Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Northants in My Pants

First GP of the Year

Saturday saw the quizzing regulars get back into the competitive saddle after the Xmas break. I didn't hang around long and scarpered with my ranking points before lunch was taken, but was certainly glad I made the quick trip to Northampton, especially when I knew it was my President's Cup team-mate Nic was setting the questions in his perpetually interesting and entertaining way.

So it was only the individuals. Stainer and I got down to business to be confronted by questions that seemed markedly harder than years gone by. But though I may let out a plaintive moan at such a turn in events, I knew everyone else would be running into similar obstacles and I do love a good question that I don't know. In the end, we only want to chip away at the gigantic rockface of our ignorance, and such a set helped us do so.

But what is incredibly frustrating is when my brain ceases to function and the easy questions seem to metamorphosise in my brain and become a jumble of words that my cerebral cortex is unable to process properly. The result is me scribbling illogical cack in the answer boxes. I mean, of course that was Camilla Parker-Bowles, of course a scalene triangle has no equal sides and, of course, Algeria is bordered by all those countries. Then there were the ones where I knew, but not well enough to spell them: writing "Petracova" when I meant Petra Nemcova. The same going for "Bradley Whitter" and Bradley Whitford. Darn it twice and thrice. I was lacking clarity in the morning and it cost me little by little, until all the littles combined to create an avalanche of "WHAT WAS I DOING?" during the marking process.

Sure, I got a lot of tricky ones, but it is the straightforward ones that banjaxed on the day. That's great when you have a sentient and alert team working as your safety net, not when you're on your lonesome. I think my SHK count added up to a miserable 27 lost points. Anything more than 15 for me now is a disaster. I have excuses ready, but one rises above all else: January, miserable January when I retreat into a television and internet-encased cocoon and begin to experiment with my sleep patterns in ways that do me no good. My susceptibility to irritability is never as strong as it is during this cursed month of darkness and wet. Please come sweet spring, and at least bring me more sun rays (not that I am enjoying the amount of daylight as it is; I always seem to miss it by a few hours, which means I probably entering full vampire mode).

You're lucky I seem to have misplaced my question paper because if it was lying by my side right now I would list every appalling error and cataclysmic omission right here, right now and rub them in each of our faces as if they were the ashes of oppurtunities well and truly incinerated and gone. So consider yourself spared from an even more detailed and pointless post-mortem (which I secretly love in a way).

However - typical loss of the sense of perspective there - fifth ain't bad at all and there was one victorious crumb of comfort: I was the only person in the entire competition to correctly identify Rodolphe Topffer, the Swiss comics pioneer. Okay, make that an infintesimal crumb that will be taken by the wind in swift fashion. But still, I got me a crumb. Look at my crumb; my singular crumb. I'll stop using the word "crumb" now (brilliant documentary btw: watch it and be both disturbed and delighted).

Results are here

Audition: Not the Piano Wire Kind
I have my Mastermind audition at the Doughnut today (they rejected my wanting to do the original Star Wars trilogy for one of my specialised subjects straight away. Oh well. It just means actual work in learning stuff in detail comes more into play) Do you think they'll let me on?

NB: Bayley has informed me that he too is going for the black chair this series. Game on, I say. Prepare for months of idiotic digs, hugely gamesmanship and total silliness as we hope and pray that we aren't drawn together in the very first round. May we both get fair and balanced general knowledge rounds.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Cup and League Updates

(Hey. The Blockbuster is still open for business. Give it a whirl. Go on.)

Gratuitous promotion over: Alas, our 100 per cent record in the President's Cup came to an end on Sunday. But the good news is we drew with our closest arrivals - those chaps from the Mastermind Club - and still retain a three-point cushion. We remain unbeaten.

Let's just hope it's not the kind of phantom cushion that disappears after two matches and a helluva lot of grating, insipid mistakes. I'll just stop thinking about Kevin Keegan and making emotional outbursts beginning with the words: "I will love it ..." right about ... now.

Playing at home, but not by The Castle's clattering kitchen and squeaky toilet door, as is the two-year-old tradition, we set up shop by the front and mercifully found no reason to complain about intrusive noise of the coffee machine or boisterous groups drinking their Sunday afternoons away. And indeed, I am thankful for the draw because we shipped a six-point deficit in the first round. Slowly but surely we recovered to level pegging by round seven and the scores stayed that way.

Coming down to the last question, I got my new Bruce Springsteen album question (it's Magic) ... just like that, for two points. Paul, my opposing number four correctly identified the murdered missionary John Birch and so heaving sighs of relief all round. The final score was 45-45, which is very respectable by President's Cup standards. Ooh. Though I remember when a draw was a welcome balm for our constant, deflating run of losses and mild idiocy. Cruel days that seemed so much greyer. (Friendly questions after QLL stuff)

Back to the League
Things change. Hairstyles change. Clothes change. Question sets change. Guffaw-inducing gimmes increase in regularity (Shergar!) and points totals for league matches add up to more than a hundred, making matches that were once forgone conclusions into nail-biting showdowns verging on the lottery status. No doubt, with the onus on more palatable question content, things are more exciting and, most definitely, tense (as in, I am not enjoying this. It's TOO CLOSE!). The competitiveness is a good thing and keeps a very healthy number of teams on their toes and in contention for the top spot.

However, we do need more challenging subject material. Think of us elitists! We're human beings too. Our idea of real fun is getting the difficult stuff, sad people that we be. Take that away and we lose interest. It is inevitable. You don't get a surge of endorphins on answering In It To Win It fodder do you? Unless, of course, you are on the actual show, with good old orangey Dale making smoothly inane comments over your shoulder, and have just won £30,000 thanks to answering one question on the capital of Scotland from the three choices: "Edinburgh"/"London"/"Your Mum". Now that is Endorphin City.

Chestnuts are needed, but I'm saying this despite our riding high at the top of the league, you do wonder why a team as exalted as the Allsorts have struggled to find the fluency and therefore supremacy this season that has marked their form over the whole time the BHs have been battling away in the QLL. Truth is, the sort of difficult stuff Kevin and Gavin thrive on, and which their many opponents certainly do not, has mostly gone the way of all flesh. It is not as if they have each sustained some massive, memory-destroying brain injury during the off-season. Their prowess remains as great as ever (even if Gavin did make us laugh like deranged hyenas with his "Gordian knot" answer on Sunday). But if you move the goalposts, someone's going to get screwed. Wait that metaphor didn't quite come out right...

Yet having said that Ladies and Gentlemen - and started to bitch about something that, in all honesty, amounts to little more than a miniscule M&S Simply Food trifle - it seems we have a new bogie team (formerly Chester Army) in our midst. Their name is Aldersgate and once again things went down to the wire. I was a slip of the tongue away from letting them do the double over us, but it seems my stern yet increasingly comedic hatred of motorways does not prevent me from getting crucial two-pointers on Twyford Down (yes, more pressure on the last question, though this time I was in the position that Paul was in on Sunday).

The result was a 51-51 draw. They held their nerve impressively and we almost completely fluffed our chances (but then I would say that). So many congratulations to their being the only team in the whole of Division 1 that will remain unbeaten against us during the 2007-8 season. Obviously, we will be forming busy action committees and constructing intricately detailed plans, in amongst all the gruesome self-flagellating that comes with reflecting on such a thing coming to pass, to counter their threat when we next clash in the league. Which will probably be at least nine months' time. Wow. Much time. Someone could conceive and bring a child into this world in that time. Any takers? Go on, it'll be a larfffffff.

Unfinished P-Cup Friendly
Stupidly, my President's Cup friendly came out malformed and incomplete. For some strange reason I thought I'd see if I could write it in an hour. Fool that I am, I never quite realised how long I spend on them. The actual amount of time may be days, going by the flimsy five-round effort I knocked out in a bit over sixty minutes.

Here's the unworthy stump of a thingummybob that I went with anyway (I then added on three challenging round eights from various Southport & Formby sets I picked in a panicked, I must be off to the pub right now fashion).

President's Cup Meh

Round 1
1a Which sport features in the 2003 Michael Lewis book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game?
1b Eleanor of Provence was the consort of which English king?
2a Which company produced a special car model called the Century Royal for the Japanese Imperial Household?
2b Which sport features in the 2006 Michael Lewis book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game?*
3a Elizabeth Woodville was the consort of which English king?
3b What is the most common name in China?
4a What is the most common surname used in Spain?*
4b Which company presented a limited edition of two cars, called the State Limousine, to act as state cars for the British royal household in 2002?*

Round 2
1a In which year of the early 18th century was the Battle of Oudenarde fought?
1b Which BAFTA-nominated film, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as prospector Daniel Plainview, is based on the Upton Sinclair novel Oil!?
2a Horace Wells pioneered the use of what anaesthetic in the US in 1844?
2b Starring Javier Bardem as the murderous Anton Chigurh, the BAFA-nominated film No Country for Old Men is adapted from whose novel of the same name?
3a Which member of the 1994 Brazilian World Cup-winning team was born Jose Roberto Gama de Oliveira?
3b In 1952, Charles Hufnagel made what inventive contribution to cardiology?
4a Which member of the Brazil's 1970 World Cup-winning team was born Eduardo Goncalves de Andrade?
4b In which year of the early 18th century was the Battle of Ramilies fought?

Round 3
1a Knocked out in the third round of the Australian Open, which 35-year-old French tennis player now holds the record in Grand Slam event singles appearances ?
1b Which American player's record of 61 appearances did Santoro break at this year's Australian Open?
2a Cyberia was the first ever type of which kind of informal restaurant?
2b The Dalasi is the currency of which country in western Africa?*
3a The Loti is the currency of which landlocked African country?*
3b Where will you find the Maxwell gap and the Keeler gap?
4a Which planet's name is translated literally as the "sea king star" in the Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese languages?
4b The Osborne I was the first example of which kind of computer?*

Round 4
1a Who directed the films It's a Wonderful Life and Mr Smith Goes to Washington?
1b Which BBC sitcom used Cricket House, Cricket St Thomas, Somerset for exterior shots?
2a Which 19th composer's works include the operas Dalibor, Libuse and The Devil's Wall?
2b Which British Prime Minister died in August 1827, shortly after taking office on April 10, 1827?
3a Which familiarly named Whig Prime Minister presided over the 1832 Reform Act and the abolition of the slave trade throughout the British Empire?
3b Who directed Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday and Red River?
4a Which BBC sitcom used exterior shots filmed at Wooburn Grange, Bourne End, Buckinghamshire?*
4b Which 19th century composer's works include the eight-movement piece for solo piano entitled the Kreisleriana and a musical adaptation of Byron's dramatic poem Manfred?

Round 5
1a What does the Swiss company Lindt & Sprungli famously manufacture?
1b Which character in Lord of the Rings rode the horses Hasufel and Roheryn?
2a What does the Swiss company Tissot famously manufacture?
2b What colloquial term for someone working in espionage once designated a Yale senior or secret society member?
3a What is the more straightforward title of the BBC show Spooks in the US?*
3b In the Discworld novels, which character rides a horse called Binky?
4a What is the largest city in Switzerland?
4b What is the largest city of the People's Republic of China?

I didn't get that far did I? Duh. To me.

God, that was so boring I almost cried whilst italicising the names. The lesson learned here, kids, is to take your time and not get up at hours that make you feel and look like a dissolute tramp, who then finds he has to do a Linford Christie up the hill (no, I don't mean take performance-enhancing drugs before I start quizzing). Then you won't write such stultifying and predictable questions. The Sorry End.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

At Bloody Last...

... I've gone and put in my Mastermind application. I wouldn't have if it wasn't for this odd Saturday night boredom, which is now forcing me to watch pirated films on the evil interwebthing. Coercing me into law breakage. Bad bad boredom. Naughty boredom, in your bed! Sweeney Todd, if you be asking. That Johnny Depp fella ... he isn't actually singing is he? Cockney melodic murmur-moaning more like.

Remember: THE BLOCKBUSTER (see below, if you haven't. But, of course, you have! I giggle now)

It'll be quite bare here until it is all done, along with my other quiz project and other pressing business. So if you want some trivia action - of the 502 question variety - you know what to do (go somewhere else and completely ignore the constant, desperate entreaties to enter into a consumer relationship with me, obviously).

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

One Big Push for The Blockbuster

It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp, er, I Mean, Quiz-Setter

(Not very subliminal message: please e-mail theblockbusterquiz@gmail.com and ask kindly if you could possibly purchase a copy of the said quiz for your fantastic enjoyment. Message over.)

Yep, the time has come at last for me to sell, shill or what have you to my dear potential customers - ye reader you - my latest big quiz on this blog, having been hard at work on my other loadsofquizquestions-related project - and I mean bloody hard, so hard my eyes are doing raw cartwheels of stripped pain in my head, as my elbows and fingers creak under the tappety-tappety stress of keyboard business and my brain asks me for a wee little recuperation to prevent complete central nervous system collapse. Instead, I douse it in caffeine and sugar and say "On and on, we're almost there. Just 50 hours more good old fashioned, up the chimneys and down the pits toil, and we might be in a decent position to start thinking about the next phase. Chin up. You neurons you".

Not that I literally talk to my brain; I just give it subtle and not-so subtle non-verbal hints that something must be finished (just like the new year books resolution ... I am trying on that front. I really am).

Obviously, I will reveal all after I have got round to doing this: The Die Hard Die Harder Sell

I have a new huge do-at-home quiz consisting of 502 general knowledge questions. I thought about calling it The Leviathan or The Mighty Supergiant, but I thought nah, they're a bit silly; let's go with The Blockbuster. No idea why. It just seemed the right thing to do at the time.

Taking into customer feedback from The Behemoth, I have slimmed down the question lengths resulting in 1400 less words, but a whole lot less brain ache.

Remember, it's still 502 questions. The time limit is 195 minutes or 3 hours and 15 minutes, unless your first language is not English. Then you can have another half hour to use dictionaries to translate.

So you're thinking what if it's a load of absolute rubbish? Why waste 195 minutes of my life when I could be watching The Godfather PART THREE!. Well, I would sharply disagree with you. The following people, men of wholesome and trustworthy character it is believed, would do likewise...

Testimonials from My Testers
If Rob doesn't mind me pilfering his feedback with indecent haste, here's a new Blockbuster testimonial hot off the presses: "Thanks for another great quiz. I've not really got anything to say as I thought the quiz was almost perfect."

Pat Gibson, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Jackpot winner, World Quizzing Champion 2007: "I enjoyed the Blockbuster set very, very much - hundreds of interesting questions to wrestle with. The time limit is a factor but not as severe as on the Behemoth - your reduced word count has made a difference"

Steven De Ceuster, Founder and President of the Flemish Quiz Ranking, IQA Director Western Europe: "I found the time to take your Blockbuster quiz and it was time well spent. Interesting questions and I had the impression a little bit easier than last time. A great way to spend an evening."

Chris Jones, Director of Quizzing.co.uk and IQA: "Once again I really enjoyed the quiz. There were a number in there which, once I'd ferreted out the answer (or, rather, what I hope is the answer), I was left with a small glow of satisfaction. Class!"

How to enter
You enter by e-mailing theblockbusterquiz@gmail.com. I will acknowledge receipt of your e-mail as soon as possible.

I will then give you details on how to pay along with a snail mail address for cheques (and eventually, postal entries) - Paypal, cheque, even cash if you dare - and put you down on the participant list. You can enter any time as long as it is before the deadline date for the return of your completed answer sheets.

CRUCIAL UPDATE: Myron is right. I did leave out the pricing bit. The price is £7.50/$14/11 euros for a copy of The Blockbuster. Same price for The Behemoth if you missed out on that. £3 each for my first and second big quizzes: The Monster and The Colossus.

Once your payment (though I will go on trust for everyone, such as previous participants, I personally know and e-mail them the quiz ASAP) has been received, the quiz will then be e-mailed to you and you can return your answers any time before the deadline - Wednesday, February 6 (11.59pm to be precise) by snail mail or e-mail.

Within the week of the deadline - February 14 - the answers and any errors in the questions or helpful additional information competitors have pointed out and would like to share with everyone, will then be sent to every competitor by old fashioned snail mail (the postage cost will be taken out of £7.50 fee, though foreign competitors will receive such sheets grouped together where possible since they will pay less to take part). They will NOT be e-mailed out.

Every payee receive the answers
Again, everyone will receive the answers even if they do not submit a completed sheet - you have paid an entrance fee; therefore you get the full package. Yet again the bonus for taking part and doing all of the above in the recommended fashion, participants will also receive one of three originally-set 100-question quizzes, designated by the imaginative names A, B and C in the post with the answer set. You can purchase the other two bonus quizzes you have not have receied after the deadline date for £1.50 each if you so wish.

However, if Blockbuster participants happen to have done the paper before the Northampton Quizzing Grand Prix and brought it along they will receive the answers and their random bonus quiz on the day since I will be in attendance on January 26. A small reward for punctuality, if you will. Quiz League of London players can also expect to receive the aforementioned papers, hand-delivered by myself, should I be playing them towards the end of this month.

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

And please, if there are people out there who have still not got the answers for The Behemoth and a copy of an ABC quiz then please tell me ASAP and I will mail them straight away. Many apologies if I have forgotten you.

The prizes remain the same. Apart from the chance of competing against and comparing yourself with the likes of such quiz gods as "Egghead" Kevin Ashman and "World Quizzing Champion" Pat Gibson in a massive quiz from the comfort of your own home and winning the wondrous respect of your peers, the premier primo prize - since cash awards are not viable when I must rely on the honesty of competitors doing it at home where they can access the internet, reference books and their loved ones for the stuff that is teetering on the top of their tongue - is that the overall winner will receive a refund of their entrance fee and free entry into the next quiz.

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

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

25 Sample Questions from the last quiz: The Behemoth (answers at the bottom)
1. Townsend Investigations was the name of the detective agency, whose employees were taken away from the "hazardous duties" of police work by its eponymous founder, in which TV series that ran from 1977 to 1982?
2. Having emigrated to the US in 1894, the Japanese chemist Jokichi Takamine isolated which hormone from animal glands, thus becoming the first scientist to accomplish this for a glandular hormone?
3. Which Greek god, born on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia to Maia, gives his name to the art of interpreting hidden meaning or the study of the theories of the interpretation and understanding of texts?
4. In the name of the South Korean chaebol or electronics and petrochemicals conglomerate, what does the LG in LG Group stand for?
5. BoKlok, translated as "live smart" and pronounced "book look", is the name given to which company's range of readymade homes?
6. Italo Marcioni invented which edible food holders in 1904?
7. Fraxinus is the name of the genus of tree, which provides the wood for most baseball bats. What is its common name?
8. The 2006 novel Cell is the latest from which horror writer?
9. The late Johann Holzel, a one-time Austrian classical music prodigy, is better known by what single-word stage name with which he had a 1986 US no. 1 with Rock Me Amadeus?
10. At which 202BC battle did the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio defeat Hannibal's Carthaginian forces and earn himself the honorary surname Africanus?
11. Kongo Gumi, the world's oldest continuously operating family business, closed in 2006 having constructed what type of buildings in Japan since 578AD?
12. Sandor Posta, Odon Tersztyansky, Endre Kabos, Rudolf Karpati and Tibor Pezsa were among the nine Hungarians who won which men's fencing event at every Olympics from 1924 to 1964?
13. Which Argentine composer and guitarist, the main organiser of the Bajofondo Tango Club, a musical collective that links tango to modern dance and electronic music, has won two Oscars for his work scoring the films Brokeback Mountain and Babel?
14. Known for its MP5 submachine gun, high precision PSG1 sniper rifle and USP handgun series, which German weapons manufacturing company takes its name from the surnames of the two men - Edmund and Theodor - who founded it in 1949?
15. The film that made him a star across Asia, which 1971 martial arts film starred Bruce Lee as Cheng, a Chinese man from Guangdong who goes to work in an ice-house along with his cousins, only to find it is a front for drug smuggling?
16. Known for its triangular shape and a spelling partly based on the Italian word for a kind of nougat, the name of which chocolate bar was devised in 1908 by production company co-founder Emil Baumann and was patented the next year?
17. Founded in a merger in 1994 by television production companies owned by the two men whose surnames combine to give it its title, which Netherlands-based company has been responsible for such worldwide TV hits as Big Brother, Deal or No Deal, Fear Factor and International King of Sports?
18. Nicknamed "Slava", which Baku-born cellist and dissident recently died after celebrating his 80th birthday and was also renowned for a 29-year teaching career at the Moscow Conservatoire in his "Class 19"?
19. The Lincoln County Process used to make what?
20. Developed by Swiss engineer Karl Muller in 1990, MBT trainers have curved soles that promote some instability and encourage a rolling front-to-back action meant to mimic the walking stride of which East African tribe? (Clue: It is denoted by the M in the acronym MBT)
21. Johnny Cash's cover of the song Hurt was his greatest success in the final stages of his career. Written by Trent Reznor, which hard rock group originally released it?
22. Sharing his surname with the capital of a Commonwealth in the United States, which rugby league legend retired in 1970 and became the landlord of The Griffin, a pub located close to his old club Wigan's ground?
23. As applied to Mohandas K. Gandhi, which Hindu term for a person of special holiness means "Great Soul" in Sanskrit?
24. Set in 2002 at a time of 8 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes and 2 seconds, the record for which 1,150-mile long race is held by Martin Buser?
25 Which hydrocarbon compounds have a single carbon-carbon bond and form an homologous series whose first members are methane (the simplest possible such compound and the parent moelcule), ethane, propane and butane?

Remember the E-mail Entry Address & the Deadline!
Just one more time for an increasingly annoying effect, e-mail: theblockbusterquiz@gmail.com and get your answers in by 11.59pm, Wednesday, February 6.

Final Note
But I must remind you in tiresome but vital fashion: Please do not go over the time limit or CHEAT by looking anything up no matter how strong the temptation is. It is utterly unfair on the people who have respected the stated rules in good faith. Please keep yourself honest, or as much as you can be.



Answers to sample Behemoth questions
1 Charlie's Angels 2 Adrenaline 3 Hermes (as in Hermeneutics) 4 Lucky Goldstar 5 IKEA 6 Ice cream cones 7 Ash 8 Stephen King 9 Falco 10 Zama 11 Temples 12 Sabre 13 Gustavo Santaolalla 14 Heckler & Koch 15 The Big Boss 16 Toblerone 17 Endemol 18 Mtislav Rostropovitch 19 Bourbon whiskey or Jack Daniel's 20 Masai 21 Nine Inch Nails 22 Billy Boston 23 Mahatma 24 Iditarod dog sled race 25 Alkanes

(Do the quiz. You gotta help me out! Please, I'm thirty grand in the hole. They're going to take my thumbs!!)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

BH148: New Edition Something Bell Biv Devoe Reference


THE SALES! THE AWFUL WONDERFUL SALES! I have so far resisted storming into HMV and Fopp with a stolen Tesco shopping trolley ready to be filled to the sickening brim with DVDCDBOOKs whilst wearing a gibbering, rabid facial expression of buy! buy! buy! I must! I must! Buy more cheap Ingmar Bergman movies!, and have successfully swerved violently away at the last minute on at least half a dozen occasions from New and Old Bond Street fancy shops selling clothes I will only be too happy to wear once and then realise why they were so heavily discounted. Because they are basically fancy dan crap no sane man should buy.

Hooray for me. I have learned. Sort of.

But then there is Sussex Stationers in my hometown. It's great because the discounts are so murderous you feel compelled to buy yet another reference work - the books that cost a pricey bollock in most other places - the moment you step on the pleasant, Mogadon-steamed premises. Because I only ever buy my new encyclopaedias, review compendiums, travel guides and other fact-lodes from the aforementioned shop. The price is always so right. And you can get dirty-cheap fiction paperbacks anywhere these days (ugh, Tesco ... yeah, I'll just get me a Pepperami Hot and The Tenderness of Wolves. They cost about the same).

Therefore it was no surprise that I picked up a half price copy of this year's Pears' Cyclopaedia ("The Original Miscellany since 1897" it proclaims in gold lettering on the cover as if to say to Ben Schott: "Up yours you toddler and then some sonny-jim! We will live forever and everyone will hate you to death soon enough!') and the fourth edition of Trevor Montague's A to Z of almost Everything (ooh, it's covered in volcanic lava tones this time. Fiery). I've got the other three so I thought what the hell. Get another one. Couldn't stop myself. A mere 15 quid. Therefore, in honour of this further addition to my bulging reference work arsenal, here's 40 questions I mentally sucked from its pages. Laters ...

Montague's Supply
1 Which major European capital city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1531?
2 "His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, however and called himself Sam" is the first line of which Roger Zelazny book?
3 Which Peter Carey novel ends: "Affectionately inscribed to Percival Clarence Buckle, A man of letters, A patron of the arts"?
4 Which monarch founded the Westminster public school?
5 2012 will be the Chinese Year of what?
6 What is the English name of the constellation Grus?
7 Which 20th century art movement had offshoots called Facet, Analytical and Synthetic?
8 What two-word French term describes a large covered entrance for vehicles leading into a courtyard?
9 In which field are the Austrian, Hans Hollein, the Italian, Aldo Rossi and Portugal's Alvaro Siza award-winning names?
10 In which country did General Kassem stage a successful coup in 1958?
11 When is the feast day of St Peter?
12 In which sport might a competitor employ an "Irish whip"?
13 In American football, what four-letter term describes putting the ball into play on the ground by a quick backward movement?
14 Which national side became the first European Champions in 1960, beating Yugoslavia 2-1 in Paris?
15 The Libandia, consisting of the House of Assembly (65 members) and Senate (30 members), is the parliament of which country?
16 Which wader has varieties called the ringed (Charadrius hiaticula) and the golden (Pluvialis apricaria)?
17 Who was the mother of the Dioscuri, the sons of Zeus?
18 Which musical features the songs June is Busting Out All Over, If I Loved You and Mister Snow?
19 Whose Symphony No. 9 in C major is nicknamed "Heavenly Length"?
20 Which Mendelssohn opera, first performed in Berlin in 1827 and with a libretto by F Voight, is based on an episode in Don Quixote?
21 At which August 19, 1099 battle of the First Crusade did Godfrey of Bouillon's crusaders defeat the Saracens under Kilidj Arslan?
22 Didi and Gogo are alternative names for which theatrical characters?
23 What are Pushkin's plays, Mozart and Salieri, The Covetous Knight, The Stone Guest and The Feast during the Plague, collectively called?
24 Which man's name means "defender of men"?
25 The ITT Scandal broke in 1972 when a plan to nationalise which country's telephone company was sabotaged with the aid of the CIA?
26 Which conflict did Frederick the Great instigate in 1778 by invading Bohemia?
27 The 1573 Peace of Constantinople ended the war between the Turks and which Italian city?
28 Who became Duke of Apulia and Sicily in 1059 by the Treaty of Melfi, swearing fealty to the Papacy in the process?
29 What was the first name of the late actor Oliver Reed?
30 Who wrote the poem The Old Ships?
31 Who had a November-December 1962 UK no.1 with Lovesick Blues?
32 Jumala was the supreme god of which people's mythology?
33 In Egyptian myth, what was the primeval ocean of chaos that existed before the first gods?
34 Who were Urdr, Verdandi and Skuld?
35 By what name is the Australian sword lily otherwise known?
36 Also known as Omon, which elite paramilitary police force was formed by the Soviet Interior Ministry in 1987 and had a reputation for ruthlessness, especially in the Baltic states?
37 "Alfaro Viva Carajo!", meaning "Alfaro Lives, Dammit!" - a left-wing nationalist guerilla group - were named in honour of an early 20th century president of which country?
38 Who is the patron saint of cancer victims?
39 Leicester (1906-18) was the first constituency of which Prime Minister, his last being Scottish Universities?
40 Which Jamaican sprinter is the current female 200m Olympic champion?






Answers to BH148
1 Lisbon 2 Lord of Light 3 Jack Maggs 4 Elizabeth I 5 Dragon 6 Crane 7 Cubism 8 Porte-cochere 9 Architecture 10 Iraq 11 June 29th 12 Wrestling 13 Snap 14 USSR 15 Swaziland 16 Plover 17 Leda 18 Carousel 19 Schubert 20 The Wedding of the Camacho 21 Ascalon/Ashqelon 22 Vladimir & Estragon 23 "Little Tragedies" 24 Alexander 25 Chile 26 War of Bavarian Succession 27 Venice 28 Robert Guiscard 29 Robert 30 James Elroy Flecker 31 Frank Ifield 32 Finland 33 Nun 34 Norns, Norse goddesses of destiny (past, present and future) 35 Kangaroo paw 36 Black Berets 37 Ecuador 38 Peregrine Laziosi 39 Ramsay MacDonald 40 Veronica Campbell

Thursday, January 10, 2008

No Lo Se

January Is Happening To Me Again

Lo siento, it's been one of those weeks spent drifting in the bewildersphere, suffering from messed-up sleep patterns and the all too common thought that my hair may be getting a bit too silly. I am also ashamed to say that I spent Wednesday watching the entire 13-episode run of Journeyman ("Quantum Leap meets The Time Traveller's Wife", and I ain't the first to say so) and learning Spanish because of the Tu.tv subtitles on so many eps. I say "entire" because it has been cancelled in everything but name, with NBC preferring to stick with their far more fun franchises Chuck and Life (both of which, as you know, I also watched in obsessive day or two-day long bursts: a growing and worrying addiction so symptomatic of the modern age, it is quite unbelievable, innit). It also helps that they've received markedly better ratings too. Bloody popularity contest.

And that's a great goddamn shame, because Journeyman had real potential to be affecting, poignant, fun and questioning about the implications of all this time travelling lark, even if it had the disconcerting sight of Tommy from Trainspotting in the lead Yankee-fied role. Kevin McKidd being a tad too albino for my liking.

So, another great US series dies young, but that is, as we have learned so many times before, the way of the cuthroat American TV world. Don't it get your hackles up? Oooh. Makes me mad this way of the world stuff. Madder than a cat in a fairy costume.

Next up, possibly Pushing Daisies. Or a full day of real life. I dunno. It's quite a dilemma.

League of Very Ordinary Gentlemen
Dang. We lost to Allsorts. How did this happen? There was a twist in the tale. In Round 7, it all went awry, with a 10-4 reverse in the former champions' direction. Kevin has commented that we - BHs - are "quite frightening" in an interview with Steve Kidd because we have the ability to replenish our ranks with first class quizzers without a problem, much like the Borg or the agents in The Matrix or the Myrmidons or something or someone else entirely with the same apparently terrifying ability of easy regeneration. (On the other hand, he could be saying this because we do have a BH duty rota in which each team member is assigned to go around Kevin's house every week and hang outside and intimidate him into relative quiz mediocrity with the threat of hammers and harsh language. It had done the trick in the league before, but no so now. We may have to use other psychological means).

But we were never going to be frightening on the current kind of QLL questions: designed for high-scoring and well-matched games rather than divining the kind of knowledge only one person in the match may know (usually Kevin).

I'll leave it to Jesse, without asking for his permission to reprint his team e-mail, to sum up the game:

"I'm sorry to announce our second defeat of the season last night against a resurgent Allsorts team. All was going fairly well in the first half of the game, with Broken Hearts maintaining a slim but consistent lead up until Round 6. Round 6 saw the lead eaten away slightly (sorry, I don't have the sheet with me so can't provide exact figures) but with Allsorts scoring 10 in Round 7 it proved impossible to return, with Round 8 deadlocked on 6-6. In the end Allsorts won 53-49, which was particularly disappointing given our earlier lead. Individual scores were TQG with 18, Mark with 9, Ian with 6 and myself with 16. Thanks to all who suffered and Jenny for reading.

This will make the remainder of the season relatively tight, particularly if the chasing teams do not slip up. Ideal for us would be if rival teams start recording defeats in the coming weeks but our fate is still in our hands and I would like to try not to lose or draw any further games this season."

And dang again, I knew I should have said "Comet" on my last question. I woulda got 20 for the first time in a long time in QLL. Instead, I gave Jesse a bonus point. A bonus point, I tells ya! This will not do (well, if he's going to make vocal statements about scoring more than me in the friendly, well then, well well well).

Monday, January 07, 2008

Unfinished Business: My One Sincere New Year's Resolution

Those That Sit And Wait

Reading Habits Gone To Seed
The last year was a fiction drought. Despicable behaviour on my part. A ravaging slight I have inflicted on my own character and intellect. Sad weakness riven through me. I started and finished one novel - Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino and that was that, and that was only because it was read in a sitting aligned perfectly in time with one train trip from L'A to London. If more than 105 minutes was required I might not have even read all of that. It would have been dropped without a single care into the literary scrapyard that has consumed my room. My attention span needs some serious fixing. Or a serious slap-a-thon.

It wasn't much better on the non-fiction front either: Bill Buford's magnificent cook memoir Heat, The Game - the pick-up artist's War and Peace - by Neil Strauss and Agnes Poirier's Touche: her "look at these crazy Engleesh; look at my crazy fellow Frenchies" polemic, was the sum of my other reading. A deeply pathetic effort further compounded by the shame I felt whenever I scanned my bookshelves back home this Yuletide and realised the fantastic amount of books I had read over the previous four years.

Now I just seem to buy books in robotic fashion and stack them as if they were mere objets d'art to gaze at and savour with my eyes and not things to be taken in hand and read and, perhaps even cherished, if I was fortunate to come into possession of a book that would instantly take my heart and my mind in either arm, and cradle or shake me ... obviously, in the most satisfying way possible.

Yet they do make a lovely backdrop for a book geek photo-pose. Backed by a towering terracotta army of paperbacks. Standing in front of them with misguided pride. And even when I started one whilst partaking of the public transport - a Giant Step in itself (ooh, look it's thelondonpaper! GRAB IT. MELT MY WITS TO MUSH, PLEASE) - having secreted one in my perfectly proportioned inside pocket, I would often return home having zipped through 30 or 40 pages and deposited them willy nilly in THAT scrapyard heap of countless lost words yet again and promptly forgot about them: just another of many unfulfilling flings with the proper printed page.

One more book in the unfinished piles. Piles being a fitting anatomical adjective in this case; the growing irritation of it all. Another failed attempt to get back into the literary groove. (But funny how it is always the fiction that gets dumped more easily than the journalistic books drawn from real life. Why is that? But when Fine Litooratwo-er gets its hooks into me, it often becomes an overwhelming, almost never-ending obsession. I eat up as much of the stuff as I can in as quick a time as possible. Reading five books a week was my average once. Crazy, yes. But bloody fantastic. My brain had never felt so nourished, so alive. I had never felt so intellectually poncified. Delusions of my own writerly grandeur was another symptom of this habit)

Things and thoughts came to a head. Therefore, a few days ago I swore it was time to do something about it. Once and for all!

I have a sizeable tally of books I have started that must be finished. I must complete the mission; every mission. This is my only New Year's Resolution. One I intend to take seriously.

The mission is this: I will read every one of the books I have embarked upon, and I will not begin or buy any books until this task has been completed; that's right - no new beginnings, no wandering into my local Oxfam and picking up another dozen dirt cheap novels (my God, I once went doolally wild on Elias Canetti autobiographies and Gore Vidal essay collections, and have I read more than five pages of any of them? You know the answer. But the LA Oxfam is magnificent for such neglected intellectual treasure troves.) If I can hold my attention still, gripping its arms and crushing them inwards until it is too paralysed to gallivant in any sodding direction while screaming "Where's the laptop? Give me the laptop!", as it seems to do in perpetuum, I know can rest easy in the knowledge that I can see some things through to the end. Things just like this. Some of "The Unfinished" have not been touched for two or even three years. Even if it takes me until the summer months they will all be read.

Do you want to know the exact length of the journey that stretches before me into an obscure future? I did an inventory (list! list! list!). Here are the books with the page numbers I had reached before something happened, something that stopped me in my reading tracks (though there is the fleeting thought that I gave up on them because I thought they were eroding my will to live and boring me senseless. That's a little worrying).

Gravity's Rainbow - Thomas Pynchon (p.378)
In a Free State - VS Naipaul (p.78)
Millions of Women are Waiting to Meet You - Sean Thomas (p.88)
Who Sleeps with Katz - Todd McEwen (p.92)
Henry and June - Anais Nin (p.130)
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman - Laurence Sterne (p.57)
The Periodic Table - Primo Levi (p.138)
Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy (p.396)
The Sound and The Fury - William Faulkner (p.100)
No Place Like Home - Gary Younge (p.94)
Humphrey Clinker - Tobias Smollett (p.105)
Riddley Walker - Russell Hoban (p.10)
Young Adam - Alexander Trocchi (p.23)
Hollywood Babylon - Kenneth Anger (p.56)
Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (p. 21)
London Orbital - Iain Sinclair (p.17)
Beyond a Boundary - CLR James (p.77)
Darkness Visible - William Styron (p.9)
Bonjour Tristesse - Francoise Sagan (p.15)
Let It Come Down - Paul Bowles (p.176)
The Motel Life - Willy Vlautin (p.28)
The Man Who Loved Children - Christina Stead (p.68)
The Cadence of Grass - Thomas McGuane (p.39)
Summer of '49 - David Halberstam (p.52)
Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers - Tom Wolfe (p.24)
The Human Stain - Philip Roth (p.160)
Old Glory - Jonathan Raban (p.452)
The Night Buffalo - Guillermo Arriaga (p.82)
Imperium - Ryszard Kapuscinski (p.37)
Siddhartha - Herman Hesse (p.54)
Zazie in the Metro - Raymond Queneau (p.95)
This I Believe: An A-Z of a Writer's Life - Carlos Fuentes (p.230)
Oscar and Lucinda - Peter Carey (p.60)
The General of the Dead Army - Ismail Kadare (p.44)
London Fields - Martin Amis (p.15)
Saturday Night - Susan Orlean (p.62)
The Heart of the Matter - Graham Greene (p.44)

A small matter of 37 books and a few thousand pages. Let me harbour thoughts of weeping.

So they will be piled high in an obvious location in my room, waiting for their completion. They will stare at me accusingly, hopefully. And I will respond by picking them up one by one and NOT chucking them out of the nearest window.

How will I tackle the time management needed to knock off the bastards? Simple. The regimen is this. Cut off the internet, like it was a gangrenous limb. The world wide web is the Nemean Lion that blocks my path, the technological devourer of my flakey attention. The primary rule being that I will allow myself only one hour in total on the blasted thing for playtime every day, while research and work obviously provide good enough excuses (i.e. the quest for monetary survival) to allow its use for further time-consuming purposes. I've been thinking about the amount of time spent crapping about on the information superhighway; my electronic simulacrum picking and poking at temporarily amusing roadkill again and again. Pondering this, it depresses me thoroughly. Tis time for drastic change.

I might even block my own use of YouTube. Entirely. Watching the same clips repeatedly (Russell Brand, Charlie Brooker, film trailers galore, Filipino felons dancing at gunpoint, safari animal battle royales) is not a good way to spend entire evenings and horrifying, bleeding great chunks of the wee small hours.

Fortuitously, the WGA strike means that new US TV show episodes will come to a shuddering halt in their entirety, so that gives me one reason to stay away from the insidious laptop screen and the streaming of ever distracting new episodes of such surprisingly compulsive new police dramas like Life (Damian "Not Just Another Quirky Hero Detective" Lewis is ace in what is essentially a freakily compulsive, some might say cynical modern take on The Count of Monte Cristo).

Every book completed will be dutifully logged here, so it's gonna get all literary. A capsule review will be posted once each one has been shut and dispatched to the realms of the truly second hand.

But there is far to go. So very far. Call it a mighty test of will. Call it me just trying to write a bloated, superfluous post. In that, I believe, I have already succeeded. Wish me luck, ye sniggering scoundrels all.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

BH147: Epiphanies on Epiphany

The last in my File Series, for now. Apologies if you thought it tedious, but you know what? A change of direction once in a while is always good for the mental faculties. And yes, the questions have to keep moving, like a shark, even if it is a retrograde step. Because we wouldn't want a dead shark on our hands, would we?

Another warning: There may be some unconscious plagiarism from old Fifteen-to-One quiz books (they were very, very good, much like the programme itself ... Channel 4 cancelling buffoons) and bits of Trevor's A-Z, and other staples of the quizzer's quiz book collection. So I don't want you spluttering hey, this sounds familiar. Disgustingly familiar. How dare he pilfer in such a brazen fashion! Burn the plagiarist! BURN HIM!

Yet another warning: You will probably find errors, exacerbated and exaggerated by my tendency to churn out illegible questions in unthinking, industrial amounts long ago. Once again, I implore you to make use of the comments section to make your voice heard and put right what I have typed wrong.

So. Things to say.

The conclusion of this jolly exercise in revision: My God. My Sweet Lord. I wrote so many boring, stultifying questions I am surprised I persevered for years (YEARS!) and wrote so many more in a kind of deranged, blind mania. Talk about the destruction of limitations caused by obsession (because that is what it was, and remains so, albeit in a more level-headed and discerning way). I am surprised I didn't drive myself completely round the bend; if I stood back just to look at them piling up in such astonishing, self-defeating quantity I may have stopped to think (and probably gone on anyway. Because that's the way I am programmed). I mean, all that precious time wasted. Gone. Hundreds of hours (er, that may be an understatement) writing tepid, listy rubbish. When I could have been carrying out a sustained decade long assault on "International and World Knowledge"; the far more satisfying fact motherlode. Or written books of astonishing Nabokovian, Bellovian, Wolffian and Chabonian pastiche (that's where my fiction is heading if truth be told ... a place where I still have not found my own voice and am still shamelessly pillaging my heroes with idiotic flourishes and ambition-sickened prose). Or indulge my New Journalism worship in an utterly tragic fashion (which would have been fun, come to think of it. Mild regret. Though there is still time).

Go with the Flow
A point about obsessive traits. I was reading an article ("Improving Job Performance By Taking Up a Hobby", 16/12/07) in the New York Times supplement of The Observer about hobbies ("[they] can enhance your creativity, help you think more clearly and sharpen your focus") and my heart was gladdened to think that, yes, that quizzing is the hobby I have chosen to take over my life. God. Did I just write that? Oh well. Carol Kauffman, a professor at Harvard Medical School, went on to say that when you are really engaged in a hobby "you love, you lose your sense of time and enter what's called a flow state, and that restores your mind and energy."

In this work mode "you are submerged in an experience, requiring a high level of concentration. Research shows strong correlation between flow states and peak performance". Gulp. Something sounds familiar.

This must have been what happened when I was writing file after file question, secluded in my little mental nook, completely shut off from the world and human contact; stuck in the "flow state" for days on end. Thank the transcendent powers that be, that I, erm, don't do that anymore. Right? But has this hobby actually been good for me? Or has it gone completely beyond that and turned into an essential component of my life, which isn't a bloody hobby at all is it? No, you realise how your emotions have mutated. This is a kind of compulsion that induces a mild sensation of emptiness when I am not engaged in it. Albeit one that provides me with a living of sorts. So, really, I am perfectly happy with it, oh yes sirrreee.

Done with the Bad and Ugly. Now the Good
However, just maybe, I am seeing it all wrong: the constant question writing dosed me up good and proper and kept me fresh, well-drilled and sharper. I worked my mental faculties hard, trained them up to the point where I feel far sharper than I have ever been in my entire life, despite my tendency to eat trash and smoke cancer fumes. But now I realise: I have seen the folly of my veteran quizzer ways with crystal clear quality. I prefer much longer questions; indeed, questions that induce hoots of laughter in those people who try to recall their contents and languid length in public (eh, Jesse and Jen, eh? Eh?). Those are the ones I love, full of crushing material. The kind that makes you stronger mentally. Put quite simply, I've changed. Evolved. I've just realised that is a hideously obvious thing to write, but hey I'm leaving that DEL button well alone.

Having said that, looking at the trivial teasers of old, it's also easy to believe that, yikes, these are exactly the sort of obscure, short and snappy questions that come up in President's Cup. Here's hoping some of these be winning lottery tickets in the game of quiz ...

Final File Quiz
1 Which creatures can be described as murine?
2 Founded by Julius Caesar, what was the Acta Diurna?
3 By what name are or were "circular notes" better known?
4 The telephone codes 0131 and 0141 link which two cities, also linked by the M8?
5 Which country is the largest producer of tobacco in the world?
6 What is the chemical symbol for plutonium?
7 What kind of farm animals are "gilts"?
8 What is the oldest book in the New Testament?
9 Britten, Sullivan, Debussy and Prokofiev all wrote musical works based on which New Testament parable?
10 Taking its title from the Greek for "freedom", what was Samuel Beckett's first play written just before Waiting for Godot in 1947, but which was not granted publishing permission until 1995?
11 Which Czech-born composer wrote the operetta Rose Marie (1916)?
12 Which man instituted and opened London's first public library?
13 What was Elvis Presley's first record?
14 Who was the 19th century Philadelphia bishop proclaimed the first American male saint by Pope Paul VI in 1977?
15 Which screen cowboy was played by William Boyd (b.1898)?
16 What female name originally meant "manifestation of God" in Greek?
17 In Islam, what is an "Irade"?
18 In which Wessex town is Tess of the D'Urbervilles mostly set?
19 Which European explorer "discovered" Fiji in 1643?
20 What is the fur of a polecat called?
21 Long staple, medium staple and short staple are types of what?
22 What did Chinese poets call the "concentrated essence of love"?
23 Who wrote the 1829 prize poem Timbuctoo?
24 What was a prince to a Kaiser called?
25 Which Scottish dukes live at Floors Castle?
26 Which Canadian political scandal toppled Prime Minister John Macdonald's conservative administration?
27 In which musical do the songs If They Could See Me Now, Rhythm of Life and I'm a Brass Band feature?
28 What sort of republic is Brazil?
29 Canonis Descriptia was the work that first introduced which mathematical concept?
30 Who is the composer of The Passing of Beatrice (1892), thought to be the first symphonic poem by a British composer?
31 Where is the University of Abertay?
32 What word disappeared from British coins after 1981?
33 On which bay is Miami located?
34 Which pair wrote the musical Stop the World, I Want to Get Off?
35 What is the capital of the British Virgin Islands?
36 What game is played on a court measuring 18m/59ft long by 9m/29ft 6in wide?
37 What is sphragistics the study of?
38 What is a "spall"?
39 What sort of information does a balloon known as a radiosonde collect?
40 Originally, what was the first or lowest note in Guido d'Arezzo's scale, corresponding to G on the lowest line of the modern bass stave?
41 Who is the premier duke of Scotland?
42 "Rogallo" is a mainly alternative American name for what form of transport?
43 Who painted Rocky Mountains and Tired Indians while teaching in Boulder, Colorado in 1965?
44 Which water monster supposedly inhabits the Okanagan Lake in British Columbia, taking its name from a 1920s music hall song sung by Davy Burnaby?
45 Who first wrote "The pen is mightier than the sword"?
46 In the title of a British novel turned TV series, who was Ruth Patchett?
47 Which king founded St Bart's hospital?
48 Which US philosopher invented "radical empiricism"?
49 Which Wiltshire-born naturalist of poetic persuasion wrote Gamekeeper at Home and The Life of the Fields?
50 What colour is something if it is described as "lake"?
51 In which opera are Peter and Gertrude parents of the two eponymous characters?
52 In fencing, what is the stamping or beating of the foot during a contest?
53 In squash, what is the line above which a served ball must strike the wall?
54 What town in Scottish Borders takes its name from the Celtic for "bare moor"?
55 Which society of 16th century Florentine musicians and poets developed opera?
56 What was the profession of Shakespeare's father?
57 Joseph Hill was famous for making what during the 18th century?
58 With what four-word inscription is the Cenotaph inscribed?
59 In which place did the Lord first appear to Moses?
60 Which senator was Elizabeth Taylor's seventh husband?
61 What title is held by the ruler of Bahrain?
62 In which Dickens novel does the attorney Sampson Brass appear?
63 Which famous poet's body was buried in Hucknall parish church?
64 What is the "Venice of Japan"?
65 Burghley House is in which county?
66 What name is given to the Sunday before Palm Sunday?
67 In which cathedral was Sir Walter Scott married?
68 How is the ring dove otherwise known?
69 Considered the founder of his country's music, whose operas include The Brandenburgers in Bohemia, The Secret of The Kiss and Two Widows?
70 What term describes a painting of the Virgin and Child entwined with saints or angels?
71 Which composer appropriately died on St Cecilia's Day in Westminster Abbey in 1900?
72 What broke out on April 28, 1789?
73 Which martial art has a name meaning "master of merit" in Chinese?
74 On which river is Salford?
75 What word refers to the scenes of domestic interiors painted by Edourd Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard in the late 19th and 20th centuries?
76 Which Old Testament figure had children by the slave girl Bilhah?
77 What is the final, quick section of an aria or duet called?
78 In which island group is Patmos?
79 From the Latin for "least of the brethren", what term of self-abasement was assumed by a mendicant order founded by St Francis of Paula in 1453?
80 Which Lord Mayor of London stabbed and killed Wat Tyler?
81 In what year did Whitaker's Almanac first appear?
82 Which British physicist coined the terms "scientist", "electrode", "cathode", "anode", "Eocene" and "Miocene"?
83 Which Japanese island's name means "the nine provinces"?
84 Which football team play at Somerset Park?
85 Which Italian island group is made up of Lampesuda, Linosa and Lampione?
86 What is the chief town of the island of Skye?
87 In botany, what are "scandents"?
88 By what other bird-related name is the flower, ragged robin, also known?
89 Who did Edward III marry in 1328?
90 Which English mathematician gave his name to the rule which simplifies the calculation of areas under graphic curves?
91 Which British motor-racing team were the first winners of the Formula One Constructors' Championship in 1958?
92 In which London building is the Wallace Collection on display?
93 What type of broadcast was first seen on British TV screens on July 29, 1949?
94 How many seats are there in the Welsh Assembly?
95 Who played Ophelia to Laurence Olivier's Hamlet in the 1948 film?
96 What in common parlance was a Bradbury from 1914 to 1928?
97 Which bowler-hatted police detective did Peter Lovesey create in his crime novels?
98 What cinema chain did Sydney Bernstein open in 1930?
99 Which European mammal has the scientific name Capreolus capreolus?
100 What plover with black and white plumage is Vanellus vanellus?
101 What Italian phrase, meaning "in the breast", refers to when a cardinal is selected by the pope but not yet announced?
102 What name is given to a crystalline deposit of ice formed on objects exposed to wet fog at the same time as frost?
103 Who composed the opera Zaza, about a music hall singer?
104 What is the lowest part of the Earth's atmosphere?
105 What is the last day of Lent?
106 What is the birthstone for May?
107 Which King instituted the Order of the Bath?
108 Which US state is the Treasure State?
109 What name is given to a table showing the predicted positions of a celestial body such as a planet, comet or asteroid?
110 What did the EB in writer EB White's name stand for?
111 Wagner's opera Das Liebesverbot was based on which Shakespeare play?
112 Which US photographer started his career whilst teaching English in New York in 1932 and whose collections of the Depression, Dead End: The Bowery and Harlem Document, show as much concern for pure design as for the plight of the subjects?
113 What were made compulsory in horse racing in 1924?
114 Lugnaquilla is the highest peak in which mountain range?
115 Which Indian-born sportsman was the only British Olympic gold medallist to escape from Colditz, going on to win in 1956 with the Three Day Event team?
116 "Laggard" is a business slang expression for what?
117 Which island is the centre of the Cyclades?
118 Commissioned by Fernandez Varela, what religious work was Rossini's first major composition for 12 years and the last he ever wrote?
119 What small songbird, species Sylvia atricapilla, is nicknamed "the monk" in Germany because of its grey plumage and distinct head?
120 Which French philosopher wrote Creative Evolution?
121 What is Yves Saint Laurent's real name?
122 Which car company produces the Accent, Prelude, Elantra and Santa Fe models?
123 Launched in 1822, what was the first iron steamship?
124 What pointed tuft of whiskers on the chin is named in honour of Napoleon III?
125 What is the northernmost of the Shetland Islands?
126 Which cinematic magician and hypnotist is Werner Krauss most famous for playing?
127 Which Turner Prize-winning English painter, active in New York from 1964, coined the term "Superrealism" for his work in the 1960s?
128 Who devised a law code for Hungary in 1486?
129 Which British novel begins: "I returned from the city about three o'clock on that May afternoon, pretty well disgusted with life"?
130 What is the capital of Baden-Wurttemberg?
131 Which English conductor, composer and horn player founded the Chelsea Symphony Orchestra in 1944?
132 Zeppelin was the code-name given to a German plot to assassinate whom in July 1944?
133 What is the highest peak in the Dolomites?
134 Who created Fanny, the heroine of a trilogy of plays set in Marseilles?
135 Which French poet (1621-95) is known for his Fables, including Le Chartier Embourbe, Le Chene et le Roseau, Le Coq et le Renard, La Mort et le Mourant and Democrite et les Abderitains?
136 In Greek myth, Perithous was the king of which people of Thessaly who invited the Centaurs to his wedding with Hippodameia?
137 Which Irish musician and songwriter wrote Irish Melodies in 1867?
138 The 17th century politician and essayist George Savile - nicknamed "the Trimmer" - was known by what title?
139 In which song did Flanders and Swan sing: "Mud! Mud! Glorious mud! Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood"?
140 Which Spanish nobleman title of the lowest class and gentleman by birth means "son of something"?
141 Where would you find "daglocks"?
142 What word for a conceited chattering fop comes from the original sense of parrot and alludes both to the bird's gaudy plumage and its mechanical repetition of words?
143 What does the word "Wight" mean?
144 Prokofiev's first symphony, premiered in Petrograd in 1918, was nicknamed the "Classical Symphony" because it was deliberately written in the style of which composer?
145 "Wrenning Day" is a former name for what day because it was a local custom among villagers to stone a wren to death on that day?
146 What five-word phrase, used by Lord Derby the Prime Minister of his government's policy in promoting the 1867 Parliamentary Reform Act, refers to a step or action where the consequences cannot be foreseen?
147 What ship was wrecked on Norman's Woe near Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1839?






Answers to BH147
1 Mice 2 Newspaper 3 Travellers' cheques 4 Edinburgh & Glasgow 5 China 6 Pu 7 Pigs 8 Mark 9 The Prodigal Son 10 Eleuthia 11 Rudolph Friml 12 Dick Whittington 13 That's All Right 14 John Neumann 15 Hopalong Cassidy 16 Tiffany 17 A written decree of a Muslim ruler 18 Sandbourne 19 Abel Tasman 20 Fitch 21 Cotton 22 Jade 23 Tennyson 24 Pfalzgraf 25 Roxburghe 26 Pacific Scandal 27 Sweet Charity 28 Federative Republic 29 Logarithms (written by Napier) 30 William Wallace 31 Dundee 32 New 33 Biscayne Bay 34 Anthony Newley & Leslie Bricusse 35 Road Town 36 Volleyball 37 Seals & signet rings 38 Stone fragment or chip 39 Weather 40 Gamut 41 Duke of Hamilton 42 Hang-glider 43 David Hockney 44 Ogopogo 45 Bulwer Lytton 46 She-Devil (The Life and Loves of a She-Devil) 47 Henry VIII 48 William James 49 Richard Jefferies 50 Crimson 51 Hansel & Gretel 52 Appel 53 Cut line 54 Melrose 55 Camerata 56 Wool dealer 57 Violins 58 "To the Glorious Dead" 59 Horeb 60 John Warner 61 Emir 62 The Old Curiosity Shop 63 Byron 64 Osaka 65 Cambridgeshire 66 Passion Sunday 67 Carlisle 68 Cushat 69 Smetana 70 Maesta 71 Arthur Sullivan 72 Mutiny on The Bounty 73 Kung fu 74 Irwell 75 Intimisme 76 Jacob 77 Cabaletta 78 Sporades 79 Minims 80 Sir William Walworth 81 1868 82 William Whewell 83 Kyushu 84 Ayr United 85 Pelagian 86 Portree 87 Climbing plants 88 Cuckoo flower 89 Phillipa of Hainault 90 Thomas Simpson 91 Vanwall 92 Hertford House 93 Weather forecast 94 Sixty 95 Jean Simmons 96 £1 note 97 Sergeant Cribb 98 Granada 99 Roe deer 100 Lapwing 101 "In petto" 102 Rime 103 Leoncavallo 104 Troposphere 105 Holy Saturday 106 Emerald 107 Henry IV (1399) 108 Montana 109 Ephemeris 110 Elwyn Brooks 111 Measure for Measure 112 Aaron Siskind 113 Crash helmets 114 Wicklow Mountains 115 Frank Weldon 116 Underperforming stock 117 Delos 118 Stabat Mater 119 Blackcap 120 Henri Bergson 121 Henri Donta Mathieu 122 Hyundai 123 Aaron Manby 124 Imperial 125 Unst 126 Dr Caligari 127 Malcolm Morley 128 Matthias Corvinus 129 The Thirty Nine Steps 130 Stuttgart 131 Norman Rene Del Mar 132 Stalin 133 Marmolada 134 Marcel Pagnol 135 Jean de la Fontaine 136 Lapiths 137 Thomas Moore 138 Lord Halifax 139 The Hippopotamus 140 Hidalgo 141 On a sheep's behind (it is dirt) 142 Popinjay 143 A person 144 Haydn 145 St Stephen's Day 146 "A leap in the dark" 147 Hesperus

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Mammoth, Navel-Gazing 2007 EQC Trilogy is Complete

Blackpool Part III: Better Than Lethal Weapon 3, Rush Hour 3 and Superman III Put Together. And Far Far Longer Too.

Nations Cup, I mean Aspirational Cup, curse our rotten public transport system: Champions F*** YEAH!
Well, what can I say. I'm a bit of a last minute doofus and British rail are a bunch of buffoons who obviously wanted to sabotage the national team's chances by saying my train was "full". Forgive them for they knew not what they did. I got there ten minutes early, the smegheads. I would have been happy being pinned upright to a carriage corridor wall for three hours, as long as I got to Blackpool in time. You hear me BR? GRRROWL. Not that that was what I shouted. Or, indeed, growled like a rabid, foamy-mouthed dog. Instead, I dragged myself to the nearest shop wall and slunk on it in dejected mode. Thus, my England senior team place was snatched away by cruel fate. The quiz gods were angry with me that day. They were obviously telling me that I should have got seat reservation. Except I say NO. I want my Saver Return freedom. I need that freedom. So did William Wallace. Don't you curtail my freedom you fascists. (Not entirely sure who the fascists are, but I am sure there are some undermining me, somewhere in the cosmos).

But what's past is past - except in Faulkner's Deep South - and so I parachuted into the "C" team for the last of the four Aspirational Cup qualification rounds, ruing the fact that I had missed round three with its Uxmal, Gran Turismo, Taqwacore and comparatively loads of others that would have put us through to the knockout stages of the Aspirational competition (the UEFA Cup portion of the weekend's itinerary) if my train from Preston hadn't been 20 goddamn minutes late.

Well, it didn't matter anyway because I swapped places with Nic in the A team after the kind, patriotic chap gave away his seat for the good of the country (his words being paraphrased). The tournament rules had been bent somewhat, yes, but playing one round hardly deserves cup-tying does it? It's not like it really truly madly matters. Does it? Not in a "friendly" tournament. (Ok, I'll stop there and will obey the law from now on, maybe.

I am not usually conscious at this time of day, or even early afternoon
The semi-final saw us pitted against the Belgian Babes (all of whom were men ... the name may have been ironic). It was morning. Early morning ... about the time I usually go to bed actually. However, we taxed their asses. And the taxing was firmly in the highest ass-taxing band. But, stepping out of "rude swagger twat" mode, (sorry guys, I didn't mean the bits about ass-taxing ... maybe I watch too much WWE and pop far too many steroid pills for my delicate psyche) the questions fell well for us, starting with our "tactic" of hitting the subjects that Belgium are notoriously good at: sports and arts and oh the humanities! and seeing John get all three swimmer questions without breaking sweat settled us in good and proper. In the end I think we won by 51 points. Not bad, the modest among us might comment.

(Highly amusing moment: Saying "The Fuck Truck" to the "impossible" European reality TV series about filming hookers and their clients. The answer was The Love Truck. Don't try to ponder why I might have come up with such a guess. There are stygian places in my head you don't want to visit. He says like a right demonic monkey.)

Meeting Our Destiny
The final, played out before a packed crowd of one (John's wife), was a skittery affair from the off. Skittery and nervous because Belgian teams always make you jittery and worried on account of their brilliant hardcore reputation, team ethic and encyclopaedic know-how. And I must admit, they are still better scholars of the knowledge that matters than us Trivial Pursuitists here in Good Old Blighty. I felt nervous because even if you are beating them by 20 points at the halfway stage they could come back. With a vengeance. Or at least that's what we think. Or I always think in my paranoid competitive quiz trance; my fears made more horrific by flashbacks - WAIT! There one goes again! *shivers* - to last year's Nations Cup final where our first half lead swiftly evaporated and a succession of nasty errors left us beaten and down.

However, the lead held, aided by some lucky plucking of subjects on our part (thank heavens for the Hitchcock trio; and I thought they were going to ask about Alfred's casting directors. How dumb was that? How loco. I can be a mindless cazzo on occasion) and our once again going for categories Belgium Anarchy would have lapped up (or the ones yours truly was paranoid about them picking up and making off with disheartening full point complements). Have I mentioned the word "paranoid" one too many times? Anyway, it worked a right treat. PARANOIA RULES!

The final score: England A 87 - 62 Belgium Anarchy. Nice one. A good, convivial match, yet one set on a knife-edge made slightly confusing by each side's laptops. A really sharp blade, in fact (but aren't they all when it comes down to trophy collection?). Silver platter number two ready to shine strangely in my face (see the Facebook photo).

Paul, our opposing captain, said there was a bit too much American stuff, but it is not as if English teams are fully tapped into Yankee pop culture (I mean, is Larry the Cable Guy seriously the most popular stand-up in the States? Are they serious? Then again, I think of Jethro and Roy Chubby Brown and any sense of superiority instantly evaporates.) When faced with the trash questions that Ken, Ed and the other members of Team USA had brought over for the first evening of brain-frying festivities and unbelievable bafflement, you realise how little we know about the trivia our Transatlantic cousins call their own let alone the trivia that thrives in non-Anglosphere nations - though I was inordinately proud of getting the Brett Ratner toss-up after the single derogatory quote made about his awful directing skills - for he is a deadly danger to celluloid, wherever it may be (please keep him away from the means of cinema production). Plus, it pays to read blogs like Cinematical at least five times an hour.

The US vs. Europe midnight showdown or, less dramatically, friendly exhibition team match:
It was Ryder Cup action time, a time that was incidentally approaching early morning, and a select band of people who happened to be hanging around the hotel rather than exploring the more interesting features of a Blackpool blighted by weather still so horrific you were constantly making bad Captain Oates jokes, were up against an American quartet plus new US citizen Kevin Ashman, who quite possibly took an oath of allegiance in order to justify his new Yanqui status seconds before proceedings commenced (Ken "El Supremo" Jennings was lost to the waking world in his bedroom: sleeping soundly and NOT being bound and gagged by nefarious Euro-villains).

Some Pun To Do With Flipping
The European team was made up of various representatives from the national senior and A teams, and both wanting to reprazent the Aspirationals I tossed a coin with Bayley to decide which of us would take the England A berth. I won, even though I charitably suggested a best-of-three goes when Ian scrutinised my ten pence coin for potential rigging (now that's paranoid). I also insisted that I do the tossing (HNURFF HNURFF - insinnuendo alert) because when he tossed the thing off it seemed to try and take off into space or at least land 20 metres across the room. Bayley is officially the worst tosser I've seen in my entire life. And you've got that in writing.

The questions were tough (No! You don't say), but while Europe's ragtag bunch built up a respectable but hardly insurmountable lead, the US was never far behind and was soon catching up. Nearing the match's endgame, our fatal misunderstanding of a Robert Falcon Scott set completely blew us off course. We ignored the snowy explorer suggesting subject title. We ignored the fact that the photographic portrait actually did look like Captain Scott. That silly, stubborn bastard who looked nothing like dashing John Mills. Instead we dawdled and murmured wrong answers and handed the match-winning initiative to them lot across the way.

The Denouement
When the last trio of questions for the US - cryptically titled "In Dreams" - was revealed, I made an audible yet muffled howl of anguish (I really have to keep my emotions in check in future times of high quiz drama; some sort of volume control would be good, or perhaps vocal chord snipping is required) on discovering that it was about dream sequence scenes from films (but where was Top Secret and the Skeet Surfing song? I later thought. It was hilarity deprived)*, knowing full well that Kevin was the film buff extraordinaire king superman. Defeat was surely on the cards for Europe. I thought Kevin was going to nail them without mercy and without hesitation and that the match was over. I indulged in floppy, resigned and then mildly aggressive body language meant to convey the overpowering feeling that everything was lost. Team USA + As-Good-As-One-Team Ashman were about to go all triumphant in their own modest way.

*CORRECTION: Oops. That isn't actually a dream sequence. I momentarily confused it with Val Kilmer being tortured by the fat simpleton and the blind guy and his hallucinating he was back in high school - same set as the song, you see - and Val realising, quite joyfully, that he was in actuality being brutally beaten to death. But still, it is hilarious. If you haven't seen Top Secret, please do. The goodbye scene at the end always makes me shed a tear or two. Or even three.

Here came the clips. My worst fears were not allayed: Hitchcock's Spellbound was IDed pronto and so was Wild Strawberries. Easy. Then the last clip and last question of the match was screened. I immediately clocked it as Mulholland Drive (the truly terrifying bit - and here it is courtesy of YouTube! - involving ominous music and a man with a face burned to blackness emerging from behind a dumpster to make two approaching heavies completely fill their pants with shit and then some, along with every viewer ... I must confess since I knew what was coming I turned away not wanting to get that nasty, jump-up scare I suffered the first time I saw the scene). Now, I thought, Kevin should still get it.

But what was this? No immediate answer was forthcoming. There was intense and profound discussion. Brows were furrowed intensely. Then it became obvious - viewing proceedings from the opposition table - that none of our (temporary) nemeses had seen the film - not even Kevin! - and that guessing was the order of the day. My own resignation quickly faded away and there emerged instead a kind of idiotic, anticipatory glee as I knew the chances of them identifying a sinister LA-based weirdfest of a film without any familiar acting faces to guide them were slim.

Flushed with a growing yet ever so twatty triumphalism, I readied myself to go in for the coup de grace and smugly bark out our winning bonus point when their hopefully fingers-crossed wrong punt was announced. And lo, their incorrect answer came to pass and I blurted it out - imitating an annoying smart-arsed nerd (wait, that may actually be a good description of me at most quiz-related times) who couldn't wait to get the answer out in front of their unimpressed and hateful schoolmates - the very second we were handed our match-winning opening by Chris, the quiz master of ceremonies.

Victory Was Ours!
Yes, Victory Was Ours! We had won an exhibition match! It didn't actually matter at all, but then it did! They always do! Getting caught up in the moment and all that, I considered improvising some routines inspired by the horrifically watchable battle-of-words that is Yo Momma!, but thought better of engaging in a maternal-related insult exchange. Because I am not a complete cock. And possibly because they would have hit me very hard in very sensitive places all over my puny body, breaking bones like they were the matchsticks and other, er, brittle, easily snappable (is that a word?) things.

The American team, whom we thanked muchly for coming to this "awful place" for starters (hey, Great God! I'm riffing on Captain Scott, man. He would have found Blackpool's weather system rather challenging dare I say) in the name of quiz competition, were true and enthusiastic gentleman in defeat. All of us were human beings in perfect harmony (wait, that line nearly drew out my natural cynicism in the form of a little barf-spurt, but I have stopped it with all my neck strength and all is saved, and perhaps even my soul). However, this was what great quizzing is all about. Down-to-the-wire tension concluded by smile-accompanied handshakes and beers and friendly chatter at the end. It was nice.

So - going back to the match post-mortem, as you inevitably do when you are one of us - thank the gods of Mount Olympus that neither Laura Harring nor Naomi Watts made a helpful appearance. If the lovely ladies had popped up, lezzed up (as they do in the movie) as they do in the movie, Kevin would have surely got it, but no. Thank God, no. We had snatched victory by one point. Snatched being a truly apposite word in this situation. And a win is a win. A win by one point is fantabuloso. A win by the narrowest of margins against our prodigal sons (well, not mine, or Jussi's or ...) from across the sea was surely enough euphoric payback for Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown. And then some. I may be heading into hyperbolic territory here. You have my permission to prevent me travelling further with the aid of a super-sharp hatchet. I probably deserve it.

Naturally, it demonstrated the innate superiority of European Union (a Hungarian, an Englishman who happened to have Filipino-Norwegian heritage, an Irishman, a Welshman and a Finn) against the US millionaires, even when they had been enhanced by The Ashman (wait, that sounds like some sort of awful Batman or Spiderman villain doesn't it?) And you know what we all pulled together, each contributing important answers. It almost makes you think that the EU Constitution is a good idea. Almost.

By the way, Bob Harris has a far more concise and sane version of our match-up, as well as the EQC right here.

The Flemish aftershow: 3rd.
However, my proudest moment of the entire weekend arrived late Sunday afternoon. Despite the insanity-inducing physical sensation that my brain was disintegrating and its constituent neurones were separating from their cerebral moorings after a weekend in which quiz questions had flooded my head in truly damaging and monumental volumes, about 20 of us still-keen - well just about - stragglers settled down to do 140 non-Belgian biased questions from the recently held 2007 Flemish individual championships (they were translated into English of course; I don't think we would have coped so well with the original Dutch) in the darkened Derby Room.

As ever I steamed through it with maniacal haste as I seem to do with all question papers of late, gladly finding many questions to my liking. Yes, these were the kind of questions my BH quizzes are full to the brim with. I wondered if something on Captain Alatriste - another "destiny" question like Krav Maga - was going to make an appearance during the weekend, and sure enough it did. Even if it was in one of the informal afterthought events. It appeared, okay? But then a quiz is a quiz is a quiz is a terrible Gertrude Stein reference. Which has, in itself, given me a really silly idea for a Facebook Status Update. Those who know, know how silly it could be.

Where is My Mind. Please Bring It Back
But, alas, my fatigue-ridden tactics saw me completely flunk some absolute sitters. Remember Ronnie Rosenthal's open goal doozy? Oh yes. It got that bad on at least two occasions. As usual I scanned the capitalised nouns, or even the whole first sentence if I was really taking my time, and contrived some ugly, hideous errors I will surely take to the grave, cursing as I go.

One I Will Go On About Forever
One question on Casino Royale asked for Le Chiffre's actor. Ah! Mads Mikkelsen! I wrote it down. Unfortunately, I failed to read the other 95 per cent of the question, instead settling for the first five words whilst ignoring the helpful picture stapled to the back of the paper. Had I deigned to see the picture I would have seen raucous-looking fat boy Orson Welles - Le Chiffre from the original, wacky version that everybody thinks is a smouldering tip of donkey turds - laughing it up, and not the ultra-cool Dane with the bloody teardrops. I then re-read, I mean read the whole question the first time once the paper had been swapped for grading and realised that the sixth and seventh words said "Mads Mikkelsen" thus marking me out as some sort of hare-brained imbecile. You should never put down an answer that appears in the question. How silly; how embarrassing and scarlet blush-worthy. After all was done, I began brandishing my question paper at anybody in audible range, shaking proof of my idiocy in an appropriately idiotic manner (which was another way of saying LOOK! I really got that point you know. I should have got more. Believe me. Please believe me.)

Same thing went for the heroin Golden Triangle question. I put down Annam, purely because I thought it was asking for an area of Vietnam (the last of the triangulated points), rather than the said phrase that I knew so well from films like Air America, American Gangster and any other number of flicks featuring enterprising drug smugglers and CIA black ops trying to make some serious dough during Nam. Once again my powers of perception were quite simply rubbish 10. This is what 48 hours of quizzing does to you. Your decisions become increasingly inexplicable. They turn against you. The bastards.

Everyone's Scrambled Brains
But, undoubtedly, Kevin and Pat had also struggled to keep it together with answers they knew but failed to put down on account of the marathon weekend. We were no longer fresh as daisies in springtime sunshine. We were chaff being incinerated in the Australian Outback. Or at least our once working minds were. Now we were utterly zombified. Visibly wilted - IN THE FACE! - by the renewed question onslaught. We were men whose brains had almost been successfully scooped entirely from our craniums, then analysed and found to be operating at far less than optimum power. I felt almost as if I was left with nothing mentally, no way to work out or deduce, merely left to rely on those reflex answers that come without the slightest strain involved in thinking like really really hard. By now I was incapable of reasoning and teasing answers out in the usual manner due to the overwhelming cumulative fatigue. Memory recall can only be tested, tried and teased then torn apart so much before it yields to dysfunction and illogicality. Entropy in action, as it were and was.

Still, it did not prevent us posting highly respectable scores, considering the circumstances. We three (The K.O.P) pulled away from the pack with margins of ten points or more during the first half. Pat had 51/70, Kevin 49/70 and I was tugging on their metaphorical coat-tails with 47. I was within grabbing distance.

The second half was by common consent far harder. To be honest, I didn't really notice. I never moan about difficult questions anymore since I am such a voluminous dealer in them. I get hit with them every day as a matter of personal routine, so I couldn't discern the massive difficulty shift. This reassured me somewhat. So when the final scores were announced in ascending order I have to say I hadn't felt quite so excited all weekend (maybe this was something to do with the real possibility of my breaking up the Gibson-Ashman duopoly. Such gilded glory waiting in the wings to engulf me! Me. Lowly me). Johann, our mercurial host - whatever the hell mercurial means; it almost always seems to go with hosts of things - announced that Nick Mills had clinched fourth with 67. Then came the canyon gap between Nick and the top three.

Drum Roll Please
The scores? Moi with 90 ("Doh!"), Kevin Ashman with 91 ("Oh, only one point behind") and Pat Gibson with 92 ("Wow, that's what you call good bunching"). Damn that was close. So close. I managed to win the second half, but naturally that didn't matter: I still lost. But in a very triumphant-feeling way - the opposite of a Pyrrhic victory - a feeling perhaps compounded by Mark, me old People's Quiz mucker, going on about me being "the once and future champion" (Mark was too chicken to do the quiz. He don't like this international stuff. Too international. He be a pub man). Ah, nowt like a good ego-massage, though if this Welsh prophecy is to come true I may have to eliminate Jesse in a Machiavellian, possibly and ultimately fatal fashion to ensure such glory comes my way (or any other upstart wunderkinder in a Livia-like fashion; yes, imagine me painting figs in the garden with poison. I warned ya). Nevertheless, it is heartening evidence of progress. I have time, if I choose to stay this particular course. I'll stop sounding like some Terminator-style robot now.

Relatively Pointless Comparisons and Further Pinpricks of Regret
The Belgian champion Ronny Swiggers, we were told, scored 94 on the world-relevant questions we took, so we didn't do too shabbily, even if names like "Firewire" and "Shibam" still come back to haunt me at inopportune moments (and I thought my silly phonetic memory connection with a certain Ricky Martin song would have helped me get that last one). Like now. AAARRGHH! Moments of sordid regret. Moments that make regular home visits to my brain, like a kind of malice-driven GP administering prescribed doses of bad medicine in a kind of Bizarro world. But then such an outcome is powerful fuel for future campaigns (you see? I'm turning all Patton-esque. I know you you you know whats. I read your books!). That will always be my ultimate view on defeats whether crushing or close. Ultimately, I am an extreme optimist when it comes to the quiz future we have yet to embrace. A future I hope is not marred by nuclear apocalypse or calamitous climate change, or an unfortunate combination of both.

Final Conclusion Before One Sad Note
I really enjoyed this year's EQC. It gets a double-thumbs up from me, and an extra-wide grin on top. And I'm being serious. I love the forging of our European quiz community. It makes me feel all warm inside, albeit with the hot side-effects of growing competitiveness and devious eyeball-swivelling. Quiz unites. It really does. Er, if you like quizzes that is. But let's forget about those that deride and laugh at such an enjoyable activity. Boo to them. No. Have a DOUBLE BOO.

And how can I forget (even if it actually happened last year, tempus fugit and all that)? Many thanks to Chris, Jane, Steven, Arko, Vibeke and everyone else who helped organise the event.

Lest we forget: A Departed Friend
Of course, the sudden death of Lieven Van den Brande just a few days later cast a shocking pall over the event's genial afterglow. Two of my fellow Broken Hearts quizzed with him on the third-finishing team Les Couers Blesses at Lesigny in 2006 and we can all testify that he knew some astonishing things and was a mighty fine quizzer, and also a competitor us internationalists should thank for making the effort to visit foreign fields and compete in EQCs for the good of the world we call quiz. I often found myself outside in the treacherous cold and rain - where all smokers now naturally belong - smoking a quick fag in his vicinity and exchanging a pleasant word or too. A bloody good bloke, a true character and one, as everyone else has commented, who will be missed. I for one will never forget the look of pure delight that flashed across his face as he clinched second place in the individuals. It gladdened my heart then as much as it saddens me to remember his runner-up smile this very moment. Farewell, Lieven. We will remember.