Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Want some mildly euphoric rambling?

I was wandering through the Andes Survivors site today and looked at the very earliest Belgian-England match-ups (Bromley & Ghent - neither of which I attended). Call it my lingering and always powerful adherence to Kaizen - the Japanese desire for constant improvement (or something like that; I'm sure Jesse can provide a better definition). And call me crazy for looking up the old stuff and reading avidly through Qs mere days after undergoing the shattering mental assault of a European Quizzing Championship weekend.

I downloaded the questions for the very first Belgium v England game, which resulted in a 138-86 massacre visited upon the latter, as I did for the Cafe Den Hemel club quiz (I would have got Fugazi!) and Ghent individuals because, despite my cutting and pasting and printing out the Qs a couple of times before. They got lost in the masses of questions I have collated and rounded-up and absorbed into The Files. They have become so many: sheets of old question sets sprayed all over my bedroom; once pristine files crushed out of shape by even bigger files of thousands and thousands of trivia one/double liners.

An old sensation returned. I remembered. On first looking at those 2003 & 2004 sets, my instant reaction was: "What quiz planet do our Flemish quiz counterparts live on?"

The funny thing is that what looked so alien and obscure and devilishly hard those years ago, now seems very do-able and accessible (constant mental "I know that" ad nauseam). The years of hard travail that I knew was needed and put in gradually destroyed that disconnect. For this I thank the Belgian quiz nation for opening my eyes and showing me what Quiz could really be: a cosmopolitan and catholic test of all the world's knowledge, shattering my focus on the Albion-centred knowledge sub-set demanded of Brits, whose lowest and highest GK achievements were and are channelled through and bent out of shape by the oppressive, individualistic "entertainment" demands of our television quiz culture (though, of course, it has its many charms and many benefits ... I have to say that what with work and all that).

It was also doubly shocking and nice to know that somewhere on the continent pop culture questions (woah, American indie rock!) were being asked that were actually relevant to someone of my then mostly youthful disposition.

Thanks to all that work, such hard work, reaping Wikipedia amongst other now ingrained habits for hours on end, in order to make up The Gap (and what a bloody big gap it was, a yawning dark chasm I couldn't quite believe) I can now call myself - for about the next c.360 days at least - the European individual champion.

Mucho gratitude is also forthcoming for the truckload of luck I was laden with in the final. For without fortune smiling upon you, even the finest quizzers will find themselves hamstrung and stranded in what might appear to them mid-table or upper-table obscurity. It depends on the insanely high standards we all set for ourselves.

For, without changing Chunking (Chonqing) to Shenzhen in the last 20 seconds of the final, I would now be swinging a silver medal around my living room in a homicidal manner, whilst grumbling and yowling like a pitiful wounded beast, thinking what might have been. (Just to confirm: Gold is great. Feel free to smack me upside the head if my smugness goes overboard. Oh wait: perhaps it already has.)

Still, there are always further challenges. There's an endless sodding parade of them. There's that magic quartet of four golden Euro titles which I missed out in Dordrecht to aim for: something that will get harder and harder every year to achieve (just watch the rest of the field come back with beautiful, determined vengeance ... it's the least I would expect from the wonderfully, awesomely talented likes of Tero, Pat, Kevin, Ronny, Nico, Jesse and so on and so many). Once one quiz ends, the cycle starts again so very soon, giving us yet another chance to put right what went so terribly awry the last 29 times. And to do it against an ever improving field is something that will also undoubtedly raise the game to even more impressive heights.

And so we go on. It's endless and so very enjoyable to burn with a deep competitiveness and lust for autodidactism that few non-quizzers will ever understand. But we understand, don't we?

That and I have a lot of improving to do when it comes to European comic artists, Hispanic writers, European geography, basketball and Nature, red in tooth and claw. Damn those weaver fish parasites and sweet American herbs.

So in conclusion and without meaning to patronise another quiz culture: Thank you, Belgium (even if you woke the sleeping giant of British international quizzing, it's worth it, isn't it? So much more fun and better this way).

(PS: Thanks to Chris, Jane, Steven, Arko, Doc, Paul and all the IQA organisers for another superlative EQC. It remains my favourite quiz thing in all the world. But then I would say that, wouldn't I?)


Anonymous arthur said...

Oh yes, I'm glad that someone else recognises that British quizzing canon is inherently UK-centric. If you want a real shock, don't take a Belgian quiz (fine as their quizzes are), do a quiz in China!

I have been moderately successful in pub quizzes in the UK, but when I moved back to Hong Kong, and I realised that I can seldom get past the first 5 questions in WWTBAM without using at least a lifeline.

Quizzing in a different culture is very hard, because 1)there is a whole new set of list knowledge to memorise (Birth names of local showbiz personalities, provincial capitals of China, Japanese heraldry, etc), 2) names in English are not interchangeable with Chinese ones (Chinese names of Western films/books/countries/people bear no resemblance to the name in original language) and 3) what counts as quizzable knowledge is quite different.

Over here, we have a lot more "business world" type questions, and things like stock ticker symbols, locations of major property developments and CEOs of major companies gets asked quite a bit. The number of chapters to Chinese classics comes up once in a while. I now know that Sun Tzu's Art of War has 13 chapters and the Red Chamber has 80 chapters and later expanded to 120, but I don't think that UK quizmasters will find it appropriate to ask for the number of chapters to say, Dickens' Hard Times.

And then there are some language specific questions like identifying the radical to complex Chinese characters, or knowing the meanings words in classical Chinese/regional Chinese dialects. Oh, and there's Chinese medicine and Chinese astrology questions... there is a lot more to this, but I think I have gone on enough.

11:49 AM  

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