic Edda 41 Cental 42 David Hume 43 Human Genome Organistion 44 Hunan 45 Great grey kangaroo 46 Vasily Kandinsky 47 Anna Akhmatova 48 Ajman 49 Aikido 50 Heisei

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

An Atomised QLL Match Report

Broken Hearts 47- Barb 35
New season. Brand new start. Ack. Did we start this thing of ours in 2002? Man, that's a long time. Team personnel has been drastically upholstered. I was thinking: Am I going to grow old with this team? Too weird to contemplate further. New venue. Not as convenient as the Bishop's Finger. But convenient in more ways than location. A passage of darkness upstairs. Rancid smelling staircase. Piss and wood polish. A dishevelled room. Pretty little M&S sandwiches. Admittedly, I'll miss the sausage sarnies and chips. No more smoking. Booooo. Bayley probably says HOORAY! Forgot to mention something vital. Oh yes. Victory. Comfortable enough. Large, exhalating relief. But it was close after the third round. I think. Or at least it seemed that way. Thinking of omens for the new season. Why do I get worried when there is no reason to? Should have got a handle on the new Cabinet. Not that it affected me. Drinking pints of coke and NOT real ale. Never. Sugar me up and rot my gnashers. I got 15. A satisfactory personal tally. Jesse is the Motorway King. He got 18 in the main match. He disputed that Kansas City was a twin city with St Louis. He could be right. Actually, he's always right about geography. I bet his match report isn't as weird as this one. Chris Moyles was also called a "comedian" by Quizzica. No reference to his DJing. Bad bad question. Since he is about as funny as testicular cancer. Affecting both testicles. Mark shouldn't sit at number three. Seeing as he isn't British born and bred. If you know what I mean. It is the cursed seat, says Jesse. However, Mark is the Battles King. He got the years for Tewkesbury and Flodden Field. He was also accosted by a hooker before his arrival. Which was funny. The look on his face as he told his tale. Good friendly from the Old Itonians. I even got a question on a canal. A canal for Chrissakes! Even if it was the only British Roman one I've heard of. Mr Donald Yule was asked a question on the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. You can guess his reaction. Our modern pop culture knowledge proved to be decisive. I am mixing up references to the questions from the league match and friendly. Because both seem to merge into a two-legged game. When you aren't using Southport and Formby sets and specially written ones instead. And you should always be interested in the ones you don't answer and should answer. My Guardian was used as a wine bottle coaster. My mumbled protests were obviously infrasonic. It was thoroughly wettened. I decided to keep it and breath on it hand-dryer style. Wheezy, smoker cough hand-dryer-style. Still haven't read it. Don't think I actually will. It's all blurred and besmirched and folded into illegibility. You save something and destroy it through sheer laziness. Discussing team selection on the Tube home. Just how do we decide the suitable playing quartet for each team? Testing? Ballot? Dreaded fear of losing? A bowl-out? Gladiators foam batons? I miss that Scottish ref on a Saturday night. This is getting too random. Oh, the new questions. There seemed to be no discernible change. Or are we just blind to the ebb and flow of question gettabilty? Since the harder they come the same we do. Up to a certain point.

I've just sent out my new 502-question quiz out for testing. I've given it the tentative title Now That's What I Call A Gigantic Quiz 4! The name is subject to change.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

BH128: Here We Go Again

QLL begins
Woo-hoo! The new Quiz League of London season starts here. Well, not here, i.e. in my bedroom, but at the Broken Hearts' new venue the Carpenter's Arms, wherever in bleedin' hell that may be (don't worry I'll find it by consulting Streetmap ... I don't live in London, I live in Streetmap land). And also in about two-and-a-half hours.

Thus, the defence of our title commences with a match against Barb. Are you as excited as I am? If you are, then you will be moderately so. Who knows what the new question style will bring? Hopefully, the same results as before. Fingers and other appendages crossed.

Still burning off the long pre-written BH quizzes...

1 Which major Hollywood star (b.1962) made his film debut in Endless Love (1981)?
2 The title poem of whose collection, The Strength of Fields (1977), was written for Jimmy Carter's presidential inauguration?
3 Which Italian screenwriter, known for his long relationship with director Michelangelo Antonioni on such films as La Notte/The Night (1961) and Il Deserto Rosso/The Red Desert (1964), was Oscar-nominated for his contributions to the screenplays for Casanova '70 (1965), Blow-Up (1966) and Amarcord (1973)?
4 In which modern day country was Al Jolson born in 1886?
5 Which US folk group, known for such hits as Tom Dooley (1958), had Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds and Dave Guard in its original line-up?
6 Director of the "revenge" trilogy made up of Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Oldboy and Lady Vengeance, which Korean filmmaker's latest film is called I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK?
7 Which Italian stew, made from knuckle of veal and marrowbone, has a name meaning "bone-hole" in the native language?
8 Something pugilists might engage in, what is a "sciamachy"?
9 Smithsonite is a carbonate of which metal?
10 Called "The Portuguese Horace", which poet's best known work is the two-act historical tragedy on classical lines, Ines de Castro (1587)?
11 Which US theoretical physicist wrote the mammoth memoir On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances (1876-78)?
12 Tatsumi Hijikata (1928-86) and Kazuo Ohno are credited with founding which dance-theatre movement that draws on and yet refutes Kabuki and Noh and such Western art forms as modern dance, German Expressionism and Pop Art, as seen in such productions as the 1968 piece Nikutai No Hanran/Rebellion of the Body?
13 Argentinian defender Cecilia Roognoni was banned from international competition for a year in 1999 for throwing a ball at English umpire Gill Clarke during the Pan-Am Games. What sport does she play?
14 What were used for the first time in an 1891 football match between North and South?
15 Which sport uses a flat grass court measuring 28 yards (25.6m) by 35 yards (32m)?
16 Founded in 1888, which Japanese producer of musical instruments began manufacturing motorcycles in 1955 with the first racing machine built in 1961?
17 Which Australian woman squash player was undefeated between 1962 and 1980?
18 Which acolyte of the last Shah of Iran was given the nickname "The Butcher of Tehran" for ordering his troops to open fire on the marching supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1963 and in 1978, and was later shot in 1984?
19 The extremely upwardly mobile Kenneth Widmerpool is quite possibly the most memorable character, in which 12-volume sequence of novels, narrated by Nick Jenkins?
20 Often known as the Ice Age, which earlier epoch of the Quartenary period extended from the end of the Pliocene (c.2 million years ago) to the start of the Holocene (10,000 years ago)?
21 Explaining the random change in frequency of alleles in a population over successive generations due to sampling errors in the gametes, what is the alternative two-word name for the Sewall Wright effect?
22 Fission-track, potassium-argon, rubidium-strontium and uranium-lead are all methods of what?
23 Phytomenadione is the chemical name for what?
24 Regarded as the founder of modern mathematical logic and the philosophy of language, which German thinker's major works include Begriffschrift (1879), Grundlagen der Arithmetik (1884) and Die Grundgesetze der Arithmetik (1893, 1903)?
25 The full name of which underground anti-socialist Zionist military group meant "national military organisation" in Hebrew?
26 Whose book How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1953) was turned into a musical by Frank Loesser in 1961?
27 First issued for the mass market in 1949, which form of cheaply priced romantic novels are the American equivalent of the Mills & Boon books?
28 What word was invented by Texan lawyer Maury Maverick, a descendant of cattle-owner Samuel A. Maverick, to describe the convoluted, pretentious and often meaningless language of bureaucracy?
29 Which Sarajevo-born director won an Oscar for his film No Man's Land, the story of a precarious and fateful relationship between a Serb and a Muslim soldier during the Sarajevo siege?
30 Known for its ancient and precious Buddhist sites, Bumthang is considered to be the spiritual heartland of which country?





Answers to BH 128
1 Tom Cruise 2 James Dickey 3 Tonino Guerra 4 (Strednike), Lithuania 5 Kingston Trio 6 Park Chan-wook 7 Osso bucco 8 A fight with a shadow 9 Zinc 10 Antonio Ferreira 11 Josiah Willard Gibbs 12 Butoh 13 Hockey 14 Goal nets 15 Croquet 16 Yamaha 17 Heather McKay/Blundell 18 General Gholam Ali Oveissi 19 A Dance to the Music of Time 20 Pleistocene 21 Genetic drift 22 Radioactive dating 23 Vitamin K 24 Gottlob Frege 25 Irgun (Irgun Zvai Leumi) 26 Shepherd Mead 27 Harlequin romances 28 Gobbledygook 29 Danis Tanovi 30 Bhutan

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

BH126 and BH127: Another Pair of Bar Steward Hard Quizzes

Note with regard to the mailing of Behemoth answers: Apologies to all those who have not received the answers, along with one of my three bonus quizzes, but the last few weeks have been really hectic and stressy with house sales and family health matters. I promise that they will be dispatched this week.

1 In an Oscar Wilde play, who is the titular daughter of Mrs Erlynne?
2 In what model of plane did Alcock and Brown make the first non-stop Atlantic aircraft crossing?
3 Who was kidnapped by Chang Hsueh-Liang in the 1936 Sian Incident?
4 Which Ernest Vincent Wright book, so-called "lipogrammatical" work, was written (c.1939) without the use of the letter E?
5 In which Dublin jail is the Brendan Behan play The Quare Fellow set?
6 Walters, Duncan and Marsh Seedless are varieties of which fruit?
7 Which 26-year-old former drug dealer and member of the notorious gang The Americans left behind a life of crime to play rugby for South Africa as a winger and has just finished writing his life story, God Loves Rugby, published by the company he jointly owns with former gangster Gayton McKenzie?
8 This year's Indianapolis 500 winner, Scotland's Dario Franchitti, is married to which American film actress?
9 Who became the first Serbian man to reach a grand slam tennis final when he beat David Ferrer in straight sets at this year's US Open?
10 Which 55-year-old Uzbek theatre director and founder of the Ilkhom (meaning "inspiration") theatre company the first such independent group in the USSR, renowned for his opposition to his country's repressive political regime, was murdered outside home on the eve (September 6) of the premiere of his new production of The Oresteia by Aeschylus?
11 Which German city's Hochschule fur Gestaltung movement was the 50s revival of the Bauhaus that helped fuel Germany's economic miracle?
12 Which humanist and scholar's popular, sometimes didactic works include Adagia/Adages (1500,1508), Enchiridion Militis Christiani/Handbook of a Christian Soldier (1503) and De Libero Arbitrio (1523), in which he attacked Luther?
13 The Finn, Esa-Pekka Salonen is famous for being what?
14 What ducal title was conferred in 1682 on Henry Somerset, 3rd Marquis of Worcester?
15 In 540AD, the Byzantine general Belisarius captured which Ostrogothic capital in Italy?
16 Which French dramatist and poet (1868-1955) wrote such celebrated plays as L'Annonce faite a Marie/The Annunciation (1892), Portage de Midi/Break of Noon (1905) and Le Soulier de satin/ The Satin Slipper (1921), as well as the libretti for Honegger's opera Jeanne d'Arc au bucher/Joan of Arc at the Stake (1943) and Milhaud's Christopher Columbus (1930)?
17 In which country are the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, Yala West National Park and the spectacular rock fortress of Sigiriya?
18 Which French composer made use of Indian themes and rhythms in the Turangalila Symphony (1946-48)?
19 Mkhulumnchanti is the name of which southern African people's deity, who rely partly on traditional medicine practised by either the inyanga (typically a man) and the sangoma (usually a woman)?
20 In Sweden, what can only be bought through the state-run retailing monopoly, Systembolaget?
21 Located in Tibet, what is the world's highest monastery?
22 The famous fortress-like mud brick houses of which people can be seen in the Kabye region of Togo?
23 Which Warsaw-born sculptor moved to New York City in 1914 and executed such works as Standing Bull and Wounded Bull (1915), which reveal a simplification of forms and stylisation resembling Cubism, though many of his sculptures were accidentally destroyed?
24 Which US scientist invented the Polaroid in 1936?
25 Which Hitchcock film was adapted from the Ethel Lina White novel The Wheel Spins?
26 In which hills, just south of Kitty Hawk, did the Wright brothers make the first sustained, manned, powered and controllable flight in a heavier-than-air aircraft on December 17, 1903?
27 Ford Sterling led which famous troupe of film comedians?
28 Which team won the Khaki (F.A.) Cup Final at Old Trafford in 1915, beating Chelsea 3-1?
29 Which model of electric food mixer made Kenneth Wood a millionaire at the age of 42?
30 Samora Machel led which armed political group that fought for Mozambique's independence from Portugal from 1963, and helped achieve it in 1975?






Answers to BH126
1 Lady Windermere 2 Vickers Vimy 3 Chiang Kai-shek 4 Gadsby 5 Mountjoy Prison 6 Grapefruit 7 Ashwin Willemse 8 Ashley Judd 9 Novak Djokovic 10 Mark Weil 11 Ulm 12 Erasmus 13 Music conductor 14 Duke of Beaufort 15 Ravenna 16 Paul Claudel 17 Sri Lanka 18 Olivier Messiaen 19 Swazis 20 Alcohol 21 Rongphu Monastery 22 Tamberma people 23 Elie Nadelman 24 Edwin H Land 25 The Lady Vanishes 26 Kill Devil Hills 27 Keystone Kops 28 Sheffield United 29 Kenwood Chef 30 Frelimo (Frente de Libertacao de Mocambique)

1 Which national African football team are nicknamed a) the Zebras b) Desert Rats c) Scorpions d) Crocodiles?
2 Which 1983 World Rally champion (b.1942) was nicknamed the "Flying Finn"?
3 The Dutch banker C.A.W. Hirschmann first proposed which world federation in 1902?
4 Who wrote the 1970 book Everything you always wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask?
5 Which group of E-numbers are classified E300-321?
6 What proprietary name of a type of adhesive sticking plaster for cuts and wounds was introduced on to the market in 1928 by the firm Smith & Nephew?
7 Which Chinese sage and story-teller is the central character of a series of short stories, collected in such books as The Moon of Much Gladness (1932), by Ernest Bramah?
8 In a famous trilogy of novels, by what name is the volcano Orodruin better known?
9 The Philadelphia suffragist and temperance worker Anna May Jarvis led the campaign for which day?
10 The name for which famous firm was suggested by a secretary named Joan Coles?
11 Taken from the Latin word for "garrison", which body was elected by the Supreme Soviet to fulfil the role of constitutional head of the state?
12 Which Hungarian-born film producer's real name was Sandor Laszlo Kellner?
13 Which 1977 Luis Bunuel film is about a French businessman's obsessive love for a beautiful young Spanish woman called Conchita (played by the two actresses Carole Bouquet and Angela Molina)?
14 Which vegetable cream soup was created in New York in the early 20th century by French chef Louis Diat, who came from the Bourbonnais region near the place that gave it its name and based it on a similar dish served by his mum, but hot?
15 Which two unmanned US spacecraft were launched respectively on August 29 and September 9, 1975 and ten months later entered orbits around Mars?
16 Which genus of shrubby plant has a name popularly derived from the Greek "I break" since an infusion of the plant's leaves was said to break bladder stones?
17 Literally "hiding" in Hebrew, what room attached to a synagogue is used to store old books and documents?
18 From the Hungarian for "robber", what name was given to a member of a class of mercenaries in Hungary, who were granted lands and the rank of nobles in 1605?
19 The name for which type of jazz-like pop music of central and southern Africa was coined in the mid-20th century from the Zulu for "to climb"?
20 Which copper coin, first made from silver and formerly used in Germany and Austria, was so named from the two crosses with which it was originally stamped?
21 How many silk strings does the Japanese musical instrument, the koto, have?
22 Originally made of maple wood, what is a "mazer"?
23 What word meaning "to emasculate" comes from the Old Norse word for "barren"?
24 The Fosters ASP Tour is the premier competition in which sport?
25 Which New Zealand tree, Myoporum laetum, is noted for its fine white wood?
26 In Spanish football, the position "volante" could be described as what in English?
27 The Sinclair Coefficient is used in which sport?
28 According to which calendar is the year 2550 BE and not 2007AD?
29 Which Lebanese fashion designer, sometimes simply known as ES, was responsible for Queen Rania of Jordan's wedding dress and became the first designer from his country to dress an Oscar winner, Halle Berry, in 2002?
30 In the Raymond Burr TV series, what was Ironside's first name?




Answers to BH127
1a) Botswana b) Namibia c) Gambia d) Lesotho 2 Hannu Mikkola 3 Football or FIFA 4 David Reuben 5 Antioxidants 6 Elastoplast 7 Kai Lung 8 Mount Doom 9 Mother's Day 10 Penguin 11 Presidium (of the Supreme Soviet) 12 Alexander Korda 13 That Obscure Object of Desire/Cet obscur objet du desir 14 Vichyssoise 15 Viking 16 Erica 17 Genizah 18 Haiduk 19 Kwela 20 Kreuzer 21 Thirteen 22 Large cup/drinking vessel 23 Geld 24 Surfing 25 Ngaio 26 Defensive midfielder 27 Weightlifting 28 Buddhist Era 29 Elie Saab 30 Robert

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Reflections on This Year's Mahaquizzer and the Wide World of Quiz that Lies Beyond

"Doing" the Mahaquizzer 2007
Every year I download the most excellent Mahaquizzer question paper PDFs from the KQA website and read and answer (of course, I am compelled to ... it is my lot in life to fill in blank quiz competition papers) the questions in my own slightly scatterbrain manner, and under dodgy exam conditions. The questions yield just the right kind of information whilst holding back the vital keywords that will give it all away (well, in most cases) and I don't mind the far-larger-than usual stream of highly explanatory words that fill alternating butternut grey or white question spaces every so often. It's all knowledge and is therefore all good. Never have I felt the need to sigh in yawny boredom at the questions, no matter if their breezeblock form make British ones look like insignificant ranks of anorexic earthworms.

The setters have taken care to ensure that many of the answers (i.e. the names, the places, the objects, etc) are already lodged in our brains because they are the kind of answers observed and mentally filed away through interaction with real-life, taking notice of, an all-encompassing media, and, of course good, solid reading. No point in obscurity. The trick is to make the participant strain their grey matter and hopeful go "Ah! Got it!" when those answers materialise as if by magic. Gasp shock and horror for Brits, but lateral thinking and real brain strain rather than reflex word-spouting is required.

This year, as usual, I skipped any India specific questions (e.g. Bollywood and Indian companies) instantly because I know I can completely sack them off, take a mildly painful hit on them and still survive and thrive sufficiently on the questions falling in the realm of my remaining, admittedly Western-biased world knowledge. And so having done a 40-minute, instant answer sweep of the paper, (so often the root cause of my post-tourney wave of mild disappointment) as I always do in tournaments, losing points carelessly as I go on account of not reading the questions but only the words that begin with capital letters, I think I got 76 out of 150. Not bad, but I could have done better. Then again, absolutely everyone who does a quiz could have done better. Our minds are imperfect machines always vulnerable to bad decision-making and illogical idiocy. Only sometimes I think I can help it, if I actually read through my answers methodically, and yes, maybe even read the bloody question in full. The predictable upshot is that impatience overwhelms me. and, quite frankly, my apparently degrading brain has not been in tip top condition these past few weeks as my circadian rhythms aren't being very rhythmical at the moment. They should really be called circadian cacophonies. Circadian crack-ups. Circadian clusterf... clusterflubs (yes, that's it).

Also, you can't trust a paper that has been self-marked and done whilst reclining in bed like a lazy sod (which I am at times ... most times, but not right now, for I write and write! Hooray) at 3am in the morning, saying to myself that I don't really want to watch The IT Crowd second series run so far YET AGAIN (hey, the piss-take anti-piracy ad is so funny I nearly split my gut in half ... twice"). No. I had the choice of taxing the brain instead. So I did.

Love Those Questions
The setters did a fine job. Kudos to them. The amount of research that went into this year's Mahaquizzer, not to mention the inspiration that sparks the search for its contents, is impressive in the extreme. I love the way you have to read between the lines and link the minor clues together, and the way it makes you think of time scales, locations, tantalising background detail and all sorts of ostensibly irrelevant (at first) areas of knowledge in order to find something that seems so blindingly obvious once you have scribbled your answer in self-congratulatory triumph that you wondered why you didn't get it in the time it takes Asafa Powell to run the 100m in Rieti. But that's the genius of the questions: they're designed to take you up the garden path for quite some time and then deliver an incredible feeling of elation through your self-inspired revelation.

And what I found what was even more impressive was the wide geographical spread of the questions, bearing in mind that this was a national quiz aimed at an Indian audience, for instance, questions (and warning ***MAJOR ANSWER SPOILERS*** if you want to do the quiz, which I would strongly recommend you do) on Albion's own company De Havilland, People magazine, Ed Wood, the University Boat Race, MTV Unplugged, John Updike poetry, the nursery rhyme Jack be nimble, Mr Bean and Candid Camera to name but a few. Imagine us taking equivalent questions in such proportions from India. We would be worse than rubbish! We would be plumbing the depths in shame. And to think this is a nation of one billion. Imagine how insular they could be if they wanted to. Even more admiration is due for their global outlook.

The Difference
It just shows up the relative shallowness of the quizzes we do in this fair land (it is fair now, thank goodness, Autumn has brought us a lovely echo of summer from, erm, about the year 2003). We like the questions short, sweet and sharp. British quizzers want you to get to the point as fast as possible.

Naturally, many of the questions in the Mahaquizzer can be reduced to one or two lines, but where is the fun in combine harvesting all of them so impatiently? Where is the erudition and intellectual-flexing decent quiz-folk overseas seem to crave? In comparison we look like superficial and aggressive bastards who use short and pithy facts as ammunition in getting one over the opposition, rather than displaying and absorbing knowledge capable of expanding the mind's horizons. So Brits usually forget about the meaningful educational aspects. I used to be like that, I may have a little bit of the fella who liked it that way still poking around in my brain, but now I am going all foreign: the Belgian-Indian way, if you will. I don't mind big questions, though writing starters does get you used to it. I don't mind the seemingly extraneous detail, possibly because it is nearly always very interesting in itself.

And now, thanks to the IQA, us Brits been blessed with the chance to get our teeth into the foreign, Pantagruel-like body of GK, the scales having fallen from our eyes thanks to often bruising interaction and confrontation with the mighty quiz nation that be Belgium. Contact with the Estonians and Finns and our non-Flemish Europeans' finest has also revealed much about what international competition is all about.

The problem, however, is that the one-line question and one-word answer thing is so deeply ingrained in our psyches thanks to decades of pub quizzes and TV quiz shows that that will be what quizzing is and will always be for the vast majority of British trivia acolytes. A grave pity indeed. Our individualistic, perhaps even solipsistic quiz culture has left us with no other choice than to become all-rounders; we can't hide in teams where our specialised subjects may be praised to high heaven. We almost always have to do it on our own, thus precluding us from serious quiz-related study of the subjects we truly love (I could get so lost in literature).

While people overseas revel in deep knowledge, our "First Contact" with the world of quiz has changed quite a few of us into world knowledge pursuers. I have become a different quizzer for sure. The appeal of domestic, parochial quizzing has diminished considerably when faced with the alternative of facing all the factalicious riches the entire world has to offer. So you dump the old material, say "sod off" to Pub Quiz Book Volumes 1-6 and grip Wikipedia to your heart and face like some kind of giant reverse-leach. You buy all sorts of strange reference guides and giant books on such subjects as the Olympics (who would have thunk it? Now I own three of them), World music and word histories (I am loving my Cassell at the mo), all to help open up other hitherto undiscovered areas of the trivia-world.

Short Cuts
And you might think this odd when I say it, but in my opinion we are using our old Ayn Rand type of approach to quiz knowledge acquisition and total me-me-me victory hunger to increasingly better effect in international championships. We seem to get more questions right because we learn the facts we think will come up in that superficial way: just the matching pairs of words, e.g. Joshua Bell = violinist, Rialto Bridge = Antonio Da Ponte, 1st PC = Altair 8800, 19th century Persian dynasty = Qajar, Invoked papal infallibility = Pius IX, sodium bicarbonate process = Ernest Solvay, first used ether = Crawford T Long, The Lonely Crowd = David Riesman, Versailles Gardens = Le Notre ... and so on. One side triggers the other and vice versa.

At the most basic level of knowledge acquisition (no matter how easy or esoteric), that's all you really need. The phrasal partners. Words shaved and excised to the extent that they almost become nonsensical. No deep-drill reading and no context (and that's perhaps why naming exact years is such a weakness of mine; I'm all about names). Just the right words utilised in the same old ways, as in the bloody fast covering the ground with thousands of one-line questions method. Looking at it this way makes me feel slightly ashamed to tell the truth, but I believe there is a point in you trivial education when you have sucked up and retained so much GK that you have trained your brain to work in ever more efficient and pleasing ways. You feel as if you have increased your IQ and the ability to make connections and deductions, as well as reason. Which is nice.

My brain feels fitter than it ever has when I've subjected it to long study sessions (ugh, study isn't really the right word, but it will do ... I've noticed sessions too ... man, I'm not even cool enough to be a geek). It is a cumulative and mightily beneficial process that finally does invite you to get stuck into the real, thick knowledge that our foreign counterparts have invested themselves in from the start of their involvement in quizzing. This brain training and the urge to up it many notches keeps us from falling into boredom - for I am in a perpetual struggle with boredom - with the inanity of the chestnut staples that come up time and time again, each instance eliciting an even bigger groan than before. You lay the flimsy but all-encompassing foundation and seek to build on it to keep yourself satisfied. The enthusiastic ones, blinded by their love of knowledge, seek to construct fantastic erections upon your groundwork (yes, I wrote that silly sentence just to use the word "erections", but wassamatta with wanting to lighten up this thinky-piece once every paragraph or so?).

Learning Lessons
While there was once a time when we had no real idea about how to live in this new, much expanded environment, we Brits are far better focussed because we now know what we are up against and the necessary effort we have to put in to match up to the opposition. I've left behind the kind of stuff I was cramming into my head when I was in my late teens. It just seems so irrelevant now.

Perhaps it also shows why the scores of quizzers from around the world, in the WQC for instance, suffer in comparison to our own. Because they love the knowledge, the learning and the autodidact nature of it all and they go in deep, while we Brits read quiz companions and are immersed in a quiz culture geared towards brevity, but one that at least furnishes us with many an answer. The paradigm changed and a few of us saw the need to evolve. And evolved we have.

Getting acclimatised to the globalisation of the quiz world (there was a time when I looked at Belgian quizzes and thought they may as well have been written in Martian so ruddy difficult and impenetrable they were) has been the problem over the past few years, but I feel we are getting the hang of it and an ever sweeter smell of success will come our way, growing exponentially like Tribbles and Biblical locust swarms and such and such. Our traditional all-rounder ways, in which we reduce our weaknesses in every single subject with every tournament, (yes, even) pub quiz and hour or two of reading, have become a huge strength (unless I am talking about myself again; I shouldn't be so presumptuous about everyone else and use "WE BRITS", it is a tad rude and condescending ... seems I have all the makings of a newspaper columnist).

We Skim, They Really Dig, We Pale In Comparison
And yet, I still look at ACF packets (just downloaded the 2007 Regionals ... yikes)" and am astounded at the depth of knowledge competitors need to accrue to barely cope, let alone shine like grandmasters of quiz, in such a scholarly trivia environment. This is one arena in which the British method will never truly prosper. Reading the toss-ups I am usually struck mute until the penultimate or last clues, if that. Astonishingly detailed (though far less whimsical, artful and, honestly speaking, interesting than the kind proferred in Indian quizzes) and utterly brutal questions abound, which might not even yield a correct answer from any quizzer I have ever played against in this country. Something I think is both brilliant and terrifying.

I am, however, speaking from an alien perspective, having never played them live or watched ACF in action at the highest level. Being immersed in such an academic quiz circuit for a few years would probably inure myself to the brutality and instigate the need for some serious study to get up to scratch (and I most certainly would if I found myself in such an environment) and think it child's play. Though you also have to keep in mind that it is team quizzing, where the subject specialists really come into their own and contribute for the good of the collective (so British individualism takes a bit of a battering). It's just that the degree of culture shock is astounding and demonstrates my developing belief that while the serious American college bowl player desires the big picture and the grand design, we Brits like pithy, amusing details, albeit in a bewilderingly trivial array of subjects. The American may want to talk about your career aspirations and political views, while we want to ask them where they got that really cool t-shirt from and if there is a decent pub in the local vicinity that is showing the football tonight. I'm talking in a completely stereotypical fashion of course, based on the questions we choose to subject ourselves to on a regular basis. There are Brits who adore the serious stuff and those across the Atlantic who choose to keep it light and love nothing more than the type of mixed subject matter Jeopardy! deals in. But there is an obvious and fundamental difference between the two most serious quiz cultures each country adheres to.

Maybe, our own quizzing and other countries (witness Thai winners of the English-language Scrabble world championships) will take the truly hardcore way in the future, yet I seriously doubt it. We modest Brits will always want to keep quiz on a moderately serious yet fun and social level and wouldn't want to repel potential recruits, and therefore the potential stars of the future, with seemingly impossible standards.

That's not forgetting that divergence of opinion regarding style, content and organisation increases in any growing pastime, and some of the dissatisfied inevitably break away and do things the way they want. Obviously, it has already happened because sometimes you can't please half the people in your own quiz team half the time, let alone an entire nation of quiz addicts. As a pastime, the very nature of general knowledge, with its all encompassing approach to subject matter and wildly varying formats, precludes the chance of there ever being a single, united organisation competing in perfect harmony. So we must go our own ways. Such is life.

But at least I and a few others have had no problem shifting our horizons drastically with regards to the advent of IQA events and done so happily, having been bitten by another species of bug - a different kind of bug to the one that got us interested in this weird kaboodle in the first place; a far more grandiose one perhaps that bears no relation to the pub quizzing we grounded ourselves in - and flung ourselves wholeheartedly into a world of globalised quizzing, where local breweries and British car makes have been consigned to irrelevance. Things have changed forever and, in my view, for the best.

Back to India
Lovely obsession. Lovely distraction. These are the kind of things that make me ponder quiz adventures beyond our borders. In the case of the Indian subcontinent thousands of miles beyond the British shoreline. I have actually considered making a holiday trip to India to coincide with the quiz and have a go at the Mahaquizzer in the exam conditions, though naturally I would do in an unofficial capacity as a kind of election observer. Naturally, I would also discuss the meaning of quiz with some shockingly and admirably obsessed trivia devotees. Just like me. Or, perhaps, we could think far more ambitiously and organise a Test series against the Indian national team (if one exists, though it wouldn't take too long to pull one together would it?), in the Belgian/European team style or maybe even the University Challenge format added in too for good measure and a good dose of buzzerquiz excitement. A Ryder Cup-style weekend of trivia-holic combat for The Pataudi Quiz Trophy involving best-of-five series played out by A and B teams, perhaps?

It's an enticing, achievable dream and I'm sure everyone would love to see it come to fruition; er, so long as air fares and lodgings don't cost too much and people can get time off work and commitments, and cope with everything else a trip to such a highly contrasting climate to our own has to throw at us. I suppose some sponsorship could be stumped up by some generous angel. But we have all the time in the world, as George Lazenby's James Bond said to his newly dead wife Tracy. Yes, a bad but perhaps pertinent example come to think of it. If we plan now, the richer and more abundant opportunities stretch out beyond us. I just hope some cross-quiz-culture exchange will happen in the near future. Such a huge shared interest suggests that friendships would be easily and swiftly forged. And as the Beach Boys didn't quite sang: Wouldn't that be nice?

Just one more thing: To the KQA, a job well done sirs! Keep up the fine work! It is much appreciated.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

BH124 and BH125: Not So Daily Double Quiz

(For some strange reason I've been watching loads of episodes of Jeopardy! on YouTube - you can too, if you want to descend into the obsessive maelstrom - and am harbouring never-to-be-realised dreams of appearing on it)

1 Which trombonist, singer and composer's "Sunshine Orchestra" was the first black jazz band to record?
2 In which German city is the Grunes Gewolbe and the Semper Gallery?
3 Derived from a Coptic word, which itself comes from the Greek for "pickle", which relish is made of the roes of the mullet and tuna?
4 The England and Indian national cricket teams compete for which trophy, named after a man who played for both countries?
5 Whose last album, due to his death from renal cancer, is called Cake and Death?
6 Alemayehu Eshete, Mulatu Astatqe, Mahmoud Ahmed are musicians from which country?
7 Which artwork by Piero della Francesca in the Uffizi portrays Federico da Montefeltro and his wife Battista Sforza, the ghostly pallor of the latter suggesting it was painted after her death, and is famous for the sliced off bridge of the man's nose and his hooded eyes?
8 Subtitled The Inaccessible Pinnacle, what is the first full length feature film to be in Scots Gaelic?
9 What is the unpointed sword carried in front of the English sovereigns at their coronations as a symbol of mercy?
10 Burning with a peach-blossom flame, what colourless, poisonous gas composed of carbon and nitrogen was so named in 1815 by chemist Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac as it is chemically related to Prussian blue?
11 Which commentator said during the 1949 University Boat Race: "I can't see who's in the lead but it's either Oxford or Cambridge"?
12 Who won light welterweight boxing gold at the Montreal Olympics in 1976?
13 From the German for "fork", what is the triangular upper portion of the end of a building between the sloping sides of a roof?
14 Which sect of Shiite Muslims hold that at the death of Ja'far ibn Muhammad, the 6th Shiite imam, in 765 that the imamate should have descended to the posterity of his deceased eldest son, whereas it actually passed to his younger son, Musa al-Kazim (c.799)?
15 Which trees of Botswana with a circumference of over 30m could be as much as 4000 years old, with Makgadikgadi being the site of several famous examples called The Sleeping Sisters which were immortalised in paintings by Thomas Baines in 1862?
16 Ronan Bennett's novel The Catastrophist centres on which charismatic Congolese leader of the fight for independence from Belgium?
17 The world's largest producer of cocoa, which country is home to such rainforest-clad beaches as Monogaga, Grand Bereby and Grand Lahou, and such other places as Issia, Quango, Kong and Touba?
18 Krk was the seat of which native nobility and dukes of Croatia?
19 In which Cyprus mountain range is Mount Olympus? Troodos
20 At which castle on Cyprus did Richard the Lionheart marry Berengaria in the 12th century?
21 Which Mexican poet's collections include Sun Stone (1963), The Bow and the Lyre (1973) and Glimpses of India (1995)?
22 Which bird has endangered species named Cabot's (south-east China) and western (India/Pakistan)?
23 Which of the French tennis-playing "Four Musketeers" was nicknamed Toto?
24 Which Hungarian defender captained the "Magical Magyars" who beat England at Wembley in 1953 so comprehensively?
25 Babe Ruth's 714th and final home run was considered to be one of the longest ever hit at which Pittsburgh stadium?
26 The Indian drink, toddy, is made from what fermented substance?
27 Pantai Suluban is said to be the surfing Mecca of which Asian island?
28 In which country are the village houses of Kandovan carved from eroded volcanic hillside?
29 Which country features its Lake Burabay on its 10 tenge banknote?
30 Which monastery on Burma's Inle Lake is famed for its oval windows?




Answers to BH124
1 (Edward) Kid Ory 2 Dresden 3 Botargo 4 Pataudi Trophy 5 Lee Hazlewood 6 Ethiopia 7 The Duke and Duchess of Urbino 8 Seachd 9 Curtana 10 Cyanogen 11 John Snagge 12 Sugar Ray Leonard 13 Gable 14 Ismaili 15 Baobab 16 Patrice Lumumba 17 Cote d'Ivoire 18 Frankopan 19 Troodos 20 Lemesos Castle 21 Octavio Paz 22 Tragopan 23 Jacques Brugnon 24 Jozsef Bozsik 25 Forbes Field 26 Palm sap 27 Bali 28 Iran 29 Kazakhstan 30 Shwe Yaunghwe monastery

Since I will be internet-less for the next couple of days (FREEDOM FROM TECHNOLOGICAL TYRANNY!) you might as well have another quiz...

1 The 1979 draft constitution of which Pacific republic created the world's first nuclear-free state?
2 The world's oldest town, where can you visit the Byzantine mosque at Hisham's Palace?
3 Which ghost town of Papua New Guinea is buried in the volcanic ash of Tuvurvur?
4 Which country has produced Singha beer since 1933?
5 Having been under the control of Sweden, Finland was ceded to Russia in 1809 by which treaty?
6 Which country elected Otto of Bavaria its king in 1832?
7 Which of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World was erected by Queen Artemisia?
8 The German scientist Heinrich Kolbe first synthesised which common drug in 1859, though it was not introduced into medicine until 1899?
9 Which 253m-high dam stands on the river Tons in India?
10 The Roman, Marcus Terentius Varro, is credited with compiling the first of what kind of book in c.47BC?
11 Richard Brown was the first skipper to lift which trophy in 1851?
12 Taking its name from the straw rice bags that mark out the different parts, what is the Japanese word for the sumo area?
13 Paraguay lost over a quarter of its national territory in 1865 as a result of its disastrous participation in which conflict?
14 Which Filipino musician had an international hit with Anak/Child?
15 "Na zdrowie!" is "cheers!" in which language?
16 Which film by Portuguese director Joao Pedro Rodrigues recounts the story of a sex-obsessed garbage man?
17 Which Portuguese city is home to the beautiful, religious iconography covered blue-and-white tiled walls of the Capela das Almas?
18 The modern building, the Barzan Tower, is set among the classical buildings at the Corniche in which Middle Eastern capital?
19 Which important figure of the Jewish Enlightenment wrote Jerusalem, which advocated Judaism as the religion of reason, in 1783?
20 Which French novelist published Manon Lescaut in 1731?
21 In c.1505, which German locksmith developed a mainspring as an alternative to weight-driven clocks, and ushered in the manufacture of pocket watches in Europe?
22 Which Chinese physician, naturalist and biologist (1518-1593) spent 30 years compiling his great work, the Ben Cao Gang Mu/Great Pharmacopoeia?
23 What name is given to the combination of dry sauna, steam bath and plunges of ice-cold water that many Russians indulge in?
24 Which stark, red-and-white striped church in St Petersburg was built for Catherine the Great as a resting place on the road to her country residence?
25 Cecile Kayirebwa is considered to be the queen of which country's music?
26 Who designed Riyadh's 875-foot Faisaliah Tower?
27 As found in the Seychelles, which palm produces a famously erotic nut that only grows on the female tree and can weigh up to 20 kg?
28 Which "fairy tale" lake in Gorenjska, Slovenia, has hosted the World Rowing Championships on several occasions?
29 Usually represented as a drunk old man, which Greek demi-god fostered and educated Dionysus?
30 The very best "gaiteros" are considered heroes in the Spanis region of Galicia. What kind of musical instrument do they play?




Answers to BH125
1 Palau 2 Jericho 3 Rabaul 4 Thailand 5 Friedrichsham 6 Greece 7 Mausoleum at Halicarnassus 8 Aspirin 9 Kishau 10 Encyclopaedia 11 America's Cup (then the 100 Guineas Cup) 12 Dohyo 13 War of the Triple Alliance 14 Freddie Aguilar 15 Polish 16 O Fantasma 17 Porto 18 Doha 19 Moses Mendelssohn 20 Abbe Prevost 21 Peter Henlein 22 Li Shizen 23 Banya 24 Chesma Church 25 Rwanda 26 Norman Foster 27 Coco de mer palm 28 Lake Bled 29 Silenus 30 Bagpipes

Bye Bob, Hello BoB, WTF BoB?!?

I had already written a preview about the new series of Brain of Britain. It was fairly damning, but still hopeful about the Radio 4 quiz show's future. Then, before posting the thing, I listened to the first show. Eh, I thought? Something wasn't right. Was that it? And then I read the Sunday Times article on the whole pathetic story behind the wholesale changes on the show. It all became crystal clear.

Presenter Robert Robinson, producer Richard Edis and Kevin "Jorkins" Ashman formed a reliably brilliant triumvirate on the show, always respectful of its traditions and its audience. There was an unmistakable air of genial bonhomie. Now they are gone. Robert replaced due to ill-health and Richard and Kevin victims of monetary concerns and belt-tightening. The newspaper article explains this sad business, so I won't go into that, except to say "For shame: your treatment of Kevin and Richard marks you out as damnable scoundrels". Yet it's the proof of the pudding, i.e. listening to the show, that ultimately matters. I ate the pudding and had my fill. Savoured it somewhat. Suffice to say, it tasted like gone-off toss. I was in no doubt. The powers that be at the BBC had taken a wrecking ball to one of our national monuments - in its 55th year no less! - and they didn't give a solitary bollock because it saved them money.

First, a fond farewell...
Succumbing to ill health, age and possible transplantation to the northwest proved too much, as it was obviously going to for a man as august and London-stuck as Robinson. It is sad there was no proper goodbye (unless I completely missed something in the radio schedules). No much deserved fanfare and no compilation programme paying tribute to his many witty rejoinders and complete mastery and professionalism when dealing with his contestant brood. Of course, in my day he never stuck around to imbibe consolatory and congratulatory drinks with his contenders after the business side of things was finished with, but still, I will miss him. He pronounced my surname perfectly every time - hooray! And never needed to ask me how. In fact his diction was perfect for the audio-only set-up. It painted pictures for the radio as only he could do. But maybe what I will remember most fondly is his taking a surreptitious swig or two from his hip flask, which in a highly impressive manoeuvre, he would swiftly remove from his briefcase and replace in a matter of seconds. He sure likes a snifter or ten.

Then there was the hair. His combover made the Bobby Charlton classic take on this sign of tragic male vanity look like the epitome of a sensible hairdo. It swirled like a Danish pastry round his cranium in the most amazing manner. No grade zero for him. He had hair left and by God he was going to keep what scant thatch (well, more like a sparse row of follicles) he had and grow it in the most extraordinary fashion in order to fight accusations that he was succumbing inevitable alopecia. I shall miss it almost as much as the great man.

What we've lost
Everything. No, that's going a bit too far. But let's just say they've screwed with the show and broken something that did not need fixing. Shall we start with the myriad failings of the new show?

They've dispensed with the unheard arbiter. A lovely little construct reminiscent of such TV shows as Dad's Army and Rumpole of the Bailey, but one that reminded you that the chief question compiler was himself a brilliant quiz-player worthy of such a position: worthy of finding and testing a real Brain of Britain. Now it is back to the faceless drone school of team-setting. Ugh.

The Einstein question sounded like a direct lift from Wikipedia (and I should know). First paragraph: "Einstein received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics 'for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect". What an absolute disgrace! How dare the setters from such an august institution be so blatant in their thievery!

And it's not just that. It's the dumbing down that has become obvious. The blandness of what has replaced Kevin's setting. Throwing in questions in later rounds on the Boat Race bridges, Airstrip One, the Furies and, ye gods, who was the "Flanders Mare?" How very very predictable and sad. Hardcore quizzers really spoil themselves doing it for so long: we know what we like and it ain't questions we have heard asked five hundred times over the last ten years (or, ok, maybe a dozen times before in competition).

They've also reverted to a cliched view of the listener-ship. Questions on carols and folk songs - hardly the way to appeal to a younger demographic. The only two vaguely modern questions were on art - the Stuckists and Damien Hirst's autobiography - perhaps betraying the question setters' own interests. All the other questions have been knocked back into the relative, quiz book-driven stone age. Which is just plain sad. Some will love this retrograde step, others like myself will naturally be hugely disappointed by this return to conservatism.

Kevin was a far more interesting setter than he was often given credit for. And what really pisses me off about the Radio 4 statement - "The advantage of a team of question-setters is that there is more of a diversity of questions" - is its pig-headed, cover-our-asses ignorance. It's complete crap. It's bullshit being crammed in our earholes. To suggest that the man who has proved himself time and time again to have by far the largest and widest general knowledge in the country and, arguably maybe, the world over the last decade will provide a question set less colourful and diverse than a bunch of BBC researchers who have been previously twiddling their thumbs is COMPLETELY RETARDED (sorry, Glen). They be chaff compared to Jorkins whoever they may be. It's dig in the ribs and a punch in the gut for the departing Kevin. I'd be red with rage if such a thing was said about me. It's like swapping Kaka for five San Marino players. And yeah, I'll keep using the football analogies.

In the brave new world of Mark Thompson's newly streamlined BBC, the ultimatum offered to Kevin (from what I heard: move to Manchester; do it on far less money etc), for he was the question-setter every serious quizzer would dearly love to have pelting GK posers at them, was utterly appalling considering his stalwart work in setting some wonderful and ultimately classic BoB questions for the last few years: the more obscure, the better because I found they always led me to seek out their provenance, so maybe, just maybe, I could further fathom exactly how our esteemed quiz legend goes about gathering his general knowledge. Whenever he set stuff I hadn't a clue about, let alone the many baffled contenders, I loved it. It was after all a quest to find our nation's finest brain. Extreme baffling was needed to sort out the best from the rest. What we have now pales in comparison. Regressive and boring. Depressing even.

Also is it normal to have less than 50 questions asked in a show? I counted about 48, a count that seemed scant compared to previous years.

They've somehow bleached the programme and made it far less interesting. Ridding it of decorum and character and making it all chummy. No longer the Mr and Mrs of yesteryear, now it is all Dave and Paul (or near enough), doing a little stand-up routine about what they do and where they come from. Why make it like the rest? Or even worse, make it into a quaint lah-dee-dah parlour game? The seriousness and tradition was part of the appeal.

Robert Robinson's absence is felt all the more keenly because he added a whole different aspect to the faceless question-master. His baffling anecdotes and beautifully judged quotes pilfered from showbiz and broadcast history long gone, even if they smelled of the lamp, acted as perfect little breaks in the hurly burly of the competition. I'll miss his theatrical flourishes, a la "that's five in a row!" and his circusmaster-like encouragement for the applause. And what does Peter Snow add? Sniggered comments about Henry VIII divorcing his Mare within six months. Is that all? Jeezus. And he can't seem to stop chuckling. He wants to keep the atmosphere light, but ends up sounding like a bit of a buffoon. He also smacks of the utility defender, the boring Jack Charlton-type. No artistry at all. Just another cog in the soulless machine.

The problem is the more I ponder what has happened, the angrier the words that I type become. But go on I shall...

Yet this is the typical treatment that broadcasters, always looking to renovate and, yuk, innovate, hand out to long-running shows. They look as if they are stagnating, mostly by dint of their apparently ageing audience and the programme's sheer age, so they cut funding and try to do it on the cheap. The quality declines, audiences get pissed off and drift away and suddenly they use it as an excuse to axe the thing. Silly, silly bastards.

It is lucky that the far calmer waters of radio allow such shows to survive far longer than they would on TV, but these current changes to the BoB make-up are bad news. However great formats may take hits, they may even get cancelled, but as in the case of UC and Mastermind they return because they are ultimately brilliant at what they do. Nothing better could be created to replace either, and nothing will replace the sublime simplicity of the old BoB. I wonder if the broadcasting powers that be will learn this silly lesson with the seemingly unfashionable quiz show and retain BoB for many years to come. Until Armageddon will be about long enough to satisfy me and, I suspect, many other viewers. And so, long may it run ... in the traditional form with better questions and a better team, the one that had been in place, organising it. I hope people get as monumentally pissed off with the new version as I have. I speak the word "revolt" and speak it loudly. I hope the wind carries the word to every corner of the land, so everyone asks: Mr producer Paul Bajoria, what have you done?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

BH123: A Day Late, But Better Late Than Never Never

Dear Lord, I had a bit of a sleep there. Also, it looks as if I have broken a promise to post a quiz every day for the next week. Please forgive me because I feel really really bad about it. Anyhoo, here is a quiz for you (woah, have my eyes suddenly gone bad overnite? Everything looks really mushy) ...

1 Chad Fisher sings the theme song to which US medical sitcom?
2 Who won the 1996 Prix Goncourt for Le Chasseur Zero?
3 Whose 1560 painting, Kinderspiele/Children's Games, is regarded by historians as a prime source for information about the games children then played?
4 The Swedes Gosta Lilliehook (1912), Gustaf Dyrssen (1920), Bo Lindman (1924), Sven Thofelt (1928) and Johan Oxenstierna (1932) were the first five men's individual champions in which sport at the Summer Olympics?
5 Which football team did Roberto Baggio begin his career with in 1982, before he transferred to Fiorentina in 1985?
6 Which Kenyan athlete broke the world record for the 3000m and 5000m in 1965, and later won gold in the 1500m at the 1968 Olympics and took the 3000m steeplechase title four years later?
7 What German word, meaning heap or mass, refers to a raised block of land separated by faults from the surrounding land?
8 Who was the Chilean-born director of the Nicole Kidman horror film The Others?
9 The clothing company Mossimo started out as a brand which manufactured shorts for whcih sport?
10 Which Asian country is divided into 75 provinces called changwat?
11 Pavarotti had one of his memorable roles as the peasant Tonio in which Donizetti opera?
12 Which left-wing group assumed power in Laos in 1975?
13 Which long bone takes its name from the Latin for "to be moist"?
14 King George VI owned which fillies' Triple Crown winner of 1942?
15 Known by the informal name "Madge", which Briton won the first women's singles figure skating competition at the 1908 Olympics?
16 Which Greek weightlifter won the Men's Middle Heavyweight event at three consecutive Olympics (1992, '96, 2000)?
17 Which phrase, though first coined by wrestler Gorgeous George Wagner, was made famous by Muhammad Ali?
18 Named after an Austrian paediatrician (1889-1965), which condition is caused by a defect in metabolism resulting in deformed bones, an abnormally large head, protruding abdomen and mental retardation?
19 Which French social theorist's works include La Distinction (1979) and The Forms of Capital (1986)?
20 Members of which profession are awarded the Heinrich Tessenow Gold Medal for excellence?
21 Sharing his name with a record-breaking US athlete, who is best known for his work for the Royal Mail, designing the popular Beatles album cover stamps and the controversial Fun Fruit and Veg series?
22 Which communist and novelist, author of The Case of Comrade Tulayev (a portrait of the Stalinist purges), returned to Russia to take part in the revolution, but fell foul of Stalin and ended his life in Mexico?
23 Which Czech composer's works include the Othello Overture?
24 Much influenced by Plato's Republic, which Islamic philosopher (878-c.950) published a utopian political philosophy known by the title, The Perfect City?
25 Which Korean dynasty was founded by Wang Kon in 913 AD?
26 At which 955 battle did the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto I, defeat the Hungarian Magyars?
27 Who played the title role in Truffaut's 1960 film (his second), Shoot the Pianist?
28 Sold as part of the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich's art collection, whose painting Faces of Russia is said to be the most important Russian painting since the 1917 Revolution?
29 Often mixed with Coke, the sweet Tunisian spirit boukha is distilled from which fruit?
30 Who designed the colourful, psychedelic cover for the Cream LP Disraeli Gears?





Answers to BH123
1 Scrubs 2 Pascale Roze 3 Pieter Brueghel the Elder 4 Modern pentathlon 5 Vicenza 6 Kip Keino 7 Horst 8 Alejandro Amenabar 9 Volleyball 10 Thailand 11 La fille du regiment 12 Pathet Lao 13 Humerus 14 Sun Chariot 15 Florence Syers 16 Pyrros Dimas 17 I am the greatest! 18 Hurler's syndrome 19 Pierre Bourdieu 20 Architecture 21 Michael Johnson 22 Victor Serge 23 Dvorak 24 Abu Nasr al-Farabi 25 Koryo 26 Lechfield 27 Charles Aznavour 28 Boris Grigoriev 29 Figs 30 Martin Sharp

Monday, September 10, 2007

BH122: This is getting regular like

The Benefits of Obsession
I have been doing a lot of setting at the moment, which is good because it keeps me off the streets and falling into violent ASBO delinquency. Maybe.

Actually, it is more because I have just finished the second completed draft of my next big e-mail (502-question) quiz (and yes, I hear the cries of quizzers in confederacy from across the land - WHERE ARE MY BEHEMOTH ANSWERS? And I say, they're coming. Please be patient and take into account my organisational ineptitude and inability to get to the post office in time).

(For those who may be put off by the sheer, soul-crushing size of the thing I have made a conscious effort to cut down on the big block questions. Therefore, the current word counts for The Quiz With No Name As Of Today is 12845 compared to a final tally of 13591 for The Behemoth. I will be cutting the former further, of course, since I haven't been able to do my 29th proofing of the thing yet, which is nothing compared to my running over The B'moth at least 78 times)

As ever, when inhabiting the land of quiz construction I over-do it somewhat by going off on one and finding stuff I feel compelled to turn into trivia teasers, whilst also writing tangential questions that I know won't make it into the quiz, but which are either interesting or may appear before me in some guise somewhere someday.

And I must confess, I bloody love it. To be lost in the maze of pedantry and inspiration and fact-overload, whilst always searching for and finding the kind of questions that swell the heart with a feeling of beautiful satisfaction, is a wondrous thing; albeit one in which you will probably accuse yourself of total distraction and isolation from the harshness of the real world. And I say, hey, there are many worse things I could do whilst cooped up in my bedroom. But let's not go there ... I mean, both my room and the realm of strange and disturbing possibility.

What this all means is that there is a mighty load of overspill: some I will save for the next 'big un, while others will end up in the BH quizzes, a series which I feel needs to be pepped up just a tad, especially when I am reminded of the glorious couple of months last year when I vowed to post a quiz every single day and most certainly did. I must have been insane.

But just to show that it was the kind of madness I like, I am stripping a BH quizzes across the next seven days, a la the style of the first series of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (do you remember when we were young ... yes, I have that KIllers song in my head, pounding away now on my mental jukebox. I may just boot up iTunes and listen to it right now. Sometimes I can't get enough of their glitzy overblown crapola). This is due to my having seven BH quizzes already written and ready to go.

Admittedly, you might find them a mite too idiosyncratic, but then this is my manor. Whatever I set or write goes. GOT IT? Sorry, I was channelling Ray Winstone there. You slags.

So the first is below (there must be a few annoying errors you will notice, so I apologise in advance). Happy headscratching ...

A Question, Then Another and Twenty-Eight More
1 What team sport was invented by Amsterdam teacher Nico Broekhuysen in 1901?
2 Which studio complex near Iver in Buckinghamshire, dates from 1934 when a wealthy builder named Charles Boot bought Heatherden Hall and named what he hoped would become the most advanced film studio in the world after the tall trees in the grounds?
3 From the French words for "field" and "raised", what term describes enamelling by the process of inlaying vitreous powders into channels cut in the metal base?
4 Which 1943 suspense novel by Nigel Balchin, centring on the troubled life of a disabled bomb disposal expert in WW2, was turned into a 1949 Powell & Pressburger film?
5 3HO is a form of which religion mainly practised in the US?
6 Which reclusive artist co-created Spiderman with Stan Lee?
7 Based on the Madonna film, the new musical Desperately Seeking Susan has been embellished with which band's songs?
8 The name Alvin Ailey is associated with which branch of the arts?
9 Whose play Driving Miss Daisy was adapted into the Oscar-winning film of the same name?
10 What in Australia is a "lubra"?
11 Who said of his nanny, Mrs Everest: "My nurse was my confidante. It was to her I poured out my many troubles"?
12 Which basketball player once famously referred to himself as "The Big Aristotle" on account of his philosophical post-match interviews and may have to pay a huge divorce settlement to his wife, Miami socialite Shaunie, due to his being named in a tell-all memoir by groupie and porn star Karrine Steffans?
13 Toppled by Pervez Musharraf in a non-violent coup and exiled to Saudi Arabia eight years ago, which former Pakistani prime minister and party leader of the Pakistan Muslim League has attempted to re-enter his home nation?
14 Twenty-one nations make up Apec. What is this organisation's full name?
15 Who is the unpopular Crown Prince of Nepal?
16 What Japanese term, meaning uncle, has come to stand for middle-aged men in general?
17 What does the Japanese company Shiseido manufacture?
18 Which "Ecumenical Patriarch" is the leader of 250 million Orthodox Christians?
19 Which fast-moving glacier, located off Greenland, has been cited as the probable source of the iceberg that sank the Titanic?
20 Which London's famed Harlequin suite costs upwards of £5,300 per night to hire?
21 The Bab Touma is the Christian quarter of which Middle East capital, whose Roman main street is called Via Recta?
22 The Aztec people perhaps derived their name from their legendary place of origin. By what name is it known?
23 Which explorer (c.1475-1519) gave his name to the currency of Panama?
24 In which 1971 Sidney Lumet film did Sean Connery attempt to shake off his James Bond image as a charming master thief whose plans to rob a luxury apartment block are hindered due to their being recorded on hidden police bugs and cameras?
25 Dudley Moore's big Hollywood breakthrough when he replaced which US actor as the star of 10?
26 Referring to the betrayal of standards by politically-influenced intellectuals, the French phrase "trahison des clercs" (treason of the clerks) originated in the 1927 work La Trahison des Clercs. Who wrote it?
27 In a 1963 comic novella, which "microcephalic community" is located "several and a half metric miles North East of Sligo, split by a cascading stream, her body on earth, her feet in water"?
28 To which order do bats, or any mammals with membranes connecting their fingers and used as wings, belong?
29 Which axis deer takes its name from the Sanskrit for "spotted"?
30 What type of headwear, a symbol of liberty at the time of the Revolution, is usually depicted as being worn by Marianne, the female symbol of the French republic?






Answers to BH122
1 Korfball 2 Pinewood Studios 3 Champleve 4 The Small Back Room 5 Sikhism 6 Steve Ditko 7 Blondie 8 Dance (as in the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre) 9 Alfred Uhry 10 An Aboriginal woman 11 Winston Churchill 12 Shaquille O'Neal 13 Nawaz Sharif 14 Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation 15 Paras 16 Oyaji 17 Cosmetics 18 Bartholomew 19 Sermeq Kujalleq glacier 20 The Dorchester 21 Damascus 22 Aztlan 23 Vasco Nunez de Balboa 24 The Anderson Tapes 25 George Segal 26 Julien Benda 27 Puckoon (by Spike Milligan) 28 Chiroptera 29 Chital 30 Phrygian cap

BQC 2007 Part II: The Pairs

Succulent Pairs, (insert adjective more suitable for the fruity homonym here) Pairs
The brain was in steep decline and was already painfully amnesiac by the time the Pairs competition commenced. A CAT scan would have revealed a disturbing and ever expanding black hole sucking any useful information into a bleak, impossible void. My 3rd-in-the-British-championships-on-aggregate partner from last year, Gareth, was in better mental condition. This I was determined to believe, even if I had quite shockingly beaten him by six points in the sports and leisure individual category - one of his specialities. Thinking about that, it might have been a bad omen.

And so, when we got the very listy preliminary round and we stared at the paper in a kind of catatonic dumbness for longer than was healthy, I thought we would do atrociously (meaning middle table obscurity: Fulham or Aston Villa style). Nothing was coming. No real contentment with any of our suggested answers was forthcoming. There was quite a weird pause when we expected the other to start filling the entire sheet with proof of their all-round genius. When it dawned on both of us that neither of us were going to burst into propulsive scribbling action we concluded that this wasn't going to be our round, and if it wasn't going to be our round there was a fair chance that future rounds would also scupper our momentarily feeble minds with their impenetrability.

So sighing in an irksome manner, we filled the sheet as best we could. When we finished we turned our papers over to Darren and Scott, who were sat on the other side of the table. Looking at their more proficient sheet (I could tell immediately ... just like getting multiple choice innit?) my heart sank. They had some omissions, but our paper was a vacant, tumbleweed-strewn lot where the wind blew cold and frosty compared to theirs. Then the answers were read out: eeek, ow, damn, maaaaan, how did that happen? That was rubbish.

Um, I got most of the Best Foreign Film Oscar countries of origin wrong, for deep, scarlet shame; got all my mythological Muses mixed up to disastrous effect and failed to get any of the many Rovers' Return landlords; I even put Barraclough for one of the answers ... the actor's real name! The brain was scrambled and being whisked further into abject nonsense! (surely we had had enough Corrie questions on the day; I know it's quintessentially British, but for those who don't watch it, you risk plunging us into hell). I had horrific premonitions of a future cursed by mental decline. Soon I would be going "blah blah blah", buying National Lottery tickets in their dozens and playing music on my mobile phone whilst sat on the Tube or on a London bus. Our round score was 27: middle table obscurity it was.

The knock-out phase began. We were seeded - how we were seeded I hadn't a clue. Gareth and I found ourselves confronted with nice, long questions, which if you pondered in sensible fashion in league with a ready, well-oiled mind brimming with the right factoids, you could answer in a very smug and pleasing manner. However, my grey matter machine was clattering along like a rust-ridden Tin Lizzie desperate to pull over and wheeze its last and rest peacefully on the side of the road. It was petering out: spluttering sounds of death and taking many facts into temporary oblivion with it. There really was a hole being bored into my brain and many, many facts were leaking from it. (And yes, I CAN get more melodramatic. I can go Halle Berry Oscar-collection ballistic. It dilutes the quotidian boredom, and can even get quite enjoyable at times.)

As a result, we, okay I was screwing up on questions I would have got any other time. Q's on Three Men in a Boat (I had read the comedic blighter and crossed it out when I had put it down as the only logical answer) and the mythical Echidna (so, so obvious) were missed, to name but two regretful examples. There were more. We should have been scoring two more than our actual tallies every round.

We weren't going to get any round concluding 4-point risk questions (you hand them in at some point-worthy juncture, the size of the score depending on the moment, the more obscure the better, you submit your answer) on the full, maximum point button because I didn't expect Chris to set any long questions on the kind of youthful subject matter which I know in insufferable and frightening detail.

Everything else - history, myth, old TV - is all surface in my brain: like slightly useful plaque. And I was right. The subjects were all born long before Gareth and I (Statue of Liberty, Joe Bugner, Betty Driver ... I mean, we couldn't even get one point for that last one because we couldn't remember her sodding surname. Damn you, you evergreen Corrie!) So we relied on getting most points in the main section and prayed that everyone else would flounder when faced with the risk of either taking 4, 3, 2 or 1 points. A sort of passive tactic, if you will.

Somehow, our answering the main 15 questions was enough to get us through every stage. After doing several of these 15 question rounds we were in the final. Mighty duos had long fallen away. Small yippee. Time to get slightly nervous. Time to choke like an incumbent US President mindlessly scoffing down a pretzel. Of course, the last batch of questions was harder than anything we had been presented with before and, ACK, there was a Scottish loch I felt like drowning my head in. The blanks stayed for some time, like increasingly unwelcome visitors. Yawning gaps they were. Not being able to stand this, we pulled ourselves up for one more big push. Yes, if we did that and beat our two fellow finalist duos we could have an amusing trinket to show confused yet surely amazed housemates, who would go slack-awed with jaw on hearing the words "British champions."

We guessed loads. We had to. "Hmmm, mangoes are quite popular aren't they with everyone else in the world?" was one shot in the dark that miraculously found its target. Then there was the saucy postcard. There was only one person famous for producing illustrations for naughty seaside postcards. One guy. The one and only. His name lives on in reference books as a result. I knew it. Yet ... and yet I couldn't squeeze it from my failing brain. It was just a big block: a total bloody white-out on this guy I had written several questions (well, the same one again and again). This annoyed me most of all. A sure sign that sleep deprivation had succeeded in pulling down the shutters on vast areas of my memory. The visual arts department was apparently one of those closed for renovation, or was on strike due to sleep shortages. So when I saw "Donald McGill" on the answer sheet we were meant to mark, the department was re-opened temporarily just to confirm that, yes, that answer is certainly the one we had in our files, but sadly could not retrieve for you at the correct time: you can now make some kind of screaming sound or let fly a string of frustrated expletives. That's all the excuse I needed to go medieval on my own ass. I thumped my table theatrically and let out a kind of yelp-cum-growl. This might cost us, I thought. We completely banjaxed this one, I then said. Self-lacerating swear words accumulated in greater quantities.

Small mercies were evident in this quarter-hour of uncertainty. Thank God, Gareth twigged the Rorke's Drift/ Michael Caine character in Zulu connection for end-of-round risk question, though I thought Chris totally missed a trick by not putting a reference to indie band Bromhead's Jacket (think of the musically inclined kids, please, won't someone think of the children, please). We went for two points and we waited, ravaged by pessimism due to our knowing we got a fair few less than previous rounds. There was not a chance in hell or Hades of us winning was the thought taking pole position in my thoughts.

Finally, what seemed like hours, nay aeons of tortured anticipation later, Chris read out the final positions. "In joint second, two teams on seven points ... ". Up until the word "seven" I believed that we were one of those losers (not meant in the pejorative sense, ok?). Then I realised: we got 8. We had won!

Wahey. More sounds of jubilant gibberish. We were champions, my friend. Hurdling the computer and projector leads, Garath and I picked up our trophies. Okay, not really trophies, but miniature owls. "Wise" ones, obviously. And another DVD to add to my first choice (for jointly winning Art & Culture in the indivs) Scarface (the Cuban remake). Look! It's From Here to Eternity. Good film. Deborah Kerr is hot. I mean, in the film, not in the year 2007 *shiver*.

Our aggregate, stymied by our ultra-crappy preliminary round, came nowhere (mid-table obscurity) but we had won the competitive title. Teams - see Germany dragging itself into the 2002 final - often get lucky routes to World Cup glory, so why not us? We got the title. We had owls. A warm glow resided in my stomach. The leeching lethargy was momentarily forgotten. Winning is brilliant. I heartily recommend it.

NB: The official story of one day quizzing in the Midlands is told here. Also many thanks to Chris and Jane for putting on another superlative event.

Post Script: Apres Quiz Gig
Thus, shining with the radiation of sweet triumph, I returned to the Big Smoke to make it in time for the opening chords of Teen Age Riot. Sonic Youth were playing Daydream Nation for the Don't Look Back gigs in Camden, and no introductory song could be as ecstatic, kinetic and downright mindblowing as hearing Teen Age Riot. It filled the Roundhouse and every punter's heart. Thurston Moore started like most guitar wig-out masters ended: abusing his equipment and shouting like an arthouse nutter after just one song almost immediately. Yes, during the opening song. Lee Ranaldo did the same, but in a more respectable grey-haired fashion, i.e. running a violin bow across his guitar (he sings my fave SY songs, which I knew were never going to get played at such an event), and, almost from the very start, I began making a series of disparaging remarks about Kim Gordon: "She's dressed like a prostitute!"; "She looks like she's dancing at a wedding like someone's 54-year-old pissed-up mom"; "Kim's singing again. Toilet break it is" and "I wonder what she looks like up close. I bet it's like Zelda from the Terrahawks. Far from perfect skin. Brown and wrinkled with lines like a decaying, giant, intricate bar code. Ewww." (Carroll suggested she might look like Marsha from Spaced)

Having said that I think Kim is a vital part of SY's appeal. I just can't stand the stuff she does most of the time during the live shows; her sagging stage-craft standing in sharp contrast to the magnificent hustle of the stickman positioned behind her. For we should all worship Steve Shelley a mite more for his thunderous, metric drumming (he's the ever-smiling, hard-working engine of the band ... I salute him). He is a fulgent god among men.

And I sat there, being slowly steamed by the cloying atmosphere, thinking: "I'm glad I got seats, otherwise I might collapse face first onto someone's overpriced pint". This happened at university. I slammed into a table of drinks, upending at least half a dozen pints, and was assaulted with looks of pure malevolent "what have you done?" by a bunch of rugger buggers and their airheaded molls.

Instead of paying for the Exxon Valdez-size spillage, I dashed back to halls prison escapee-style and slept like a baby high on dream state deviance. But back in September 2007 I left my gig companions "Glasses Boy" Jamie and "Hairy Eyes" Paul (who got the train home to Surbiton - a name which I think should be used for some kind of sedative - because they are such MASSIVE party animals (hey, I kid and mock gently, with brackets inside brackets)) and met with Ben, who kindly described my confused hairstyle as that of a "1930s butler" for a couple of drinks in scummy Camden, and decided that I was far too sickened and shattered to go to a club and share in Joe's birthday festivities (prolly due to our setting up in a Spoons pub for more than long enough and saying things like "I can't believe that We Are Scientists song came out two years ago ... where in smeg have our lives gone?). A taxi ferried me home.

Of course, the memory plays around with the feelings and key images in the aftermath of a lovely, much-needed slumber, which I eventually got, just as my eyes felt as if they were about to come apart; something I had deduced from examining the complicated the intricate and worryingly busy network of disturbing, violent vermillion streaks covering both of my sclera.

Having finally rested, everything took on a far more rosy hue. The BQC was an experience getting ever better in remembrance (well, I was runner-up and part of the new British pairs quiz champions - or did that go to the aggregate scorers?) and Sonic Youth played an immaculate set - I forget the stuff they played off their newie and 256th album Rather Ripped - and they made me want to listen to one of the greatest albums of all time, and certainly the finest to have had Gerhard Richter paintings on its front and back covers, again and again and again. The corrosive despair of fatigue vanished, making me feel a tad different about the whole day, just like you forget the constant and interminable traipsing through the 'orrible mud at Glasto. That is all that matters. The mental keepsakes we are left with. We live with the memories from which we extract and chuck away the details concerning boring and mundane matters of transport and waiting that punctuate the kind of events I have described above. You tend to recall the stuff that made you feel extremes of emotion: in this case, nothing at all bad now the tiredness was gone. Instead, you are easily reminded of the exhilaration and a warm contentment. So, a very good Saturday it was.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Mundane business

Apologies and explanations
You make promises and you break them because you are beholden to a group, and not a single individual. I put up my hands and say, yeah, I said I would send out the answers with bonus quiz, but have failed to do so due to "unforeseen circumstances" (house sale blah blah blah ... hey, I'm an "enigma"; it said so on the telly).

So please can all those who haven't received their answers and either one of Behemoth quizzes A, B or C, e-mail me a suitable address I can mail them to (don't worry if you have during the past day or two, e.g. William De'Ath, Phil Duffy and John Hayes ... I got 'em). The address again, for the trillionth time:

Ta very much.

Also, with reference to the giant, streaming cloud of acrid smoke, someone has e-mailed to say that, in actual fact, "It was a nice man removing a wasps nest from our locale. Great timing eh! I did at least have the presence of mind to shut the windows (to get rid of the smoke - I quite fancied the idea of seeing you all quiz with wasps buzzing around your ears!)."

Well, that's just charming isn't it? We get enough sadistic treatment meted out to us in mental form, let alone the physical, stingy kind.

BH121: If you don't like egg chasers, maybe you'll like this

1 Which Italian painter and architect was the author of L'Architettura (1537-51), which set down practical rules for the use of the Classical orders and was used by architects of the Neo-Classical style throughout Europe?
2 Which Danish classical dancer, noted for being a heartthrob and the man behind an eponymous company currently performing the Rolling Stones-inspired work Satisfaction, was appointed artistic director of the Berlin Ballet in 1990?
3 Formalhaut, the 18th brightest star in the night sky, is the brightest star in which southern constellation?
4 How much is a field goal worth in American Football?
5 Which Greek sculptor of the 4th century BC made a series of portraits of Alexander the Great (of which Roman copies survive in the British Museum and Louvre), and also sculpted the Apoxyomenos, an athlete (copy in The Vatican) and a colossal Hercules (lost)?
6 Which Lord of the Rings character gives his name to a wild throw in frisbee?
7 The Geneva Agreements was the settlement signed in the eponymous Swiss city in 1954 between the warring parties in which area of Asia?
8 At which military camp in County Kildare did British cavalry officers threaten to resign if they were called upon to coerce Ulster into accepting Home Rule in March 1914?
9 What is the largest of Japan's Ryukyu Islands?
10 The Allies signed the Treaty of Neuilly with which defeated power on November 27, 1919?
11 What Yiddish slang word for an ineffectual person who cannot stand up for himself and so merits one's sympathy comes from the Czech for "unfortunate"?
12 Made famous by the tall tales he told, Baron Munchausen (1720-1797) was an officer in which country's army?
13 Which town gave its name to the trials of French politicians and military, which began in February 1942 (and suspended indefinitely in April) at a supreme court of justice set up by the Vichy government?
14 Which right-wing grocer-demagogue founded the short-lived French political party, the Union de Defense des Commercants et Artisans, in 1953 after a tax revolt by small shopkeepers and farmers in the Lot?
15 What term, meaning "impoverished art", was invented by the Italian art critic Germano Celant in the 60s to describe a disposable and minimal art composed of perishable and easily accessible items such as sand and newspaper?
16 What were the first names of shop founders Fortnum & Mason?
17 John Shepherd-Barron invented which common high street convenience?
18 Who was the father of Alfred the Great?
19 Which whale is believed to have the lowest reproductive rate of any mammal, the female of the species bearing a calf on average once every ten years?
20 Who was the title subject of John Cornwell's 1999 non-fiction book, Hitler's Pope?
21 The infamous murder victim, Roberto Calvi, was chairman of which bank when it collapsed?
22 Which shrub, with red leaf-like bracts and small greenish-yellow flowerheads, is named after the first US minister to Mexico, where he is said to have found it in 1828?
23 A 300m tall HQ for Gazprom Neft, whose construction may risk St Petersburg's World Heritage Site status, is due to be built next to which 18th century cathedral?
24 What is Russia's largest bank called?
25 Which London-born, US-based man, often called "the world's greatest typographer", designed the print face Bell Centennial for AT&T's phone directories in the 70s, as well as the Verdana font for Microsoft and the 1997 typeface Miller, as seen in such newspapers as The Guardian?
26 Named from the gymnasts of the opening scene, which 1972 Tom Stoppard play concerns a professor of ethics who struggles to cope with a variety of misfortunes, from the death of his pet hare to having to deal with the body of a dead politician?
27 Before being shortened and renamed, which consumer electronics company was called the Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha, meaning "Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation"?
28 Which 1995 Norwegian novel, subtitled A Novel about the History of Philosophy, sees a philosopher guide an eponymous 14-year-old girl through a tour of Western philosophy after leaving two questions in her letterbox: "Who are you?" and "Where does the world come from"?
29 Which Antonia Fraser creation, a TV reporter, first appeared in the 1977 novel Quiet as a Nun?
30 Which Spanish king gave Real Madrid its royal blessing in 1920?





Answers to BH121
1 Sebastiano Serlio 2 Peter Schaufuss 3 Piscis Austrinus 4 Three points 5 Lysippus or Lysippos 6 Gollum 7 Indochina 8 The Curragh (Curragh mutiny) 9 Okinawa 10 Bulgaria 11 Nebbish 12 Russia 13 Riom 14 Pierre Poujade (as in Poujadists) 15 Arte Povera 16 William and Hugh 17 ATM or cash machine 18 King Ethelwulf 19 Sperm whale 20 Pius XII 21 Banco Ambrosiano 22 Poinsettia (as in Joel R Poinsett) 23 Smolny Cathedral 24 Sberbank 25 Matthew Carter 26 Jumpers 27 Sony 28 Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder 29 Jemima Shore 30 Alfonso XIII