Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Post 400: Admin and Excuses, I'm, afraid

The Giant Update: My Bad #3-5

Nick Mills has e-mailed me to point out a trio of factual errors that such a fool as I would put in a quiz I apparently worked for bleedin' ages on.

In Nick's own words...

"Q59 I doubt that Amelia Earhart's transatlantic flight was in
1926: that would pre-date Lindbergh.
* Q198 Horus is not the brother of Seth. Horus's father Osiris was the
brother of Seth.
* Q370 Arthur is not an Anglo-Saxon king; he fought against the

Q59 It was actually 1932. Man, that's one nasty mistake.
Q198 In various versions of Egyptian mythology, Horus was sometimes the uncle and sometimes the younger brother.
Q370 Again correct. Anglo-Saxon has been replaced with British.

Many thanks to Nick for pointing the stuff out.

Also and *GASP*: A Surprise Extension

I have been forced due to a convergence of highly predictable events, involving work/EQC/tardiness, to delay the deadline of The Giant til sometime late next month.

Those who have diligently sent back in their entries long before Oct 28 will get their answers and quizzes at the time I've promised and possibly hand personally to you in a magic envelope (though I can't promise that it will be golden in hue or material), but anyone else who has so far not joined in the party (and what a party it is!) will have ample time to do it.

I think I now truly grasp the amount of injury time effort that goes into doubling up on what was a bloody big quiz format to start with. But, you know it's been fun in that peculiar quizzy way. And it's only now that I've just grasped the fact that the Euros are next week. NEXT WEEK! And I have a mini-buzzer quiz tourney for the non-native English speakers to finish for it. A MINI-BUZZER QUIZ TOURNEY! With 80-100 word starters! The madness...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Voices from the Void: Surprise, Surprise

Those Last Night Notices

Yes, this week has been spent most using only two letters of the alphabet in my headlines. Except for the last one that is.

Some reaction to MM from outside the quizzing elite, FB pages and Quizzing commenty technoboards, and in the forums and blogs and columns of people I do not know further out in the internetherworld, before I finish off that thing I have momentarily forgotten about.

First up, Iain Weaver, the deserved doyen of all British weekly quiz and game show analysts, in his long-running column, the poignantly named Weaver's Week:

(All Scandinavian names has been changed several times for the purpose of self-laceration. Third person disease is also evident. Mr Weaver may not have written certain portions of the following commentary. Police are invesitgating)

"And finally, [the guy not brave enough to go for the classic mullet haircut he has craved all his life clad in a green V-neck he bought that very morning because he realised his existing clothes made him look like sk8er boi trying to tidy himself up for a court appearance] will take West Indies Test Cricket 1976-91 [you mad mad bastard, you didn't know what you'd done to yourself with those soft words of surrender and acceptance in the BBC's bowels!!! Triple exclamation marks!] . He is a Famous Name in the world of quiz, sometimes described as a quiz machine in The People's Quiz 2007 [noooo, bad memories stay away]. He's a Fifteen-to-One finalist [aaaarggghh, I coulda been a champ, Charlie and not a bum, which is wahd ay ammmm] , sets questions for Only Connect, and – er – is not doing too well with these questions [sinking faster than Nancy Dell ... oh nooo bad memories again resurgent]. Indeed, he only finishes on 8 (0), which is a bit of a surprise. [I know, me too! Ooh the tight heat of shame clamping his body. He should have ran from the studio and, quite honestly, committed ritual seppuku in front of that giant Cracker poster in the Granada corridor maze. That would have put things right]

Mr. [Mushbrains] confirms that 76-91 was The Glory Era for West Indies cricket; they were big and strong, beat everyone (except New Zealand, who they only played once), and inspiring Rory Bremner to make a comedy record. Almost inevitably, he goes through the general knowledge questions at a rate of knots, but it's still almost a full minute before he moves ahead of Mr. Benyon. He ends on 22 (0), and that's probably not going to win the day.

[Mr. Weaver graciously leaves out the scrunch-faced and inner-sweary blunders that cost this sad, sad individual at least three points. Bumhead still thinks about those lost three points to this very day and may well launch a media appeal for them on my local radio and TV. Finding them might ease the pain: EDWARD THE WHAT? Imbecile]

So, eight for Mr. Benyon to win, seven to force a tie-break .... Mr. Benyon's answers are mostly correct, ending on 29 (0)

And then it was over, as all things must pass (is that album actually any good? I have never ever bought a solo Beatle album. Though I videod George Harrison's I've Got My Mind Set On You off VH-1 about 13 years ago.) Until probably 2011 - the year before the Mayan End of Days of course - when I will return with a vengeance.

But before the awful, terrifying display of said vengeance, onto Life After Mastermind (is there? It could be a bit of an improvement on Ashes to Ashes, though I do heart Keeley Hawes, outrageous 80s frizz and the constant, grating tones of exasperation excepted). Last year's champion David Clark commented:

"Funnily enough tonight's heat also had 4 Mastermind virgins, but at least one of the contenders is a very serious quizzer indeed. For the benefit of those not in the know, [that moose-headed doofus] is widely reckoned to be one of the best quizzers in the country. He won the inaugural world quizzing championships. He took part in a team which won three shows of Battle of The Brains earlier this year, and was the first person to reach the final of the 2007 People's Quiz [monkey on my back, settling into the chip on my shoulder]. A serious quizzer, whom I have met on a couple of occasions [so sorry to disappoint you David, so very sorry for what was coming]. All the more of a shock then, to see the wheels come off in his specialist round. Now, I don't know enough about cricket - West Indies or otherwise [that's the funny thing! Neither did he! You build him up so high, and he knocks himself down, what a spamhamster] - to be able to say whether his questions were particularly hard or unfair. But I'm sure that [prize cucumber] would have expected to score more than 8. [Yes, more like 10]

To be fair, [the complete bloody shower of a young man who has brought shame on the Caribbean Islands with his flimsy grasp on wicket tallies] composed himself and scored a fast and impressive 14 on General Knowledge to take him to 22. At one stage it almost looked like this would be enough. [was that before he started his specialist subject round by any chance?] Both Jeremy Pick and Kathryn Price failed to take advantage of the lifeline that [little punk bitch of an idiota] had extended towards them, and with only John Beynon left to go, [that lucky so-and-so ... he will soon meet his destiny] was still in the lead. John Beynon never gave the impression of answering particularly quickly, but he got a lot of correct answers , to score 14 and no passes. That's a serious score , and I have to say that Mr. Beynon looks more like a serious contender for the title than any other competitor I have seen so far this year. Well done sir. That's a hell of a scalp you claimed in this heat."

Damn right, the post-recording scalping ritual was somewhat discomforting and quite bloody. They never told me that's what happens to first round losers. It was sheer barbarism. But slipping into serious mode rather than the "you know what I would be really good at DVD commentaries. Talking bollocks while watching stuff is my thang", John gave a pitch perfect performance - calm, precise and highly impressive in its efficiency. I would have struggled to match it even if I had prepared as diligently as I could and should have.

And finally, from a When Saturday Comes website commenter (who garnered no actual responses with his pithy review):

"There was a guy on Mastermind tonight. He was called [Norwegian Surnameguy]. He looked Malaysian (I have no idea of his actual background). He answered questions on West Indies cricket. And I dunno what you think, but I thought this was brilliant. (He didn't win, alas).

Pigeonholes? Stereotypes? Fuck 'em."

Yeah man, F them in their F-ing A-s, those F-ing Asian Stereotypes and their Ping Pong Ying Yang Manchu Ding Dongs. Them damaging stereotypes. Stereotyping Malaysians as non-cricketers even worse! (I get the feeling he picked a South East Asian country out of the air, any of them would do)

Sorry got carried away there. The above acclaimation has caused much confusion in my brain. Granted this appeared to be some strange victory proclaimed by this poster, who was named 'The Modern World' (hey, do you think he was making a point about racialists and cultural preconceptions?).

For a second there I wondered what was the point of Malaysia, apart from spreading its states around different islands in some sort of bizarre 'not putting all your states in one basket' defence ploy. I knew several Malaysians at university. They were of Chinese descent. They looked Chinese. My uncle, who has a silly girl's name that makes me giggle whenever I think of it because if you make a slight tweak to one of the vowels and his name sounds like the vulnerable part of an exposed bottom, is an ethnic Tamil. He looks Sri Lankan and Indian.

To be honest. the Malaysian identification just confuses me, though the only girl to ever accurately diagnose my half-Asian was , you got it, from Newport Pagnell. No, I joke and jest. It was Malaysia.

Aha! Now I know what it is good for. Reminding me of that tourism advert where this lady said, you know, that country's name again in such a shrill and strong tone that it still rings in my ears seven years later.

Maybe we should admire the misplaced if in reality, incredibly insulting call-out to me, but this dude knew, well not a lot, but exhibited enough hope to think that we might live in a lovely globalised world because a Malaysian knew a few things about Windies cricket; you know, once the coming apocalyptic raptures (first the financial, then the war, then the divine reckoning and those terrifying John Martin landscapes come to pass and turn upside down and tip us into the red of Hell .... and I swear whenever I see them in Tate Britain they always give me the heeby-jeebies) have done their worse and left a broken but healing world where Inuits will soon be playing rugby sevens with pacified polar bears and Andaman Islanders will be playing jolly hockey sticks. Using the bones of their enemies, mwahahahahahaweareallgointodieeeeeeee....

It's also sweet in a way (look I'm trying to rationalise it and that is a very hard thing to do when being accused of coming from - wait for it - a country that has Islam, yes, Islam for its official religion), and if his sweetness it is his weakness then I've probably just been reminded of that mid-1990s Michelle Gayle and am trying to supress it before it causes permanent damage to my cerebral cortex.

Going back to the old school, down Eastbourne way, via the memory lane, I played school cricket for years with a total Thai guy, not a Shy Guy (got that Diana King Bad Boys song making headway in the brain now ... I spent much money on shameful pop music, that would have served a better purpose had I got a glue habit) who was one of the handiest all-rounders I had seen; if he had seen a full-on asian like Danny gone on, rather than a mixed race ersatz-Norsasian who can't speak a word of his mother's native language(s), he might have exploded in ecstasy at some weird kind of justice triumphing in his sick world.

Speaking of which, the other day I, to my shock and slight envy, I discovered my mum could speak not just the three I assumed she had, but five and a half languages, including Spanish and an odd Hispanic-Filipino dialect that she started spitting out at terrifying and impressive speed. I simply never knew.

Then she started goading me in Spanish, the quinlingual harlot. So I recently came to the conclusion that practically all of the genius-standard linguistic aptitude I may have inherited had long been transmuted into a hunger and ability to absorb GK. Was it a good trade? Who knows?

However, at least this adds to my array of mistaken nationalities, which have included Spanish (three times in Victoria train station), Italian, Portuguese, Mexican (when in full summer tan brown) Brazilian, Kazakh, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Australian (I was in the US at the time, which explains it). This obviously suggests a possible Hollywood movie career playing parts, shaped by indefinable but undoubtedly foreign looks that make for all purpose not quite white but foreign looking enought to play roles sliding along a scale from dodgy, shady help who could well betray to outright evil, civilisation-destroing scum, hell bent on blowing shit up, preferably a major urban conurbation, or most exquisitely of all, a civilisation entire. See Mark Strong transform from the swaggering magnificently cocksure Geordie force of nature in Our Friends in the North and into Hollywoodland's favourite Middle Eastern pulling out fingernails, heading the Jordanian intelligence services or blowing crap the crap up where it belongs!

It's nice to know such job opportunities are always available for the ethnics you just can't quite place due to your lack of worldliness and a 'he'll do' attitude. Even though Mark Strong is 100% European (half-Austrian, half-Italian), Hollywood honchos have declared him to be of perfect actorly Arab stock. You can't have full on Arabics playing roles these days, which some Republicans attribute to their joining the ACORN wing of Barack Obama's secret underground lair en entire masse. This is because they will obviously think they are terror cell members waiting to strike at America's heart, but doing a bit of Hollywood acting before the time is ready to strike, or at least that's the impression I got from a snap survey detailing the most realistic beliefs of Palin-McCain-supporting filmgoers.

Could a new Omar Sharif - what a terrifying Muslim name! - become the same kind of romantic, dashing star in this current climate? Or would they start shouting "TERRORIST!" and "KILL HIM!" at the screen and demand he take a holiday trip to Guatanamo in his best orange boiler suit and Hannibal Lector mask?

And that my friends, is our lesson on race relations for tonight.

Next week: more on the here nor there of being a mixed-raced Brit. There be nearly a million of us and still we are identified with the foreign element so obvious in our genetic make-up, the dominant Britishness in our personalities being ignored. People would be amazed at our knowledge of cricket, crown bowls, chasing cheese down hills and extreme Morris dancing, if they go to know us better. The problem is physical appearance, admirable bone structure, skin as olive as an olive grove (in the Occupied Territories no less) and the entire anatomical stucture we inherit from our parents trigger the snap judgements in people's minds.

For God's sake, poor Barack Obama. He's half-white, but everyone calls him black because of that - and I hate to use words that need to be laundered of their nastiness -melanin taint he inherited from his Kenyan father. He never asked for it and, by the sound of things, his dad never even stayed around to take it back if the poor kid didn't want it anymore.

If elected, he will be the first truly US mixed race president. But his blackness subsumes his any white cultural identity completely, which we can blame on generation after generation of Slaveowner-rapists if it was true and is rubbish because I just mentioned his dad was Kenyan, and he is shoved into that pigeonhole, which acts both as catnip for a once rudderless black population asking that he save them, possibly by building a wave farm that will harness the enormous power generated whenever his ears twitch, and a nice little enclosure where nutjob southerners with more guns that 'E' Company' had at Bastogne will have him in their sights. But the black man narrative is so much easier to follow for everybody. You're either black or white. Not grey or brown or mauve or any colour people raised on homogenity can understand. There's often no inbetween.

Wait, this was a Quiz Thing
Thankfully, I have spared myself from casting my eyes over any posts declaring how supremely inept I was, but that's probably because disdainful Mastermind viewers have probably resorted to scathing sobriquets or spelled my name in the unrecommended manner (it happens with everyone I know). So well done to those people who got it spot on. I thank you!

You know it does put me in the mood for some redemption rather than a clocktower shootout. Everyone has their reasons, as old Renoir (yes, this week has been spent reciting quotes from French film directors. Except for the last one that is), and I haven't actually revealed one debilitating and shrug-worthy reason why I was so eager for those early March dates. Given a little more time then our love will surely, no, I mean, I might actually swot up properly on my Specialist Subject. For now, silence and sleep. No wait, there are many more questions to write before I sleep.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Error on The Giant Part 2

My Bad #2

Error in Q275: The question should be asking for the fourth and final novel in Arthur C. Clarke's "Space Odyssey" series. It is not a trilogy since I seem to have completely ignored the 1987 publication of 2061: Odyssey Three.

MMmmm mmmmm mmmmm

Let us never speak of it again

Probably my favourite line from Homer (the episode where they take an unwise shortcut, not from The Iliad). Thinking about how I will waste many a word and deploy stylistic tics I have absorbed through reading material, characterised by syntax gone haywire, in a highly trivial manner - there really is no other way to say it - I crashed, it was certainly a test (which I failed) and the aftermath made me feel like a dummy. My attempt to tackle the most prestigious individual quiz show title in the land was, admittedly, flawed (I held back from the 'seriously').

Yet it happened in March. Time salves the minor mental scratches very well. And truth be told, I don't feel very disheartened, crushed or anything remotely downtrodden about the Mastermind performance that graced BBC2 last Friday (if you haven't seen it, you have about seven hours - from the time of posting - to watch it on the magic machine that be BBC iPlayer). It seems like forever ago, thanks to my extraordinary powers of repression.

My only truly visceral MM-related reaction has been to Bayley's suggestion that I join the Mastermind Club. The reason for the out-of-all-proportion NO FREAKIN' WAY MAN!!!? Because I would feel like a twat; even in the midst of many members who happen to be friends and acquaintances. It's something to do with getting dumped out in the first round methinks. Hopes were, let's say, moderately high (but not too high: knowing there will always be some hidden trivia geniuses, or my aforementioned team-compadre, in the draw all too capable of snuffing out your chances). My talent lies in GK generalism and the Specialist Subject factor mitigates against it. The stinking abstract swine.

But like Ron Burgundy drinking milk on a sweltering San Diego day, it was a "bad choice". 'West Indies Test Cricket 1976-91' was a far more daunting choice in hindsight, due to one thing: statistics. As many a Baltimore Police Commissioner will attest to their eternal chagrin, damned stats were my downfall and frankly, what with me being an onomastic quizzer, I should have taken more notice of the numbers that litter the sport. Come to think of it, my 10-year-old self could have done better with the wicket and run counts (I think I was the youngest member of the Cricket Book Club, and was certainly the only pre-teen in the country with a back issue collection of The Cricketer that spanned 25 years). But that now seems like an ancient age. Also, never choose a subject because you might like a bit of a challenge. The old saying 'Safety First' was swept aside in a fit of blindness.

People have remarked how nasty and tough the questions were tough and noticeably lacking in gimmes (gimmes that is for those who know the general outline of the salient facts), but having seen someone take South African Test Cricket in the Sport Mastermind final and do very well, I believe I should have got into double figures. In fact, the only question I didn't make a note about was the Richard Illingworth one (but then who cares about perpetually disappointing English spin bowlers of the 1980s/90s?). Where small mercies can be found, at least I didn't go into a pass-pass black hole that can turn two minutes into an eternity.

As for the GK, well, it felt like all or nothing at the time of the doing and I soon adopted the habit of counting the other contestants' scores on my hands, whilst muttering muffled silliness to myself. But the fatal damage was done in the specialist subject round. If only I could have done the original Star Wars trilogy, Spaced or The Wire, like I put down on the form. Thems not wanting no numbers. They just want the names. Not how many Tests played. The trouble is my pop cult obsessions are not often not backed up by reliable, legitimate literature you can purchase at your local Waterstone's. And it was strange to look on and watch a contestant do the Gospels and realise, cor blimey, I could have scored eight on her questions too. Choosing a general specialism, to use a phrase edging into oxymoronic territory, was considered then junked due to the hazards of refining something acceptable to the programme makers.

I pondered 1990s British film, but then realised there was so much crap - amplified in its sheer crapitude by the injection of Lottery money - produced by our native movie industry (the word 'industry' being a complete misnomer; I tend to agree with Jean-Luc Godard's comment there we have no cinema, even though it pains me so) during that particular decade that I would surely be driven completely nutzoid by the research. This is despite the fact that directors, actors, plots are so easily retrieved from the morass of memory (I have a game I play whenever I go into my brother's, er, not really a room, more filthy ketchup-smattered ash-pit, in which I identify the film he is watching within two seconds and make idiotic noises of prig-nosed and pointless triumph. The strike rate (ack! cricket stat speak hounding me forevermore) is about 98/100. Yes. I rule. Even more so, because he watches any old rubbish (but then so do I. I even watched the whole of Collateral Damage the other night. Sweet mama that stunk my intelligence out.)

But the truth is - and believe me this is going somewhere - choosing a film/TV-related subject would have made it so much easier for me. Because those sort of entertainment facts stick in my flypaper brain and stay there: glued and never likely to extract themselves. Far more easy to recall than how many Test centuries Sunil Gavaskar scored (though I think he got 34).

Next time, give me a couple of years and having learnt several valuable lessons, like not having to do any general knowledge prep at all, I shall stick to my pop culture domain, and not leave that particular specialism in a second round I was never destined to reach (it was a doozy: good and original and even a tad edgy for such an august institution as MM). Oh yeah, by the way, the production staff were brilliant and smiley/the recording pleasantly painless/the black chair was a lot smaller than I thought it would be and they should get a Ray & Charles Eames number/the heat winner recognised me "you're a professional!" and said things about The People's Quiz and what might have been/ the warm-up man was doing what warm-up men do which is get on my chesticles (an acceptable word. Strictly Come Dancing satrap Len Goodman used it at about 6.35pm last night on BBC2)/and my was it over ever so quickly. Perhaps that was for the best.

Things I should have been writing about during the fortnight gone
Anyhow, I have lots of other things to witter on about quiz-wise. After all, the days have shortened and the quiz season is in bloom. Let me list them so I can remember to ruminate on the bloody things: President's Cup opener (oooh), Shoreditch House Monday (food-tastic vouchers), England team selection (nice), the saga that is QLL and the last question decider (horse-racing provides a kick to the knackers yet again), Giant progress (even that is slipping my mind from time to time) and the stuff that has inevitably absented itself from my current state of consciousness.

Friday, October 03, 2008


Days of Daze

What ho! I mean what is up with Kerry Katona advertising CHICKEN TIKKA LASAGNE (seriously) on the Iceland ads? Have we already descended into the Great Depression II? And what about Johnny Rotten shilling British butter? Crazy. Then Clint Eastwood wearing white socks with dress shoes and a suit on the Daily Show. Completely mental.

As for other matters, like the QLL, well, smell. All I can say is that we sure were sloppy and rusty. Kinda like ... no, that's just sick. I think I was spouting wrong answers on purpose so I could hear the moans of despair emerge so painfully from my fellow teammates. Oh what sweet bliss and hilarity it was to hear such chilly banshee screams of frustration. Still, we still won. Despite error after error.

Otherwise, I've been in one of those question-setting periods, where day is swapped for night and I start getting up at five in the afternoon whilst I get thoroughly shabby and start watching all the Nouvelle Vague and Italian film DVDs I have bought but so far failed to watch despite two years in the owning (The Leopard is in my critical view: FRAKKIN' AWESOME. That Claudia Cardinale is SMOKIN' HOT! YEAHHHH!). Now I have resorted to watching Truffaut on YouTube, such has the hunger grown. So very nice that copyright peeps can't be bothered to pull down the poncey foreign film fare. So very very nice.

Anyway, the message from me remains: buy my double-quiz if you haven't. Pretty please. There's a song from Abbey Road I could invoke, which I haven't heard for so long ...