Thursday, March 13, 2008

TV Review: Quiz Korea

"Be champion and let's go to Canada!"

Here's an axiom for you: Quiz shows are the same everywhere, but different.

One night, whilst on the stag sojourn in Budapest, I wimped out of the truly excessive drinking I knew was going to happen and quite possibly make me feel like stamped-on loam, and returned to the hotel. As is my habit in foreign climes with cable TV access, I spent hours flicking through the channels until the screen resembled an incomprehensible blur of jump-cut gobbledegook. Maybe because I like it that way.

But having watched most of the Polish 'reimagining' of 'Allo 'Allo - the Oh. My. God. I can't believe what I am seeing Halo Hans - and the German version of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, in which the token female comic was quite hilariously saddled with having to slip in (sorry about this) the word "tampon" (really sorry about that) in the ritual end-of-show hoe down and the master of ceremonies was an 'orrible looking and exceedingly smug midget in a baseball cap, I then chanced upon KBS: the Korean Broadcasting Service, their version of our beloved BBC.

It was showing a quiz show. I had to stop the remote control thumb-tapping that had taken over my hand for the last two hours and settled down to watch. Because I had to. It was a quiz show. And even better, a foreign quiz show with English subtitles.

The show was Quiz Korea. Nowt fancy about the name, straight out with it and classic in its straightforward simplicity. Apparently the most popular quiz in all the land, it opened with each of the six contestants coming down a central ramp. Each of them had plainly been instructed by the programme makers to portray themselves as insane as possible, whether it was by singing a quirky song about quiz, quiz, quizzing! Or doing a dance that made them look as if they hadn't quite got the hang of these things we call limbs.

Every contestant was introduced by the host (who looked like the suave sister-shagging avenger from Oldboy) with a preamble that basically amounted to "he wants to be a good son" and "she believes she will be national quiz champion". I laughed at the madness of it all, being a serious, upstanding British quizzer, more accustomed to looking glum and as inconspicuous as possible. We did not say or do such things in our proud nation. Stiff upper lip and self deprecation all the way.

From the outset, the banter appeared more like an interrogation than a jolly chat. And that's when I was reminded how quiz shows often reflect the national character. Here we dredge up hilarious and trivial stories that happened to us on holiday (I accidentally headbutted a Z-list celebrity!) and talk about hobbies and interests that aren't very interesting. In South Korea, family rules. So they talked about family and, you know, other important stuff.

Forsaking good old eye contact, the host would ask questions about ma and pa, hubbie and the kids and, if they had time, the interminable jobs the contestants had. But these enquiries made Quiz Korea look like The Jeremy Kyle Show crossed with Going For Gold.

Prompted by our beaming, possibly demonic presenter, one of the finalists, a fortysomething elementary cook, told us about her husband had passing away and how "I decided to live for my children ... that's how I survived". Jeez. Lay off it please. Lady, you're really bringing me down.

But still it kept coming. And it was relentless. Along with the camera continually homing in on one of her petrified teenage sons, who looked like he was trying to hide inside his baseball cap.

Host: "Your mother is alive?"
Cook: "No"
Host: "Oh"

And yes, that's what came out in the subtitles.

Worse was to come for the eventual show winner. His backstory was odd, compelling and, if played out in this country, would make him a target of much point-your-finger derision.

He was a 44-year-old stationery maker who had been forced by circumstances unsaid to move back in with his parents the previous year, while his wife and two sons were living in Canada (don't ask me what they were doing there. Getting away from the evil looking mother-in-law in the audience perhaps?). It sounded like some terrible future Adam Sandler film.

The unintentional comedy displayed in just the first round was exquisite. He told of parents who treated him like a teenager: "My father nags me. You can eat anywhere, but you sleep at home! he says". The audience laughed, while something inside the stationery maker probably died at that very moment.

Along with the separation from his family, his awful situation was played up again and again. The voiceover recaps were especially excruciating:

"He will soothe his loneliness with a quiz win!"

Now imagine the inter-round announcer on The Weakest Link saying the same thing about Gillian from Weymouth. You get me?

The host was also quick to comment as if the show was a terrorist hostage situation when saying: "You've shown your family you're lonely, but healthy and fine."

This was unbelievable. Most people assume quizzers are lonely, stroke-their-gun collection types. You don't have to spell it out.

He also talked of his ambitions. And really shouldn't have: "My small dream is that stationery with our logo be sold all over the world" and was quick to add that his company "make their own pencils."

But then you realised the seriousness at the heart of his quest. He was working bloody hard make the stationery business work, for "15 years!" in fact, and had given up so much that he was forced to become a kind of Korean boomerang kid, living thousands of miles from his family, suffering from parent-enforced curfews. Winning this quiz show was going to help save him. It was almost heart-rending. Almost.

Oh wait, The Quiz
So you want to know about the format? Silly me. You quizzers you. There were seven rounds and six players. Each round involved multiple choice questions displayed on contestants' individual monitors and asked of each player in turn for the most part (either three or four choices), except for the odd round, when only a straight answer with no help would do.

Looking like every slightly dull and straightforward quiz show that litter the TV schedules nowadays, it weeded out players at intervals based on their cumulative scores (the eliminated were given an after-ejection scene in what looked like a shopping mall where they said things like "I will be champion next time!" whilst grinning and surrounded by their loved ones. Some looked so delirious with optimism it was as if they had been given a post-show tablet of ecstasy) until two were left to go face-to-face in the sixth round.

The sixth round saw each player have to build up a total of seven answers rising in difficulty as it went: one passing control to the other whenever they gave an incorrect answer.

They got one get-out clause; a very interesting one in fact, which involved them using the internet, i.e. Google, to look for an answer they did not know. I tell you, the sheer drama of watching the cursor swirl around the computer screen for half a minute was something to behold. It was so thrilling I felt like sticking my head in the toilet and going gurgggggle. Though, I must admit, it was a very nice toilet.

And having looked like she was going to the final round, the Widow Cook made two crucial errors on not identifying the Corinth Canal and the linking word of "spider" (the last question of the seven involved the contestant get a set of clues in ever decreasing difficulty and handing it over to the opponent if they couldn't get it from the first, second, third and so on). Our Lonely Stationery Maker seemed to sneaked in by the back door (his parents' back door probably) and got the seventh crucial question and went through to the final where he could win some badly needed airfare money.

I would have felt more sorry for the Widow Cook had she not seemed so self-congratulatory on getting every one of her answers right. In fact, it was a problem that afflicted all the contestants to varying degrees.

On Quiz Korea each contestant clapped themselves heartily when they scored a point. The constant self-applause was something you just don't do around these here parts. Us Brits content ourselves with a highly subdued grin at best. Anything else, and you look like a right dick. Yet the Widow Cook jumped up and down and smiled outrageously, while thrashing her hands together like a Bedlam inmate. She had to be stopped. Thank God, she was.

Now I could understand the golden happiness flowing through her body at that victorious moment in time, but she could have toned it down a little. Like the Lonely Stationery Maker, for instance, who grew more likeable and less pathetic looking, despite his shocking shocking pink sweater, as the show went on. He clapped himself like all the others, but actually seemed quite humble when he did it.

The last round saw our now intrepid but still lonely hero get to choose three questions from a cash ladder: the money amount corresponding to the difficulty. Having made another awkward admission - "I wasn't a very good son. I regret that" - because, I guess, Koreans love this kind of revelatory embarrassment in their quiz shows and don't have their own Trisha to draw the pain out of the lumpen masses, Lonely Stationery Maker (okay, so his name was Jihan) chose badly twice but got the final, third question on Scheherazade, giving him US$20,000.

The moment of victory was presented in a manner I had never seen before. No stupendous pause, no hee-hawing, no "are you sure?". Instead, the answer was given and suddenly the picture went into a black-and-white freeze-frame closing in on the contestant's face and cutting to his rather overbearing looking mother, whose stonefaced visage aped a basilisk itself. The show director was quite the artist, it seemed. The sort of artist that not only deserves never to work in the media industry ever again, but be tarred, feathered and pushed into a sewer as well for ripping off the final shot of The 400 Blows (I might be taking that a bit too far, but what the hey! I take quiz shows seriously). Then, at blessed last, the confirmation he had won came. Hooray for the Lonely Stationery Maker!

And so Jihan became, according to the on-screen graphics, the "35th Quiz Champion". Cue the tinselly things falling down and much celebration. He was going to go to Canada and get away from his parents and leave this horrifying comedy far behind.

But you know what? Even if there were too many rounds and the format was predictable (well, it had to be really ... every quiz show is predictable format-wise isn't it?), the questions - the beating heart of every quiz show - were relatively high quality and the knowledge displayed was, in some cases, very impressive.

Sure, non-Koreans naturally get alienated by the Joseon period, government tax systems, Hangul characters, native proverbs, military stuff like the location of the naval academy in Jihae, and even ones concerning the national emergency number for reporting industrial spies and terrorists (it's "111", so if you're ever in South Korea and see someone suspicious, you know what to do), but local knowledge affects every quiz. It's just a case of how much. In this instance, it was barely noticeable most of the time, something I couldn't imagine a Korean thinking that after watching the general knowledge half of Mastermind (no offence).

Questions on the Mexican Father of Independence (I had no idea it was Manuel Hidalgo), "-bytes" no one in existence has heard of and the finer points of Rimsky-Korsakov's oeuvre showed a worldliness lacking in so many British quiz shows of the popular type. Jihan even remembered which country banned smoking in public places in 2004 with no multiple choices (Ireland, of course). At least, you knew, most of the contestants paid close attention to the world outside their borders.

The influence of the US and Japan, those two imperial monsters that had manhandled Korean culture, were evident too, with the Widow Cook getting the first state to hold a American presidential primary off the bat and the term for Japanese buildings meaning "enemy property."

If Napoleon Dynamite Presented Quizzes
So that was that. And pangs of ugly pain stabbed at my heart when I realised I was going to miss next week's episode. Especially, when the preview showed a young lady contestant come on waving nunchuks (SERIOUSLY), which she handed to the host, who tried to do a Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon, but ended up looking like a right wally who was about to smash himself in the face. Nunchuks and quiz shows. It is the future.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Friendly Returns

More on President's Cup Sunday

So we won our ninth President's Cup match, despite Bayley arriving 20 minutes late [why oh why does the fourth dimension have such a loose hold on one of our nation's finest quizzers], quite comfortably in the end: 51-34. We lost the first round and I did think, oh no, it's not going to be one of THOSE matches is it, but we managed to regain our composure and win several rounds convincingly enough to put us out of reach.

I shan't go into the errors that littered the set and which have so vexed all those who took part all over the league. Sometimes, it just happens, doesn't it? And anyway, what good would it do for me to list them here?

Anyhoo, onto the friendly. Yes, a P-Cup friendly. I managed to summon up the mental and moral strength to finally write my first complete friendly set of the year, so very much strength indeed, even Samsonian-like such were its dimensions, then I managed to bugger it up slightly by claiming Kathy Sullivan was the first woman to space-walk, thus forgetting those darned Russkies, and that Man Utd came back from THREE goals down against that Italian team, and completely missing a pair out from round six. Jeez, what am I like? The last error was particularly embarrassing.

But, amazingly, it ended up all square at the end - 37-37. You see, I can write a balanced AND decently scoring and competitive set, with lots of nice, guessable answers. I would give myself a hearty slap on the back, if it wasn't for the aforementioned mistakes. Naughty boy. Very naughty boy indeed.

President's Cup Friendly 9/3/08
Unanswered questions are marked *

Round 1
1a A museum dedicated to which famous writer is located in his birthplace of Alcala de Menares?
1b What is the married name of JK Rowling?*
2a JK Rowling named her daughter after which of the Mitford sisters?
2b Taking office in 1841, which US president fathered 15 children, more than any other person who has held the post?
3a Ukraine is divided into 24 oblasts and one autonomous republic. What is the republic's name?
3b A museum dedicated to which famous composer is found in his birthplace Eisenach?
4a Inaugurated in 1809, which US president is the shortest ever man to hold the office, being 5ft 4in?
4b Ukraine contains two cities with special status. One is Kiev, what is the other?*

Round 2
1a Bosca's, alpine and marbled are all types of which amphibian?*
1b Which German conductor led the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra from 1924 to 1954?
2a Abraham Gottlob Werner named which crystalline form of carbon from the Greek for "to draw" in 1789?
2b Giant Chinese, spectacled and goldstriped are types of which amphibian?
3a Which English team memorably beat St Etienne 4-1 on its way to winning the UEFA Cup in 1981?
3b Which team did Manchester United come back from two goals down to beat 3-2 on their way to winning the Champions' League in 1999?
4a Which German conducted the Los Angeles Orchestra from 1933 to 1939 and London's Philarmonia Orchestra from 1959?*
4b The word "carbon" comes from a Latin word meaning what?

Round 3
1a On which Caribbean island did the Soufriere Hills volcano erupt in 1995?
1b In which city is the newspaper La Stampa based?
2a Which HG Wells novel is subtitled "A Grotesque Romance"?
2b On which Asian island did Mount Merapi begin erupting again in 2006?
3a Which acting legend links the Alfred Hitchcock films Notorious and To Catch a Thief?
3b Which George Orwell novel is subtitled "A Fairy Story"?
4a In which city is the newspaper Corriere della Sera based?
4b Which acting legend links the Hitchcock films The Paradine Case and Spellbound?

Round 4
1a Celebrated on April 12, Songkran Day marks which Asian country's new year?
1b Norouz is the traditional new year holiday of which Middle Eastern country where it is referred to as an Eid festival despite it not being an Islamic feast?*
2a Which North American bird is the largest swan in the world?
2b Which musical features The Trolley Song and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas?
3a Alnick Castle and Syon House are associated with which Dukedom?
3b Partly named after a US state, what is the largest North American vulture called?
4a Which musical features the songs I Talk to The Trees and Wanderin' Star?
4b Belvoir Castle and Haddon Hall are associated with which Dukedom?*

Round 5
1a Claimed by Forbes magazine to be the 8th richest person in the world with a fortune of $30 billion, KP Singh made his money in which business?*
1b Which Czech became the first non-Soviet or non-American citizen to go into space in 1978?
2a Which inflammatory skin disease gets its name from the Greek for "to break out" or "to boil over"?*
2b With which four-letter word does the Bishop of Exeter sign his name?
3a Kathy Sullivan became the first American woman to do what in 1984?
3b Which viral infection, known scientifically as Herpes zoster and marked by pain and inflammation of the skin, derives its common name from the Greek word for "girdle"?
4a With which six-letter word does the Bishop of Rochester sign his name?
4b According to Forbes, the 9th richest person in the world is Oleg Deripaska with assets of $28 billion. He made his fortune trading in which metal?

Round 6
1a Taking place on December 30, 1460, which battle resulted in the Lancastrians under Somerset defeating the Yorkists and the death of their commander Richard of York?
1b Which Biblically-themed opera by Arnold Schoenberg is spelled thus so as to have only have 12 letters?
2a Which middle name links Nick Faldo, Robert Runcie and Peter Ustinov?
2b Which middle name links James Callaghan, George Carey and Aldous Huxley?
3a Which classical work includes "Pianists", "The Swan", "Persons with Long Ears" and "Cuckoo in the Depths of Woods" among its 14 movements?
CARNIVAL OF THE ANIMALS (by Camille Saint-Saens)
3b Which battle of May 4, 1471 saw the Yorkists defeat the Lancastrians and the death of Prince Edward, son of Henry VI?
4a Aki is an alcoholic drink flavoured with which fruit?*
4b The fundamental constant of acceleration of free fall is symbolised by which letter?

Round 7
1a England players Ian Balshaw and Lesley Vainikolo play for which rugby union club?
1b Steve Borthwick and Michael Lipman play for which rugby club?
2a Which British band's song Pretty in Pink featured in the 1986 film of the same name?
2b Whose 1980s car, the DMC-12, was designed with a stainless steel body so that it would never rust?
3a John Delorean is said to have inspired the 1971 car industry novel Wheels. Which Luton-born author wrote it?
3b Joint winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1933, which Bristol-born scientist published a complete mathematical formulation of the relativity theory of Albert Einstein?
4a Which 19th century Salford-born physicist showed experimentally that heat is a form of energy and established the mechanical equivalent of heat?
4b Whose duet with Diana Ross, titled Endless Love, featured in the 1981 film of the same name?

Round 8
1a Containing 165 music businesses by 1962, which famous New York building was named after the brother clothing store owners who paid for its construction?*
1b Which Spanish Baroque artist fell from a scaffold when painting an altarpiece at Cadiz and died shortly after in Seville in 1682?
2a Which strait links the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula?
2b Which jockey rode Rainbow Quest, Dancing Brave and Trempolino to victory in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe during the mid-1980s?
3a Which jockey rode Sakhee in 2001 and Marienbard the next year to win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe?
3b Officially called the Fuller Building, which New York skyscraper took its popular name from the shape forced on it by the triangular lot where it was built on Fifth Avenue in 1902?
4a Which Italian painter, who moved to Paris in 1906, was forced to abandon sculpture because the stone dust exacerbated the TB that eventually killed him in 1920?
4b Which strait links the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea between Albania and Italy?

Spares (or Rejects, really)
Founded in 1976, which Rome-based newspaper is the largest circulation general-interest newspaper in Italy?
At which 1812 battle did British and Allied forces led by the Duke of Wellington defeat French forces led by Marmont?
At which 1808 battle did a British forces under Wellington defeat a French army led by Junot?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Well, Smack Me Over The Head With Another Trophy

2007-2008 President's Cup Winners, Nice

And so it came to pass that Sussex (a team including myself, Nic Paul, Kathryn Johnson and such guests as Ian Bayley, David Stainer, Peter Ediss and Mark Bytheway) triumphed in this season's President's Cup with a game to spare, having been all crap and rubbish and bloody terrible, albeit unlucky, last season when we came dead last.

In the words of Competition Secretary, Roger Bennett: "This week’s President’s Cup was played with a theme – dominated question set which was described politely by one team as ‘very strange’, and less politely by other participants. However the themes were no obstacle to Sussex who cruised to a win over Cambridge which, with the Mastermind Club’s defeat, confirms them as this season’s champions. Congratulations to them for coming from last place in the previous campaign to worthy winners this time around and to their youthful captain who, like a quizzing Alexander, is running out of worlds to conquer.

The championship was confirmed by London’s convincing defeat of last year’s winners. The capital team, several times cup winners themselves, returned to former glories with all four players in double figures. Perhaps they will want theme rounds for every quiz."


(But "quizzing Alexander" ... er, let's hope I don't die a wrecked, glory-choked superboozehound apt to stabbing his best friends to death in fits of unreasonable rage in Babylon)

LEAGUE TABLE at March 9, 2008:

_________________ P W D L 2’s Pts
Sussex ________9 7 1 1 130 15
Mastermind Club 9 5 2 2 108 12
Beds & Herts____9 4 1 4 77 9
London__________9 3 1 5 102 7
Cambridge_______9 3 0 6 99 6
Oxford__________9 1 3 5 87 5

Monday, March 03, 2008

BH149: Fragments of Quizzes That Never Were

Rejects for the next big quiz
I spend insane amounts of time amending and replacing questions in my 500+ monsters, meaning I start with a full set - the completion of which is greeted with a lusty Hurrah! - and then, with the Hurrah! dwindling gradually to a barely heard whimper, draft relentlessly, nay autistically, until I am left with a quiz which I believe will cover all the bases.

But that is never enough. I look again. Then the itty bitty nit-picking starts in earnest for days, weeks, even months on end. Things start to appear that were never there before. Irritating, odious things. I go back and change something else (e.g. American movies, or in fact any evidence of my falling victim to unconscious bias towards the cultural imperialism of our Transatlantic buddies, and all that foreign literature guff no one will get right), and so on and again and again, grinding all my free time into nothingness until about what seems like years later, when I am left with a set that bears no relation to the one I started with (only 150 of the original will survive if they are lucky ... I do like culling stuff, though admittedly of the textual not animal kind). Often there is nothing wrong with the questions I take out, only something in them has slightly gone off and that niggly feeling grows and grows, until I exile them to the relative oblivion of my BH quizzes, swapping them with something I think is, like, a billion times better (but really isn't, when viewed in the cold light of day).

Therefore I present a selection of the questions I wrote for my next big quiz (yes, the final draft has just been finished, and I looked upon my mighty work and thought it, erm, um, alright, I suppose ... must draft again). So don't get too antsy, muttering to yourself, "Well, I would have got that one. Bet the silly sod put something in that is sure to instil blankness in my mind."

1 All the famous blue-eyed and white-coloured examples of which tiger breed that are alive today are descended from a male white tiger called Mohan that was captured alive in 1951 by the Maharajah of Rewa?
2 Famed for its wine, the Constantia estate was established in 1685 by Simon van der Stel. It is located in an affluent suburb of which South African city?
3 Ernest Rutherford's pioneering of the orbital theory of the atom through the discovery of his eponymous scattering with the Gold foil experiment (aka the Geiger-Marsden experiment) led to the downfall of which model of the atom, proposed by JJ Thomson in 1904 and named after a type of dessert?
4 The Duke of Lorraine and then Louis XIII served as patron for which French artist, who worked from 1620 at Luneville and painted 40 positively identified, mostly religious works, including St Joseph the Carpenter (Louvre) and The Lamentation over St Sebastian (Berlin)?
5 Sompapuri Vihara, a Buddhist monastery covering 11 hectares, is located in which country?
6 Now considered Germany's most influential TV commentator, which midfielder and 1974 World Cup winner played with Borussia Monchengladbach from 1961 for most of his career before joining Real Madrid in 1973?
7 Which animated cartoon director, who shot his first cartoon - Porky Pig in Goldiggers of '49 - in 1935 was originally named Frederick Bean?
8 Evgeni Berzin became the first Russian to win which cycling event in 1994?
9 Norway's Andreas Thorkildsen is the reigning Olympic champion in which athletics event?
10 Which animal's intestines are used in the Italian dish pajata?
11 What term describes the sticky brown fixatives that bees collect from trees to use as a cement-like substance in their hives?
12 Which basketball team won their last NBA championship in 1986 when they beat the Houston Rockets 4-2 in the play-offs final game series?
13 Belonging to the class Cyclostomata, lampreys and hagfishes are the only living members of which subphylum or superclass of marine and freshwater vertebrates that lack jaws?
14 Who directed the films Le Beau Serge (1958), Le Boucher (1969), Cop au Vin (1984), Merci Pour Le Chocolat (2000) and La Fille coupee en deux (2007)?
15 Formed in 2006 under Mahamat Nouri's leadership, the United Forces for Democracy is a rebel group fighting against President Idriss Deby. Deby is president of which landlocked African country?
16 Who played Pippi Longstocking in a series of four Swedish films made between 1969 and 1971?
17 Which war was concluded by the 1829 Treaty of Adrianople?
18 Which German writer (1893-1947), whose real name was Rudolf Ditzen, wrote the novels Kleiner Mann, Was Nun?/Little Man, What Now? (1932) and Wolf unter Wolfen/Wolf Among Wolves (1938)?
19 On Rocky Marciano's retirement as world heavyweight champion in 1956, which boxer beat Archie Moore for the vacant title?
20 Which French cosmetics company bought The Body Shop chain in March 2006?
21 Which Carthaginian church father (160-230 AD) used the phrase "Out of the frying pan into the fire" in his work De Carne Christi?
22 Based on his World War Two experiences and written when he was 19, Williwaw was the debut novel by which American man of letters?
23 After the disastrous defeat at Teutoburg Forest, which trees gave their name to the wall that the Romans built along the length of the frontier from the Rhine to the Danube?
24 Opened in Los Angeles on January 11, 1964, The Whisky a Go Go is believed to be the first example of which music venue in the USA?
25 In Iran, "Lavat" is what sort of crime?
26 The Green Line has divided Cyprus between the Greek south and the Turkish north since the invasion of the latter country in which year?
27 The name of which Olympic sport, and therefore the sporting apparatus it uses, literally means "stilts" in Italian?
28 The Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius published which great work on the subject of international law in 1625?
29 Who wrote in his work A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers: "It takes two to speak the truth - one to speak, and another to hear"?
30 Which country beat Canada to become ice hockey Olympic champions at the 1936 Winter Games at Garmisch Partenkirchen?

Answers to BH148: Rejects ...
1 Bengal tiger 2 Cape Town 3 Plum pudding model 4 Georges de la Tour 5 Bangladesh 6 Gunter Netzer 7 Tex Avery 8 Giro d'Italia 9 Javelin 10 Lamb 11 Propolis 12 Boston Celtics 13 Agnatha 14 Claude Chabrol 15 Chad 16 Inger Nilsson 17 Russo-Ottoman War 18 Hans Fallada 19 Floyd Patterson 20 L'Oreal 21 Tertullian or Tertullianus 22 Gore Vidal 23 The Limes 24 Disco 25 Sexual intercourse between two men 26 1974 27 Trampolining 28 De Jura Belli et Pacis/On the Law of War and Peace 29 Henry Thoreau 30 Great Britain

Disaster at Bluebell Close
Our unbeaten President's Cup record was smashed upon the fatal rocks of bad luck, mild incompetence and an excellent performance from our opponents Beds. Nic starting off proceedings by saying "O'Connell" instead of United Irishmen founder Wolfe Tone, and my saying "Jim Clark" in place of Graham Hill as the motor-racing triple crown were two ugly errors that resulted in 6 points falling in the lap of the other side, but truth be told, had we got those we would have still lost, the final score being 39-31.

I cannot say that we blew the chance to win, no way, and that our opposing number four, Fred, was extremely unlucky in not being given Campaign For Fully Dark Skies, when he guessed that the acronym stood for Campaign for Fully Dark Skies (a piece of great lateral thinking) and that overall, this was one set that did not play to our usually redoubtable strengths, though, in contrast, nearly every other team in the competition did markedly better in the scoring department than us.

You see it's all about the question-setting bias of which we are sometimes barely aware, but which I am determined to flag up. Flag up constantly, I say! With a big flapping flag, I have sewn from harsh and deflating experiences suffered in the trenches of the Quiz War I have fought in for so very many years (er, 12?). Maybe I have not have mentioned our loss during the past fortnight because it has traumatised me so. Or maybe, because I have been struck by laziness induced by a type of defeatist amnesia. That could, of course, be the same thing. Whatever. It's only a game. Only a game.

As evidenced by their regular post-match appearance on this blog, I have not written a friendly for the past two, albeit, away matches. This is possibly because I have got slightly concerned with the constant tropes that appear (who directed? which currency? which composer? which samey thing blah-dee-blah?) time and time again. This is what happens when you make a list of such things and think, can't I write questions about something else? It is something that has preyed upon my mind in a totally pointless manner and has therefore chucked a spanner in the previously unthinking friendly-setting works. It has all gone a bit MEH.

For the Beds & Herts match I tried to change up, but, let's just say I got bored in the mind-numbing way and my break with tradition was aborted in early flow. I had come across a useful literature guide: short, snappy articles delineating the ages and literary movements, above which a banner ran with relevant, tangential trivia and historical titbits. So I thought why not do a friendly set with pairs that come from the same decade? Why not?

The answer came in Round 3: the balancing act either too predictable or too unpredictable. I had predictability problems. And problems that one side would get the cream and the other, the scummy stuff that floats in milk gone sour. Ergo, the friendly died there and then. However, for your quizzing curiosity, I present the questions for your delectation...

Unfinished President's Cup Friendly 17/2/08

Round 1
1a Who published volume one of his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in 1776?
Edmund Gibbon
1b 1774 saw the publication of the Earl of Chesterfield's Letters. Who said: "They teach the morals of a whore and the manners of a dancing master"?
Dr Samuel Johnson
2a At which London station was a man with a wooden leg paid to ride and demonstrate the safety of the new escalators to encourage passengers to use them in 1911?
Earl's Court
2b Which British chemist discovered isotopes in 1913?
Frederick Soddy
3a Civil war broke out in Nigeria when which state seceded in 1967?
3b Who became Time magazine's Man of the Year in 1964 and, in the same year, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner?
Martin Luther King
4a In 1876, who said: "Mr Watson, come here, I want you"?
Alexander Graham Bell
4b In 1877, an electoral commission decided that which man was to become US President?
Rutherford B Hayes

Round 2
1a In 1933, the Massachusetts woman Ruth Wade invented which baked snacks?
Chocolate chip cookies
1b In 1933, Professor AMJ Michels of Amsterdam collaborated with chemists from ICI to invent which thermoplastic?
2a Which British astronomer compared star positions with those listed by Ptolemy and discovered the independent motion of the stars in 1710?
Edmund Halley
2b Specifying a limited term of protection, the 1710 law the Statute of Anne was the first piece of legislation to recognise whose rights?
3a Which law, excluding women from succession to the throne, was adopted in France in 1317?
Salic Law
3b Which alcoholic spirit is said to have first been distilled by the French medical professor Arnaldus de Villa Nova in 1310?
4a Launched in 1946 at $6.95 each, which watches were created by the Norwegian-American Joakim Lehmkuhl, who had made bomb timing mechanisms during World War Two?
4b Thor Heyerdahl sailed which balsa-wood raft from Peru to Polynesia in 1947?

Round 3
1a Which Trinidadian sprinter beat Don Quarrie to win the 100m at the 1976 Montreal Olympics?
Hasley Crawford
1b Which athlete did the men's 100m and 200m sprint double at the Munich Games?
Valery Borzov
2a Now seen everywhere, what made their first appearance in Perfect Occurrences of Every Day in 1647?
2b Which superb lyricist and sardonic satirist of the Spanish Golden Age wrote: "Life begins in tears and shit"?
Francisco de Quevedo

The Future: Quadrillogy Quiz
I've got an idea (and so my mind wanders off to Han Solo and Return of the Jedi). I've been thinking of doing a future big quiz that isn't quite so big. One that is quite compact and far less wordy and easy on the mental faculties. Instead of great bleeding chunks of exposition, there will be quartets of snappy questions based on the same subjects (you will see below, but basically, let's just say, capitals of countries, car companies, chocolate cookies, card-carrying communist Canadians) with different levels of difficulty. Therefore you would have 125 separate subjects (the format going Question 1 A) B) C) D)), most of which I hope would interest you. The time limit would be reduced to two hours and the entry free likewise cut down to something like £5.

It is a very "listy" sort of quiz, but one I believe has an appeal different to the usual quizzes I do. There seems to be a lot less thinking time involved. Changing up (yet again) is the primary appeal to me of writing it, but also useful because in my own selfish way, it would help me brush up on several of my weaknesses. You see, I'm always thinking about me me me in some way.

So I started out doing it randomly, but then realised that assigning question categories requires forward planning that will prevent me flailing in confusion and boredom when searching for more questions to call upon. Having my book sources and subject distributions to hand will make it infinitely easier and tolerable, but here is my embryonic taster.

(And yes, I know that Quadrillogy is not even a real word and that it should be tetralogy (or similar), but if it is good enough for the makers of the Alien films DVD box-set, and has the bonus of attractive alliteration, then it is sure as hell good enough for a humble e-mail quiz.)

The Quadrillogy Quiz That Basically Died Before It Was Born

Q1 Which capital cities stand on the following rivers?
a) Manzanares
b) Potomac
c) Rimac
d) Nerisr

Q2 In which countries are the following national parks?
a) Royal Chitwan National Park
b) Machalilla National Park
c) Joshua Tree National Park
d) Carnarvon National Park

Q3 Which Hong Kong film-makers directed these movies?
a) Exiled, The Mission, Election
b) The Killer, A Better Tomorrow, Hard Boiled
c) City on Fire, Replicant, Wild Search
d) God of Gamblers, Challenge of the Gamesters, Holy Weapon

Q4 In which sports are these trophies contested?
a) Bledisloe Cup
b) Marcel Corbillon Cuo
c) Brendan Martin Cup
d) Air Canada Silver Broom

Q5 Who are credited with the following sporting quotations?
a) US boxing manager in 1932 referring to his fighter Jack Sharkey losing to Max Schmeling: "We wuz robbed!"
b) Baseball player nicknamed "Satchel": "Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don't mind, age don't matter"
c) Scottish racing driver: "In my sport the quick are too often listed among the dead"
d) American football coach: "When the going gets tough, the tough get going"

Q6 Also given their creators, which detectives appear in these novels ?
a) Rex Stout - Murder by the Book
b) John Dickson Carr - Death Watch
c) Dorothy L Sayers - The Nine Tailors
d) Ngaio Marsh - Death and the Dancing Footman

Q7 Who made the following technological or scientific discoveries during the 1930s?
a) US geologist devised a scale to measure the intensity of earthquakes in 1935
b) British physicist discovers the neutron in 1932
c) Swiss scientist synthesises DDT as an insecticide in 1939
d) US engineer invents the catalytic process of cracking crude oil in 1930

Q8 In which months do these countries have their national days?
a) Brazil's Independence Day celebrating the declaration of independence from Portugal in 1822
b) Italy commemorates the foundation of the Republic in 1946
c) Russia marks the declaration of the Russian Federation's sovereignty in 1991
d) Australia remembers the birth of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901

Q9 By what names do we commonly know these moveable Christian feasts?
a) The first day in Lent, falling between February 4th and March 10th
b) The Sunday after Pentecost
c) Also known as Whit Sunday, falling seven weeks after Easter between May 10th and June 13th
d) The Sunday nearest to November 30th

1 a) Madrid b) Washington DC c) Lima d) Vilnius 2 a) Nepal b) Ecuador c) USA d) Australia 3 a) Johnnie To b) John Woo c) Ringo Lam d) Wong Jing 4 a) Rugby union b) Table tennis c) Gaelic football d) Curling 5 a) Joe Jacobs b) Leroy Paige c) Jackie Stewart d) Knut Rockne 6 a) Nero Wolfe b) Gideon Fell c) Lord Peter Wimsey d) Roderick Alleyn 7 a) Charles Richter b) James Chadwick c) Paul Muller d) Eugene Houdry 8 a) September (7th) b) June (2nd) c) June (12th) d) January (26th) 9 a) Ash Wednesday b) Trinity Sunday c) Pentecost d) Advent Sunday