Friday, June 26, 2009


I Watched the Darned Thing

Many congrats to Nancy, it was a brilliant performance. I was mightily impressed by her ultra-cool head and swift recall.

Nancy's achievement cannot be understated. In becoming the first woman in the Humphrys era and (thinking off the top of my head) the third youngest in history to win the Mastermind title, while having a baby (like, wow), it is quite possibly the finest achievement on the show since Kevin got his never-to-be bettered 41 (his MM record being the quiz show equivalent of Jim Laker's 19 for 90). It's the kind of triumph that is utterly refreshing because you only see it once in a blue moon, if barely that.

What elevates this feat even higher above the fold is the fact that she's American born and bred and been around these parts for only six years. As many others have commented, the likes of any of us Brits going over there and doing the same kind of thing, i.e. beat the best quiz brains in the entire country or, more realistically, have a champion-run on Jeopardy, is practically unthinkable.

Even if we gave ourselves six years to acclimatise to the trivia climate, our cultural blind spots - which can be exposed easily if you mosey on over to the J-archive and go through a few shows - would need serious work if they need to be fixed, with the sports, food (candy bars, cereals), TV, brand names and other American culture you soak up just growing up in the States being the typical kind of things that puzzle us alien Brits.

This point is illustrated perfectly (to myself) whenever I watch a syndicated episode of WWTBAM. I actually find answering the big money questions easier, than a lot of the lower-middle section ones which US citizens would slap themselves upside the head with a big "DUH!" sound if they didn't get them right. I mean, what in flipping crikey are Gangbusters and H&R Block and Urkel and Junior Mints???

Commiserations to Ian on another runner's up spot in a nationally broadcast quiz final. He was as clinical and impressive as I expected him to be, though on a luckier day there I have no doubt he would have got "Coe" and "Wrist". They're just the kind of 50/50 questions that anyone can get wrong and anyone can get right depending on how Fortune favours you. As with all of us, there will always be another quiz, another series, another tournament to set out sights on.

Self-Centred Analysis
As for the questions, here are the ones I got wrong in the GK rounds (from my armchair and minus the studio pressure):

Richard H: "coral", "buccaneer"
Roger: "Llandudno"
Richard S: "pundit"
Stuart: "nasturtium", "angling", "Mull"
Ian: "fluorine" "knot"
Nancy: "Meeting House", "jacaranda", "corn"

Personally, I found myself going "ooh! That's a bit hard" more often during Stuart, Ian and Nancy's sets. Stuart got the very nasty (if you're not much of a WW2 buff) Pegasus Bridge only the second Q up and got torpedoed with several others (e.g. Chorleywood process) I'd be left feeling mugged by if I was comparing my questions to everyone else's. I also thought Nancy did well to cope with an onslaught of stuff that made me wonder: "Are they actually asking that question, and not something slightly more gettable?"

I thought Richard S's set, as perhaps evidenced by his getting the same GK score (13) as Ian and Nancy, was the least perilous of the lot, and even then I should have got pundit (my instant-answer was "guru", which is just plain stupid).

But, as we all know, and which I repeat enough to sound like someone with anterograde amnesia: question-writing and subject distribution is an incredibly difficult thing to get right. One man's bread-and-butter is another woman's rat poison. And what do I know? I terrify people with my quizzes. I have no idea about the pain I conflict without knowing it. And, certainly, there is no real injustice to scream about with regards to the Grand Final's question difficulty; all that's needed, as ever, is a bit more finessing and care and everything will be la-dee-dah lovely.

Finally, cultural bias. Seeing as one of our top contenders was American would there be any anomalies in the geographical specificity of the questions Nancy and say, the contestant who preceded her (Mr. Ian Bayley) received?

(Bear in mind, I counted up while slightly brain-tired and sleepersome at 2.45am, so these "stats" may well be faulty)

Well, Ian got eight heavily* or noticeably** Britishised questions and, I thought this was weird, not a single American (or North American) question. Nancy got seven heavily or noticeably Americanized questions (including Gila Monster, because Gila is a pretty famous American lizard and is named after an Arizona river) and one Shakespeare question (Falstaff) and one that was almost British (the River Boyne in Ireland). So she basically got a WQC-knowledge set and Ian got the QLL ones.

Anyway, none of that bias really matters. As I've said, her GK questions were just as hard as Ian's. Plus, Nancy had already fought through two rounds (and therefore two Britannicised-up GK sets) of the competition, putting away a trio of impeccable specialised subjects, and done all that I had outlined in the first three paragraphs of this post (and much kudos on the Fritz Lang selection).

When people look at the record books, all they will see is that Nancy Dickmann was the 2009 Mastermind champion (2008 if you want to be confused by the actual recording dates), while everyone who watched the thing will know that she fully deserved it.

** mentions a UK (or US) person, place etc in the question
* is about something/someone from or in the US/UK

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Oooh look we have a new Speaker

Ooh how very unexciting

So why mention it? Well, in another life, I did a bit of "political" journalism (even I think my doing such a thing to be incredibly unbelievable and but then again, I have done a lot of different stuff, if sporadically and in small portions) and interviewed John Bercow, just about at the time he was turning into some sort of weird left-wing Conservative, with icky compassion and contrition just oozing out of him.

Course I did know he used to be a Monday Club sort, who liked the sound of slogans like "Hang Mandela!", but I found his Damascene-gotten beliefs quite refreshing and Bercow himself quite likeable, especially because back then you were hearing so much about the liberals who taken the reverse and had turned into neo-con, who were just gagging to blow the crap out of Iraq.

Though, I still felt a mite suspicious (he is, after all, a politician). I think what made this mysterious suspicion even more mysteriously suspicious was that I was reading The Big Sleep at the time, and this description of the ill-fated Harry Jones kept popping up in my head:

"He was a very small man, not more than five feet three and would hardly weigh as much as a butcher's thumb"

(That and this cruel line from a 2001 Guardian profile I'd researched: "A pint-sized chap with short arms and endless ambitions". You'd be suspicious too, eh?)

Because he was. Shorter than Sarkozy, if I mis-remember correctly. My being no Yao Ming made it worse. And even at the time I was thinking this may be why a lot of the Conservative Party are ignoring him because they can't take a Tory, who's both recanted his right-wing views AND resembles a laugh-free Dudley Moore, at all seriously.

Now I'm thinking that the vast majority of Tories, who conspicuously didn't vote him because they thought he was a (literally) Labour-loving pinko communist shortarse, now believe him to be a Labour-loving pink communist shortarse with a Napoleon complex.

Anyway, good luck to him, I hope he survives any Conservative-engineered plot to unseat him after the next election, even if he is a "flipper" with a mannered, slightly grating speaking voice (blimey, he can't even say "responsibility").

He's obviously a portent of things to come: Labour politicians usurped from their pretty offices of power by Tories (David* for Gordon), who aren't really any better in substance terms, but actually are by dint of their not being in a Labour government and everyone supposing it's time for a change. After Bercow, the blue deluge.**

1. What term was coined in 1975 by Ted Nelson in his book Computer Lib/Dream Machines to describe electronic sex toys that can be controlled by a computer?
2. The Drei Zinnen ('Three Peaks') or Tre Cime di Lavaredo are three distinctive battlement-like peaks in which range of the Alps?
3. Which Iron Cross winner, German amateur tennis champion (1909-76) and two-time French Open champion (1934 & '36) won his country's inaugural "Sportspersonality of the Year" award in 1947 and retained it the next year?
4. Adapted into a 2003 film, which Javier Cercas novel tells the real-life story of how Rafael Sanchez Mazas, writer and idealist of the Falange Espanola and close-collaborator of Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, escaped from execution after a Republican soldier decided to spare his life, and Cercas's obsessive search for that soldier?
5. Originally, it was a communication device used for funeral (hileta), celebration (jai), or the making of slaked lime (kare) or cider (sagardo). After the cider was made the same board that pressed the apples was beaten to summon neighbours and celebrate. Similar to the Romanian toacă, which Basque music device, made of wood (sometimes ikoro) or stone, is played by one or more performers producing differing rhythms, playing with wood knots and spots of the board for different tones?






Answers to FE:XXXXV
1. Teledildonics (aka "cyberdildonics")
2. Sexten Dolomites (from east to west, known as Kleine Zinne/Cima Piccola (Little Peak), Große Zinne/Cima Grande (Big Peak) and Westliche Zinne/Cima Ovest (Western Peak)
3. Gottfried von Cramm (full name: Gottfried Alexander Maximilian Walter Kurt Freiherr von Cramm)
4. Soldados de Salamina / Soldiers of Salamis (2001)
5. The txalaparta (in Basque, zalaparta (with /s/) means 'racket')

*Excuse my language, but I think that David Cameron is a massive dickhead. He just reeks of the snake-oil salesman, who parps whatever disenchanted people want to hear. Perfect for the office of Prime Minister (he says, thinking of previous office-holders), but I want a dickhead I can be proud of, at least sometimes. I don't think he's the dickhead the country needs as PM.

** But I don't really mind. It doesn't matter too much which party is in power nowadays: they're all (depressingly) fighting for the centre ground, with no decent wedge issues to wage political war with. All governments end in failure. It's in their nature. I just wonder whether the rate of entropy that sets into the impending Conservative government is already being accelerated by the expenses scandal and the economy. Then again, they can always blame the other guys (they did it! it was broken when we got here!) *big sigh*.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mastermind Verdict?

Not yet

I would love to comment on what transpired on Friday night, after all a fellow quiz team-mate was vying for the title and - believe it or not! Sometimes even I am a tad unsure - I did compete in the series, but iPlayer was being distinctly sluggish and slow due to my temperamental dongle and I have not been able to watch it beyond Nancy's SS round and her St. Louis zoomaround. I bet the directors really love spreading their wings a little. It's a pity quiz show viewers don't actually care and just want to see a quiz; not fancy, circling camera movements and eyesight-scarring fade-outs and ambient mood music more suited to a bad Ibiza chill-out bar, which ultimately adds up to a okay-ish corporate video.

But sometimes I think my participating on MM seems more like a hallucinatory fever dream in the memory. This is because of the time-lag between the series concluding and my recording my round one ambition crash 16 months ago. Yes, that right SIXTEEN months gone. A lot of life has happened since then, and in my own case, at least three different hairstyles.

Reading Nancy's Sunday Express interview, I snorted in pathetic amusement on seeing the incidental detail - "She was already seven months pregnant when she auditioned" "Her daughter, Imogen, is now nearly 14 months old - and adding it up to that magic 16 number (Yeah, even if I did know the long, long gap already. I was empathising with the not so quizzed-up regular Sexpress reader joining the dots. Obviously). That's nearly half the queen-ship of Anne Boleyn. It's a long time. Ok, I've beaten that particular ex-horse. Cease.

You have to wonder if BBC2 are showing the right kind of love for a programme, which was so much of a big deal in the Magnus Magnusson days. The perfect solution would be to return it to its quiz hour with UC, because ratings would undoubtedly be boosted by its clasping the beefy paws of its quiz-for-prestige cousin.

Only at the moment, MM seems fated to be wander around the evening schedules aimlessly, looking a bit lost and bumping into the furniture, while being subject to the whim of the station controllers, who think it can always make temporary way, like an affable old chap pushover - ("Go on take a fortnight off. Put your creaky knees. We going to put a cooking thing with that bloke with the nice hair on instead") - for something a bit more zippy, lifestyle-y, you know something that's got a bit more pep and isn't in its thirties.

I heard from a current series contestant that they were planning to change the the chatty bit and do the contestant interaction up front "like an iPod advert". Yes, that's right. iPod ad. It sounds so insane and so hilarious precisely because I have no idea what that actually means.

Surely, they won't be donning all over black body suits and dancing against primary colour backgrounds to whichever new single a rather dull yet popular band want to whore off to the world? What a time to be alive.

Of course. the said contestant may have fed me a complete lie and I must congratulate him/her by creating a vessel of deceit believable enough to make me write some blog rubbish about it. But even if it is a fabrication, it was fun pondering such brazen madness for a couple of minutes.

Sometimes, I just think the makers and schedulers should just trust it on the original basic merits that propelled it into the national consciousness. I trust that I don't have to spell them out, but you know old-fashioned has never ever been the fashion on TV. A show must always evolve, forward not backwards, higher not lower, louder not quieter, shinier not duller, spunkier not chunkier, funkier not ... oh why oh why oh why.

1.The root of the word means 'to permit', though another derivative means 'ear'. Recited by the muezzin, what is the Islamic call to prayer?
2. Which Aldershot-born South African romance writer (1903-73) is said to be the second most profilic author ever? Her 904 books - written under 11 pseudonyms - include such titles as There is No Yesterday and Wind of Desire.
3. The brainchild of the late Saudi prince Faisal ibn Fahd, which tournament started in 1992 as the King Fahd Cup?
4. A 15-mile stretch of which road between junction 13 of the M65 and Long Preston is said to be the most dangerous road in the UK, with over 100 deaths in the last decade? It is a favourite with motorcycle enthusiasts, especially early on Sunday mornings.
5. Its trade name came into use in 1912 and is thought to be derived from an Aboriginal word for 'head covering'. The original factory that made them was founded in the early 1870s by Benjamin Dunkerley, the inventor of a machine that removed the hair tip from rabbit hair for use in the making of felt hats. Which Australian brand of hat's wide-brimmed styles have become a part of the country's culture and are especially popular in rural areas?




Answers to FE:XXXXIV
1. Adhan or Azan
2. Kathleen Lindsay (the 1986 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records refers to her "Mary Faulkner" pen name)
3. Confederations Cup
4. A682
5. Akubra

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

Friday, June 19, 2009

What's the Quiz Version of "L'esprit d'escalier"?

Always Read On

I absolutely LOVE it when I go through old notes two or three weeks after the WQC and see (now) glaring notes like "Borsalino - Milan-based hat brand, its handmade Panama Montecristi Semicalado, f.1834 by Giuseppe" and "Parisian-b. Israeli YAE NAIM 'New Soul', Apple Macbook Air ad".

This has happened to me on at least two other infuriating occasions since the Worlds. It's funny how not reading one or two pages further into a notebook has cost me points. And it's bloody hilarious when I realise I've read c.90% of the said note-store (of stuff I haven't got round to adapting into questions) in the days before the championship. It's just that tiny slither in the middle that I haven't cast my eyes over.

Consequently, they have now been annotated with "FOR F**** SAKE" and "f***ing b****cks".

Of course, they should read "FOR FLIP'S SAKE" and "flowing buttocks"

1. It can mean 'exile', 'outlaws' or 'emigre'. What term was applied to political opponents of the Mussolini's fascist regime who fled or were forced to leave Italy during the 1920s and '30s? During the Spanish Civil War, they took part in a famous victory over the Italian fascist "volunteers" at the Battle of Guadalajara in March 1937.
2. What is Japan's largest selling English-language newspaper? And which newspaper has the largest circulation in the world?
3. Twenty-two federal employees died when three floors of which government building collapsed on June 9, 1893, the day of the funeral of the great Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth?
4. Which silly Spanish motorcycle racer celebrated "winning" the recent 125cc Catalunya MotoGP a lap early, meaning he ended up finishing 4th?
5. Described as an "absolute animal" by Jeremy Clarkson, which Dodge sports car, known as the Viper elsewhere because the name is a registered trademark in the UK, has been dubbed Britain's least green car?






Answers to FE:XXXXII
1. Fuorusciti 2. The Daily Yomiuri; Yomiuri Shimbun (both published by the Yomiuri Group. The latter was founded in 1874 and has a combined morning and evening circulation of over 14 million) 3. The former Ford's Theater (it had been turned into a government building after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth - feeling slightly silly writing such an obvious fact - who was the brother of Edwin, both members of the Booth acting clan and son of the English-born actor Junius Brutus Booth. It could be compared to Stephen Baldwin shooting Barack Obama. I suppose) 4. Julián Simón (born in 1987, he is a member of the Mapfre Aspar team) 5. Dodge SRT-10 (it topped the ETA survey with 488g/km, followed by the Bentley Brooklands coupe (465g/km) and the MPV Mercedes R-Class R63 AMG (387g/km))

My word, I cannot actually stop myself from writing back-up notes now. They're quite addictive. The urge for completeness is unbelievable. Because if I don't elaborate, then surely the world will explode.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Casualties of the QB

A quiz, for a change.

(2nd post of the day? I can't believe it either)

These are simply questions I wrote randomly and in a separate file from the QB, thus making the endeavour doubly-foolish. This meant that it was a real bugger to fit some of them on the pages, owing to their hilariously excessive size.

Thus, I cast them to the river because I have far too many other ones queuing up for the "Big (old book-based) Show" and filling, well, my life basically (brain heavy and sore with factage). Off with you, I say, to the river, another metaphor, this blog, the sea of memory...

BH158: QB Clearout
1. Most commonly seen in insects, what term describes a physiological state of dormancy with very specific triggering and releasing conditions and is distinguished from other forms of dormancy such as hibernation in that once it is initiated, only certain other stimuli are capable of releasing the organism from this state? A dynamic process it consists of several distinct phases starting with “Induction” and continuing with “Preparation”, “Initiation”, “Maintenance” and then “Termination”.
2. Located in a namesake 1,800,000 acre Biosphere Reserve in the Mexican state of Campeche, which ancient Maya city and former fierce rival to Tikal, lying deep in the jungles of the greater Petén Basin region was discovered from the air by biologist Cyrus L. Lundell of the Mexican Exploitation Chicle Company in December 1931?
3. Dating back to the Qin Dynasty (c.250BC), it was called the “Immortal Health Elixir” by the Chinese because they believed it balanced the Middle Qi (spleen & stomach) and aided digestion, thus allowing the body to heal. Known as kocha kinoko (‘mushroom tea’) in Japan, what is the Western name for a sweetened tea or tisane which has been fermented using a macroscopic solid mass of microorganisms called a “________ colony”, the culture containing a symbiosis of Acetobacter (acetic acid bacteria) and yeast?
4. Most remembered as the leader of East Germany during the fall of the Berlin Wall, who succeeded Erich Honecker on October 18, 1989, only to serve as Communist Party General Secretary until December 3 and was subsequently sentenced to six-and-a-half years imprisonment for Cold War crimes (specifically the manslaughter of those Germans killed attempting to jump over the wall)?
5. Founded in 1908, which British company currently published eleven novel series that are all identifiable by series title as well as a colour border, including Modern, Blaze, By Request, Medical, Historical and Intrigue?
6. Which TV show is known as Bailando por un sueño in Argentina, El Baile en TVN in Chile, Ples sa zvijezdama in Croatia, Tanssii tähtien kanssa in Finland, Rokdim Im Kokhavim in Israel, Dejo ar zvaigzni in Latvia, Taniec z Gwiazdami in Poland, Bak Kim Dans Ediyor in Turkey, Sehati Berdansa in Malaysia and Szombat esti láz in Hungary?
7. Discovered by Masayasu Kojima and colleagues in 1999, which hormone, produced mainly by P/D1 cells lining the fundus of the human stomach and epsilon cells of the pancreas, stimulates appetite and has emerged as the first circulating hunger hormone?
8. Opened as a speakeasy at 154 East 54th Street in the middle of the block between Lexington Avenue and Third Avenue by the Italian immigrant John Perona and Martin de Alzaga in 1931, which New York nightclub – popular with the rich and famous in the 30s and 50s – was famous for its Vernon MacFarlane-designed blue zebra stripe motif and its official photographer Jerome Zerbe, and also was the first club to use a velvet rope?
9. Which Newcastle upon Tyne retailer claims to be the “World’s first department store”, having been founded as a drapers and fashion shop in 1838? However, the John Lewis Partnership bought it in 1952 and retained the original name until it rebranded the store as John Lewis Newcastle in 2002.
10. Closely related to lizards and snakes, which suborder of usually legless squamates is divided into four families, including Bipedidae (e.g. Ajolotes), Rhineuridae (North American worm lizards) and Trogonophidae (Palearctic worm lizards), with many possessing pink body colouration and scales arranged in rings, thus giving them a superficial resemblance to earthworms?
11. The red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), a member of the family Emydidae, is what sort of reptile, which lives in fresh or brackish water and is the mascot of the University of Maryland?
12. What alternative name is given to Megalania (‘great roamer’), an extinct monitor lizard which was one of the megafauna that roamed southern Australia until it disappeared around 40,000 years ago and is the largest terrestrial lizard known to have existed at an estimated average length of 4.5m/15ft?
13. What is the common name of Drosera, one of the largest genera of carnivorous plants with over 170 species, which lure, capture and digest insects using mucilaginous glands covering their leaf surface?
14. Headquartered in Romanel-sur-Morges, Switzerland, which peripherals company was founded in 1981 by Stanford alumni Daniel Borel and Marini Zappacosta, and former Olivetti manager Pierluigi, and are the biggest manufacturers of computer mice in the world, having announced production of its billionth mouse in December 2008?
15. Which dukedom was created in the Peerage of Scotland on April 20, 1663 for the Duke of Monmouth and passed on to his descendants, who have successively borne the surnames Scott, Montagu-Scott, Montagu-Douglas-Scott and Scott again, with the family seats being Bowhill House (three miles outside Selkirk) representing the Scott line, Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries and Galloway, the Douglas line and Boughton House, Northants, representing Montagu?
16. Which people, who originate from a province of Pakistan and number around 70 million, claim to be one of the oldest civilisations in human history and rank the birthday of their patron saint and water god Lord Jhule Ial, Cheti Chand, as their most important festival, celebrating it as New Year’s Day?
17. Created by Skopian-Vardarskan immigrant Jimmy Stefanovic, which sandwich of fried spicy beef-and-pork sausage that is a cross between a kielbasa and hot dog topped with grilled onions and yellow mustard on a bun is partly named after the Chicago street marketplace where it was first sold in 1939?
18. Looper, Counter Driver and Pimpled Hitter are styles of which grip in table tennis?
19. Which enclosed, cable-like bundles of peripheral axons are categorised into three groups based on the direction that signals are conducted, these being ‘afferent’, ‘efferent’ and ‘mixed’?
20. Nerves are found only in the peripheral nervous system. What name is given to the analgous structures in the central nervous system?
21. Most commonly known for their antioxidant activity, which class of plant secondary metabolites include quercetin (which may prevent some type of cancers), epicatechin (which improves blood flow and seems good for cardiac flow and occurs in relatively high amounts in cocoa) and proanthocyanidins (which decreases capillary permeability and fragility, scavenges free radicals and oxidants and inhibits destruction of collagen (the most abundant protein in the body)?
22. Rutin, also called sophorin, is a citrus flavonoid glycoside found in which crop plant, whose scientific name is Fagopyrum esculentum?
23. Playing a role in both Noh and Kabuki theatre music and the native folk music min’yo, what type of Japanese musical instrument is the tsuzumi?
24. After a string of Roman defeats, the 102BC Battle of Aquae Sextiae (Aix en Provence) saw an army of 40,000 led by Gaius Marius finally defeat which two tribes?
25. Which East Germanic tribe, whose name is derived from the Norwegian county their ultimate origins have been traced back to, lived in Pomerania for a while before they moved south at the start of the 4th century and settled at the upper Tsiza (modern Hungary) and, after taking part in Attila the Hun’s campaigns in 451, created their own kingdom in Austria before they were defeated by Odoacer in 487 and joined the Heruls?
26. Named after a former FA secretary and FIFA president, which short-lived football competition of the late 1980s was contested between England and Scotland, and in later years, a guest team from South America?
27. The Tandy Corporation, which purchased (and gave its name to) the Fort Worth-based RadioShack Corporation in 1963, was originally founded as what sort of supply store?
28. Which Japanese game company released the cartridge-based arcade and home video game system, the Neo Geo in 1990; the home console being called the AES (Advanced Entertainment System) and the arcade version, the MVS (Multi Video System)?
29. Which multinational communications corporation failed to win a significant following in the handheld gaming market with the release of the N-Gage in October 2003?
30. Voted the 4th greatest of all time in the 2006 IGN Readers’ Choice poll, which 1994 2-D platform adventure game for the Super NES takes place mainly on Planet Zebes, with the player controlling bounty hunter Samus Aran, who must search the open-ended world a stolen larva, hunting Space Pirates as she goes?
31. Known in Mapuche Native American as Lahuan, what is the Spanish name for the evergreen Patagonian Cypress, which belongs to the Fitzroya genus? It is the largest species in South America (up to 40-60m tall, with a 5m trunk diameter) and has a specimen from Chile that was dated as 3622-years-old in 1993, making it the third-greatest fully verified age recorded for any living tree.
32. In 12th century Russia, the eastern Slaves worshipped which winter mother goddess, offering bloodless sacrifices like honey and bread and making brightly coloured embroideries depicting the antlered deity in honour of her eponymous “Feast” in late December?
33. On the winter solstice, the Saami people of Fennoscandia celebrate which spring and sun goddess of fertility and sanity, who travels with her daughter through the sky in a vessel made of reindeer bones to herald back the greenery on which the reindeer feed and restore the mental health of those driven mad by the endless darkness of the season?
34. A member race of the Worldloppet Ski Federation, which 51km race from Cable to Hayward, Wisconsin was started in 1973 by promoter Tony Wise and, with 9,000 participants each year, is the largest, and one of the longest cross country ski races in North America?
35. Named one of the best inventions of 2002 by Time magazine, which human-powered, three-wheeled carving vehicle utilises conservation of angular momentum to allow a rider to propel forward and was created by the Brazilians Gildo Beleski and Osorio Trentini in 1988 after they were inspired to create a vehicle for riding downhill?
36. The modern form of what reggae-influenced Jamaican music style, which developed in the late 1970s and owes its name to the spaces in which popular local and bajan records were aired by local sound systems and readily consumed by its “set-to-party” patronage, is also known as bashment?
37. ‘Come to Me’ by Marv Johnson became the first record to ever come from which label when it was released in May 1959 and reached no.30 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart?
38. Like the UEFA Champions’ League, FIFA has had an official “Anthem” or “Hymn” since the 1994 World Cup, which is played at the start of FIFA-organised matches and tournaments. Which German composer (b.1948) and Hammond organ player wrote it?






Answers to BH158
1. Diapause (the final phase is “Post-diapause quiescence”)
2. Calakmul (the name means ‘City of the Two Adjacent Pyramids’ in Maya and the site contains 117 stelae, the largest total in the Maya region)
3. Kombucha tea (the yeast is mostly Brettanomyces bruxellensis, Candida stellata, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Torulaspora delbrueckii and Zygosaccharomyces bailii and the culture resembles a large pancake, though it is often called a mushroom or SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast), the clinical name being zoogleat mat. Health claims for kombucha focus on the chemical glucuronic acid, a compound used by the liver for detoxification)
4. Egon Krenz (b.1937)
5. Mills and Boon (Gerald Rusgrove Mills and Charles Boon were the name of the founders. It remained independent until it was purchased by the Canadian company Harlequin Enterprises in 1971. The other series are Romance, Desire, Superromance and Spotlight)
6. Dancing with the Stars / Strictly Come Dancing
7. Ghrelin (its name is based on its role as a “growth hormone-releasing peptide”, with reference to the Proto-Indo-European root ghre, meaning ‘to grow’. It is regarded as the counterpart of the hormone leptin, produced by adipose tissue, which induces satiation when present at higher levels)
8. El Morocco (the setting for a scene in The Way We Were, it has been mentioned in such films as Sabrina (1954 version), Butterfield 8 and Valley of the Dolls. It also banned Humphrey Bogart for life in 1950)
9. Bainbridges (other “first” claimants include Austin’s in Northern Ireland, which has maintained its original site on “The Diamond” in Derry’s city centre since 1830; Le Bon Marché (founded by Aristide Boucicaut in Paris in 1838); and Delany’s New Mart in Dublin (opened in 1853 on Sackville Street, now O’Connell Street))
10. Amphisbaenia (the name of these “worm-lizards” is derived from Amphisbaena ('both ways to go'), a serpent with a head at each end which, according to Greek myth, was spawned from the blood that dripped from Medusa’s head as Perseus flew over the Libyan Desert with it in his hand. Pliny the Elder claimed in his Naturalis Historia (c.77AD) that it “has a twin head, that is one at the tail end as well, as though it were not enough for poison to be poured out of one mouth”)
11. Terrapin (named from an alteration of torope, from Virginia Algonquin)
12. Giant goanna (Varanus priscus; it may have been encountered by the first aboriginal settlers)
13. Sundews (species include the oblong-leaved or spoonleaf (D. intermedia), Alice (D. aliciae), cape (D. capensis), Fork-leafed (D. binata) and shield (D. peltata))
14. Logitech International (The mass-marketed computer mouse made it well-known. The range of products offered improvements over the one originally developed at LAMI (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) by Professor Jean-Daniel Nicoud and engineer André Guignard, who was involved in the design changes of the device invented by Douglas Engelbart)
15. Duke of Buccleuch (Richard John Walter Scott, the 10th Duke of Buccleuch and 12th Duke of Queensberry (b.1954), is currently the largest private landowner in the UK and chairman of a namesake holding company. The Heir Apparent is Walter John Francis Scott (b.1984), the Earl of Dalkeith)
16. Sindhis (they also celebrate Akhandi (Baisakhi) and Teejari (Teej). Cheti Chand, held on the first day of Chaitra known as Chet in Sindhi, falls on the same day as Ugadi, the New Year in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, and Gudi Padwa, New Year in Maharashtra)
17. Maxwell Street Polish Sausage (other popular local sandwiches include the Chicago hot-dog (a steamed all-beef wiener on a poppy seed bun “dragged through the garden” and served with “Nuclear Relish” that under any circumstances cannot be slathered with ketchup) and the Italian beef (seasoned roast beef on a long, dense Italian-style roll dipped in gravy and topped off with Chicago-style giardiniera (pickled vegetables in vinegar) or green Italian sweet peppers)
18. Penhold (Pimpled Hitter is the traditional penhold style)
19. Nerves (afferent nerves conduct signals from sensory neurons to the CNS, e.g. the mechanoreceptors in skin; efferent conduct signals from the CNS along motor neurons to their target muscles and glands; mixed nerves contain both of the previous two types and thus conduct both incoming sensory information and outgoing muscle commands in the same bundle)
20. Tracts
21. Flavonoid
22. Common buckwheat (Tatary buckwheat (F. tataricum Gaertn.) or “bitter buckwheat” is also used as a crop, but is much less common)
23. Drum (consisting of an hourglass-shaped body, it is taut with two drum heads with cords that can be squeezed or released to increase or decrease pressure. It is the only Japanese drum that is struck with the hands; all others are played with sticks called bachi. Since it is often played with its bigger counterpart, the otsuzumi, it is also referred to as the kotsuzumi (‘small tsuzumi’))
24. Teutones & Ambrones
25. Rugians (from Rogaland; later they joined the Ostrogothic king Theodoric the Great when he invaded Italy in 489, where they formed their own division and disappeared with the Ostrogoths)
26. Rous Cup (named after Sir Stanley Rous, 1985-89)
27. Leather goods (along with Commodore and Apple, Tandy became one of the companies that started the PC revolution, with their TRS-80 (1977) and TR-80 Color Computer (“CoCo”) (1980) line of home computers)
28. SNK (aka SNK Playmore, the company was founded in 1978 by Eikichi Kawasaki and existed until October 22, 2001. SNK is an acronym of Shin Nihon Kikau (‘New Japan Project’))
29. Nokia (it unsuccessfully tried to lure gamers away from the Game Boy Advance by including mobile phone functionality, one of the reasons being the badly designed buttons and the fact that it looked like it was a taco)
30. Super Metroid (aka Metroid 3)
31. Alerce (only an African Baobab (6,000 years) and Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) named Methusaleh are older)
32. Rozhanitsa (white, deer-shaped cookies were given as lucky gifts)
33. Beiwe (whose daughter is named Beiwe-Neia; worshippers sacrificed white female animals, and with the meat, thread and sticks, bed into rings with ribbons, and also cover their doorposts with butter so Beiwe can eat it and start her journey once again)
34. The American Birkebeiner or Birkie (its name commemorates a historical event from 1206 when a group of Birkebeiners – soldiers who fought for Sverre Sigurdsson and his descendants in the Norwegian civil war and were so-named because they were so poor their shoes were made of birch bark – smuggled the bastard son of King Håkon Sverresson from Lillehammer to safety in Trondheim. At Norway’s Birkebeinerrennet, skiers still carry packs symbolising the weight of an 18-month-old kid)
35. Trikke (pronounced “trike”, the first ever Trikke/3CV race was held in Munich in 2004)
36. Dancehall
37. Tamla Records, later Motown Records (founded by Berry Gordy as Tamla on January 12, 1959, the company was incorporated as Motown Record Corporation in 1960. Gordy’s first signed act was The Matadors, who later changed their name to The Miracles. The first hit was Barrett Strong’s ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ (no.2 Billboard R&B charts), its first R&B no. 1 and million-selling record was ‘Shop Around’ by The Miracles, while The Marvelette scored Tamla’s first US no. 1 with ‘Please Mr. Postman’ in 1961)
38. Franz Lambert (he is also noted for playing Wersi electric organs and has released over 100 albums)

The Terror of Doing

All I want to do is plan around, sonny

So the wire-balls of tumbleweed roll on in their legions and a chilly wind plays its silent tune around these here stultified and barren environs. You can laugh, if you want.

I know that I should have written about the WQC (4th ain't so bad) in far, far more excruciating depth than I did in my two long essays on the Quizzing site. I'm sure you've read them and been frightened to your very core, but I assure you I am a very fast typer and when the random thoughts keep coming, no matter whether they are actually quiz-related or not, I have no way of stopping them connecting with my fingertips and letting them do their merry, rapid dance across the keyboard. But even then I had to hold back my in-depth analysis. How doth that go, if it had the chance to shimmy?

Well, I immediately totted up 20 SHKs at the train station (I am a sad, sad basta..), including at least five - struck, as if in stone -upon the face of the project I will write about in the next few hundred words. Answers like DRAGON'S LAIR (I put Dragonquest ... must have confused it with EverQuest at a critical writing moment, even though I had practically written the same question word for word a few weeks before... grrr goes the angry motorbike of hindsight-powered frustration). And KAZANKINA ... grrrokillstop).

But then again I caught a bit of the old serendipity. About two days before Ludlow I was watching the excellent Claire Denis's "Billy Budd goes French Foreign Legion and a sight more gay" film Beau Travail (one of the few French films to keep its original title in the States, where they often suck a little bit of the magic out of Franco-flicks by slapping them with the translated name: e.g. The Children of the Gods and Zero for Conduct, because distributors must think their audience are slightly thick and easily confused by Yerpean words like "de" and "les") and it started with a familiar sounding Holly Valance song in a Djibouti disco. Only it was in Turkish. Weird, I thought, so I immediately hunted its true origin and found Tarkan. Which, thank Dieu, I remembered. And yes, isn't such a hunt most glorious and exciting, non?

Just one more instance, otherwise this navel-gazing will turn into a small intestine exam, I decided - on a whim - to fill in all the blanks from my Lesigny EQC 2006 paper on the morning I left for rain-drowned Shropshire and tried to find a Czech city with a chess tourney, a steeplechase and a birthing place for goaltender Dominik Hasek (it's Pardubice; never even bloody heard of it ... all those damn anonymous Eastern European cities, which aren't capitals, damn them). I hadn't seen Hasek's name since I did 500 ice hockey questions last year for a job when it merged into a kind of Brodeuroyasek confection. Luckily, Pardubice got it all crystallised and, um, stuff.

Thus, it all balances out. Although if I had looked at the 2004 WQC paper in the last week, and because it would have been just enough, I wouldn't have beat my head (in a metaphorical fashion against a wall made of pure metaphor) for at least 10 minutes about the Kuril Islands. The other 35 or so head-beating minutes were taken up by Jelinek and that other easy thing I cannot recall even now. Blast it to hell.

Fourth was good, fourth is contentment, only ... I could have gone one better (which is what everybody else in the entire room could say, with the brilliant exception of Kevin). But there's always next year ... and the rest of our lives! (And suddenly, a note of reality-suffused depression brings us mighty low)(more brackets)

QLL Quiz Rally Note
Seven days later ... I usually come ninth and I came *drum roll* ninth, which had been 11th until I dared to do a query and gave a viable alternative name for the Portland Vase (the nice Italian name I can remember thanks to its foreignness and more numerous syllables). So how could I be disappointed? I mean, I actually got questions about The Goon Show, Bassenthwaite Lake, Alfred Wainwright, Rock of Ages, and the Gavotte right. There was a time when such questions would have made me all weep in my juvenile impotence, but the years, which roll towards me like relentless Indiana Jones boulders in my private world of rocky and hard metaphors, are gradually accommodating me with the answers I need to finish ... NINTH ... again. Let's say I will be in true toppermost contention in about 25 years time. That's a decent time-scale.

But, seriously, I am beginning to apprectiate Donald's questions more and more (especially, the ones on science, which I really liked for a nebulous reason or two), as well as find them increasingly interesting.

They are well-crafted and shine a light on subjects, e.g. the finer points of English poetry, rugby football rules, engineering, plumbing (I think) and train engines, that I never think to give a single glance in all the 364 days before the quiz. And because of the huge volume of quizzes I do every year, the ones which are shaded differently tend to stand out more. The Clockwork Quiz is a great example, the Quiz Rally equally so because - and for radically different reasons to Leuven, as you might guess - it makes for a great alternative challenge, what with the time limits and bonus-penalties thingameejigs.

If all quizzes were the same with the same predictable topics and focus, we'd just be bored to death. Change is good. Qualification: In certain proportions. I think the three preceding sentences may well be packed with platitudinous garbage, but still, do ya get me?

Plus, it was nice to see Pat - the Victor Ludorum of the day - and Barry add their names to an already scarily good field this year. Even if they gave me a right old slapping (must be the sense of rebound vengeance propelling them from the WQC a week before; we're all fighting long, attritional conflicts against each other, if you think about it).

Wait, I was meant to write about the Big Thing. Just a few moments...