Saturday, June 20, 2009

Them Questions: Part I

Those Little Things

Of course, one of the natural reactions after any important quiz competition, quiz show, trivia-based life-or-death struggle etc, is to have an fairly polite "Airing of Grievances" (without the fun Festivus bits) about things like possible question/subject bias.

I've often railed against these sometimes imaginary, sometimes accidental prejudicial slights on the concept of fair play in the past, perhaps because I just thought it was so much goddamn carthartic fun, going years back to the ancient times when I moaned about the lack of movies in academic buzzer quizzes (I realised later that's just the way the question distribution is, and that it's an academic quiz, not a trashy one). I think I've learnt not to care too much, because there will always be another quiz coming along to take your mind off the one that came before.

This WQC gone, I thought the balance was great, except for one or two too many American-centric questions, when it came to media and history. Even though I got it right, I don't really think, for instance, that the f-bomb bomber ex-Illinois governor Rod Blagoje ... uh ... (you know, the greedy goon who proudly wears a shield of black hair, as black as his heart, covering his entire forehead) is a WQC-suitable question because it is internal American politics (he's an ex-governor, not a Secretary of Something, or even a Senator, or a Congressman caught up in sex or murder scandal or, sexy murder scandal, if you like) and, come to think about it, there are a lot of Americans doing the quiz. And asking them who he is would be almost like asking Londoners who happened to be their mayor before Boris came along.

I didn't read about him in a British newspaper at all, but that may have been because I was so overloaded from seeing and reading about his antics and pathetic chatshow tour on the US news sites, blogs, like bloody everywhere, that my mind blanked out him out from the foreign news pages I was reading in my reality/wood pulp-based paper because I was so used to seeing his very punchable head appear on my computer screen and context is all.

I don't think it's a fair enough topic on the rest of the non-English-speaking world because it was way too much of a backyard question, especially when it came after the very WQC-suitable question on the Bradley Effect* which is itself tangentially related to Blago. You know coming straight of the months-old news babble in my head: Illinois-Obama-Blago-Burris-black men-elections-racism-corruption-Ayers etc. 'Tis a tangled web, but the link is there. Somewhere.

*(it is a great kind of universal teaser; its current affairs visibility/topicality and broader sociological, historical and political implications override its major Amercanicity)

But I am being very literate when I say one or two, because I really do mean only a couple. Just two whole US questions each in two categories too much. Therefore, it doesn't matter too much at all. And neither do these other minor things: there should be at least one truly, excruciatingly hard question on classical music and another on art and a few other bits and bobs here and there. Just one mind. I am in no way advocating a refit of any noticeable magnitude, just a little tweaking here and there. That is all.

As for overall feel, there is also slightly too much (but not overdoing it too much) Anglo-Americancentricity in the question subjects' geographical spread. There should be a few more questions on South America and the Middle East across all the sections, for instance, because they are big places which provide decent subject matter and, looking at the increasingly cosmopolitan yet relatively lacking in Latin American and Arabic representation of countries, they are also regions that offer better-than-the-rest contestant neutrality and more of an equal footing for, say, someone from Malaysia and someone from Hungary.

Plus, I have still labour under precept that every area is interesting to learn about once you realise the vast variety of culture that lies therein. Or maybe that precept actually means once I find out there's loads of stuff I don't know about a subject that someone else, a deadly rival has got wrapped around their finger perhaps, then it's really quite depressing and I must make up the ground with indecent haste and outlandish effort, after I'm done with the sobbing fit. The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between.

I'll go over the Film Qs next, some time soon. The post will be called "Why the WQC Film Questions are Just Right". I rejected "Lay Off Movies, You Bastards!", "Get a DVD Collection, You Slaaaags!!!!" and "Anyone Who Says There Are Too Many Questions on the Motion Pictures Will Be Beaten To Death With Their Own Two Arms After I've Sawed Them Off With A Rusty Saw I Found In A Tepid Puddle Full Of Swine Flu".

The last one may have been overdoing it somewhat. I probably had a momentary attack of rabies.

1. Designed by Leandro V. Locsin, the National Artist of the Philippines for Architecture, the official residence of the Sultan of Brunei is the world's largest residence of any type. Derived from the Arabic 'Palace of the Light of Faith', it has what name?
2. Which 1971-1982 TV drama was based on the novel Spencer's Mountain by the show's creator Earl Hamner Jr., the book having already been adapted into a 1963 film with a namesake title and starring Henry Fonda as Clay Spencer.
3. Synonymous with the very finest shotguns and rifles, which gunmaker of London was established in Princes Street in 1814 by its eponymous founder and former head stocker for Joseph Manton, the foremost gunmaker of his time, whose former premises the business moved to in Oxford Street in 1826?
4. What does the fictional character Lula Mae Barnes change her name to in a 1958 book?
5. To celebrate UEFA's 50th anniversary awards in 2004, each member organisation was asked to choose one of its own players as the single most outstanding player of the past half century (1954-2003). Name the country which chose:

a. Sergei Aleinikov
b. Branko Oblak
c. Rainer Hasler
d. Carmel Busuttil
e. Massimo Bonini
f. Alfredo di Stefano
g. Herbert Prohaska
h. Koldo
i. Sergey Kvochkin
j. Panajot Pano



Answers to FE:XXXXIII
1. Istana Nurul Iman Palace
2. The Waltons
3. James Purdey & Sons or just "Purdey"
4. Holly Golightly (in Breakfast at Tiffany's)
5. a. Belarus b. Slovakia c. Liechtenstein d. Malta e. San Marino f. Spain g. Austria h. Andorra i.Kazakhstan j. Albania


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