Saturday, April 16, 2011

Looks Like It's The Met For Me

My 'congratulatory' text to Ian on winning Mastermind:

"Very very well done, ian. I scored 17 on your SS. I didn't get the Piombo apple Q. I did, however, go 'ahem' when you said every important painter is represented. The NG's lack of a Simone Martini, Hugo van der Goes or Georges de la Tour (nevermind lesser lights like Arcimboldo + Bazille) popped into my head immediately. And if the two Giorgiones are Giorgiones then I'm the King of Bhutan. My god. I've turned into such an insane art geek"

So a regulation congrats text that turned into a full blown critique of our nation's paintings collection, which despite my pointing out its relatively minor gaps (I've also read that we're missing a really seminal Gauguin), is probably - in terms of real quality - the most comprehensive/representative collection of 13th-19th century Western European paintings in the world.

The Prado, for instance, hasn't got a single Hals or Vermeer - the NG has eight and two respectively, and a single (admittedly great) Rembrandt against our score of paintings, while the Louvre is missing such key Italian primitives as Masaccio and Duccio. Also I don't believe the Louvre even have any Altdorfers or Elsheimers and its minor pair of Velazquezes are probably 'workshop of' paintings; the NG has a great mixture of nine works, including the Spaniard's only surviving nude (you know which one). I could go on, but I have a train to catch. And like I said ... 'insane art geek' - the kind that managed to visit five art museums in three different cities during my recent Amsterdam stag do weekend (the high culture, as it were, bookended the drinking/visiting the Red Light District bit when everyone had as yet not arrived or departed).

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Quiz Blogger Who Doesn't Blog. That's Me!

4 post in, erm, 7 months?

[BTW, there's a bunch of quiz questions after the wordage, which you shouldn't take too seriously. I'll look back on this stuff next week and think myself a nutter for writing it. Then I will press Edit and delete half of this cack. But, for now, I'll let it be]

Greetings, whatever is left of my long-suffering readership. The despairing yet hopeful hardcore. I was going to do the apologetic beyond belief thing, which admittedly gets tired and repetitive, but then I remembered this comment from a person with the name "Anonymous" way back...

"2 post [sic] in 5 months..a long time ago, this blog made sense to visit..not anymore".

Quite honestly, the above style of comment is the reason I have practically disappeared from The Facebook, blogging and living life on the internet. I no longer interact with the denizens of The Zuckerberg's digital FiefDom, unless, of course, they contact me (then I'm all peaches and cream and reply like a normal FB addict, replying with speed and agility, replying like a goddamn cheetah).

I was going to launch into a fierce, vengeful diatribe, filled with flesh-tearing and bone-crushing, imagery just like the old days. Now, in my increasingly geriatric state, I really can't be bothered. A kind of dull sensation smothers my brain when I consider it. It means Vienna to me.

Very few blogs matter. The ones that do often bless their writers with book deals or shiney new meeja careers. The millions? of others soldier on, ignored by the human race.

My blog - a learning tool, interspersed with, ahem, imaginative longueurs - never mattered in the way that the best ones do and if I ever thought it did my insane self probably deserved a trip to the loony bin and an old-fashion lobotomy. In fact, it wasn't even a blog - where was the regular diet of links, for instance? It wasn't even an interesting personal journal, so haphazard and sparse in real life were the posts. The lacunae wrecked its blogging raison d'etre.

And that was then. "A long time ago", at the peak of blogpost production, I would have replied with a novella-length screed railing against the deranged, self-righteous internet hordes* who fill comment sections with their ill-thought out opinions that stink out everyone's existence with a whole gamut of negative views that range from expressions of mild dislike to declarations of homicidal intent.

* Methinks the only people worse than the hateful hordes are the ones who leave comments like "I've never heard of this person" and "I've not seen this TV show yet". Okay, that just shows up your ignorance and total lack of self-awareness for commenting on something you know nothing about. You think just because you've never encountered this person before (take jack-of-all-trades master of none James Franco for instance, who had a Guardian interview comment section with exactly that kind of 'opinion' on it), means that they are somehow rubbish or insignificant. No, it means that you are a dumbass and what you thought was some kind of contribution to the debate was an utterly pointless and brain-dead thing to say. Why in God's name did you bother writing that comment? Everyone who reads it will think less of you.

Instead, ignoring the italicised paragraph above (that's me expunging my own interwebbed rage), I will do a more thoughtful analysis and not descend to the Stygian levels of the YouTube "hey you retarded Nazi-douchebag vagina face" commenter.

What makes me laugh is that the commenter, who makes the error of mistaking my blog for one that matters, somehow thinks that my blog was written for the web and users of the web, or more specifically, the commenter, when - and I've said this many a time - it was just me writing thousands of questions for my own study use and jotting some spontaneous opinions down that might one day form bits and pieces of a terrible-selling memoir of the quizzing life.

But since it was a blog, anyone was welcome to drop by and test them on the questions and even copy and paste them into mega-files for EQC/WQC revision (you're all welcome).

Not once did I write my blog as an open letter to the folks out there and make regular requests to my readers for info or opinion, or engage in an exchange of views and general chat (man, that makes me sound like a stone-faced knob).

If you want that kind of optimal blog experience read David Clark's brilliantly comprehensive Life After Mastermind, an all-out quiz blog that buzzes with the kind of supreme trivia-adoration that has long since faded in my mind.

Comparing TQB to LAM, mine comes off as unbelievably solipsistic, poverty-stricken in the volume of words department and ignorant of the 'community' out there, unless you count my constant declarations of sorrow and apology concerning the lack of blog postage. Which are just crap and boring, to be honest.

I've never attached the importance to this blog that is implicit in that 17-word dig. Perhaps meant as a concise knifing in my heart, it feels more like a light yet irritating nudge whilst waiting in a supermarket queue.

The annoyance soon passes.

It seems that this blog isn't worth visiting not because it was badly written or contained questions stolen verbatim from quiz books. It wasn't worth visiting because it wasn't functioning and was practically flatlining.

There was nothing to see for days on end - a real Terrence Malick situation, albeit completely devoid of anticipatory excitement and coos of wonder concerning my next production another President's Cup round-up!Huzzah!). The cumulative frustration of clicking on the link for The Quiz Blogger must have been increasingly disappointing (poor schnookums, I'm all Chaka Khanning for you), and now I've got a tiny inkling of how George R.R. Martin must feel.

My only attempt to treat it as an amateur journalistic enterprise was my Ken Jennings interview and after I did it, I realised, yeah, I could make this into a decent outpost for enlightened musings and interviews that would expose the ol' media stereotypes of the quizzer as hackneyed paradigms of shameful bullroar.

Such an endeavour requires real commitment and diligence and an eye always kept on things quizzical, and I just knew that I didn't have it in me to create that magazine-like package.

Instead, the blog would shoulder on with quiz questions and shoddy tourney reviews. But even that was forever ago. The reality is I don't care for blog hits, the orgasmic drug of many a devoted blogger, so there was no underlying urge to improve the formula and draw more people in. The possibility never moved me in the way it does the true blogmeister.

And, frequency-wise, the crucial thing it truly boiled down to was the real money-earning work that I was doing. Back in 2006, I was posting quiz after quiz, but I was a freelance with a lot, and I mean LOADS of free time on my hands. Days spent in bed watching seasons of the then new Battlestar Galactica in three-day bursts, DVD marathons and so on. Jeez, I could have been a wee bit more constructive there.

However, this blog was always bound to deteriorate rapidly once I changed career path and returned to working in an office, after four years of working from home, sweet relaxed lazy home. The blog is my job sacrifice (I can't believe I just wrote that line, but I'll leave it in. Possibly because I'm meta-man and a fully operational idiot).

Now I am a more-than-full-time question writer, doing what I did before but now getting a living wage for it, the old Dr Johnson quote about only blockheads writing for free comes to mind (he was so right).

Then there's the fact that I can't write about TV quiz shows like I used to for reasons that you can work out for yourself. Burning bridges in the media biz is no way to build a career; a career that has now consumed my old blogging habits.

So let me leave you with an exchange from The Simpsons episode 'The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show' to make my final, slightly shoddy point:

Bart: Hey, I know it wasn't great, but what right do you have to complain?
Comic Book Guy: As a loyal viewer, I feel they owe me.
Bart: What? They're giving you thousands of hours of entertainment for free. What could they possibly owe you? I mean, if anything, you owe them!
Comic Book Guy: Worst episode ever.

(And what if the comment was a joke that I have once again taken far too seriously? Ah well. Can't think of anything to write about that possibility. Or maybe I'm exhausted and/or lazy. What has just dawned on me is the scale of my over-reaction to what was seventeen words. Overblown indeed. And now I have a little giggle. You gotta laugh when you know you're drinking from a glass full of fizzing crazy)

But wait a minute. You want questions? Course you do. Only reason you're here. Bet you skipped the above paragraphs of earnest egocentricity.

Unanswered questions in bold, as per usual.

It was the Masterminders versus Sussex - President's Cup champions yet again! Though we knew nothing of impending glory, naturally.

The score was 42-26 to ... someone. It was such a long time ago. No decisive memory remains.

President's Cup friendly 30/1/2011

Round 1
1. Which Italian city gives its name to the women's world team championship in contract bridge?
VENICE - as in the Venice Cup
2. What is the oldest cricket competition (i.e. not an annual match like Eton versus Harrow) in the world?
3. Which British sitcom was remade in the US in the 1970s, with comedian Red Foxx and Demond Wilson in the title roles?
STEPTOE AND SON (which became Sanford & Son)
4. The Volkskammer, or 'People's Chamber', was the parliament of which country?
5. The last opera that Mozart worked on took its story from the life of which Roman emperor?
TITUS - as in La clemenza di Tito
6. Overthrowing King Faisal II, the July 14th Revolution of 1958 took place in which country?
7. What was first defined as the area that could be plowed in a day by a yoke of oxen?
8. Inspired by his experiences as an orderly in World War One, which English artist decorated Sandham Memorial Chapel in Hampshire with a series of paintings?

Round 2
1. Gruoch was the wife of which 11th century Scottish king?
2. Which actor married, in chronological order, June Melville, Hattie Jacques and Joan Malin?
3. The Fields Medal is only awarded to mathematicians under which age?
4. Which large American birds belong to the genus Meleagris of the pheasant family?
5. Which system of musical notation and technique for teaching sight-singing was devised by Sarah Glover and popularised by John Curwen?
6. Hearing of which president's death led to Dorothy Parker asking: "How could they tell?"?
7. New York's Empire State Building was constructed on the site of which hotel?
8. What did Winston Churchill call "a philosophy of failure [and] the gospel of envy"?

Round 3
1. Krating Daeng was the Thai inspiration for which energy drink?
2. Recently bought in the IPL auction for $2.4 million by the Kolkata Knight Riders from the Delhi Daredevils, which Indian batsman is therefore the world's most expensive cricketer?
3. Much seen in Western films, which region of the Colorado Plateau on the southern border of Utah with northern Arizona is characterised by a cluster of vast sandstone buttes?
4. At the 2010 General Election, Naomi Long replaced Peter Robinson as MP for Belfast East. She belongs to which political party, whose leader is David Ford?
5. First held in 1925, the MacRobertson Shield is the leading tournament in which sport?
6. Where was the Grand National run between 1916 and 1918?
7. In Greek mythology, which faithful dog quickly recognised Odysseus on his return to Ithaca, despite the king's disguise as an old beggar?
8. Which unincorporated territory of the USA is the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands?

Round 4
1. Also known as PCP, the drug 'phencyclidine' has what two-word nickname, which is also that of a Faith No More album?
2. How many bones are there in an adult human's skull?
3. Known by the Latin name Diomedea exulans, which bird has the longest wingspan at 11.5 feet?
4. What is the name of the single superocean that was formed 240 million years ago?
5. Which mineral, with the composition SiO2, is at no. 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness?
6. Launched on January 31st, 1958, which American satellite discovered Earth's radiation belts?
7. Changed into a white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the Disney film, Bambi was originally which species in the books by Felix Salten?
8. Which fruit tree in the rose family is sometimes known as the Japanese medlar?

Round 5
1. Which DNA base pairs with thymine?
2. The Islamic calendar is calculated from which year - the year that saw Muhammad go from Mecca to Medina?
622 AD
3. Which saint's late 4th century Latin translation of the Bible is known as the Vulgate?
4. Which King of Wessex was recognised as overlord of England in 828?
5. Giving his name to an alkaloid, which French ambassador in Portugal introduced tobacco into his native country in 1560?
6. Edward the Martyr and Ethelred the Unready were the sons of which King, who was known as 'The Peaceful'?
7. The world's most vertical city, what was once described by Milton Friedman as the world's greatest experiment in laissez-faire capitalism?
8. The accounting firm Arthur Andersen was effectively destroyed due to its role in which scandal?

Round 6
1. Buildings in various parts of China often lack any floor name that has which number in it, due to its similarity to the Cantonese word for 'die'?
2. McDonald's biggest local rival and Brazil's first fast food chain, Bob's was founded by and named after which American tennis player who won the Wimbledon singles title in 1948?
3. Known by the abbreviation PV, which method of generating electrical power converts solar radiation into direct current electricity using semiconductors that exhibit the namesake effect? PHOTOVOLTAICS
4. Syria and Lebanon use which name for their currency?
5.The daily French newspaper with the highest circulation is Ouest-France. It is based in which northwestern city?
6. Lying at the south of the island in the Malew parish, what is the ancient capital of the Isle of Man? King William's College is located nearby.
7.In an Isaac Hayes song, "Who's the black private dick / That's a sex machine to all the chicks"?
8. Which American law professor's controversial memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, claims that soft western parenting fails, while the Chinese version get hardline results?

Round 7
1. Opened in January 2010, which Jamaican airport is the first to have been named after an English-language writer?
2. In 1956, Tunisia gained independence from France with which man as its first Prime Minister and then first President?
3. Which English singer has released two albums: Alright, Still and It's Not Me, It's You?
4. Which typographic character, as found on a computer keyboard, is known in Czech as a 'rollmop herring', in German as a 'monkey's tail' and in Hebrew as 'strudel'?
5. As seen on Yasser Arafat, which traditional headdress, typically worn by Arab and Kurdish men, is fashioned from a square, usually cotton, scarf?
6. Which three consecutive letters in the alphabet give the name of a 'Royal Aviation Company' that was founded in October 1919?
7.Fought on October 20th, 1827, which Greek War of Independence battle saw a combined Ottoman and Egyptian armada destroyed by a combined British, French and Russian naval force?
8. What is the most visited museum in the world?

Round 8
1. Which Annie Lennox debut solo album features the hit singles Why, Walking on Broken Glass and Little Bird?
DIVA - Gavin was straight in there with the right answer. Twas a pity he was scoring the game
2. The instigator of the Arts and Crafts Movement, which Englishman declared that you should "have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful"?
3. Written by Richard Ingrams and John Wells, the 'Dear Bill' letters in Private Eye purported to be the private correspondence of which man?
4. On May 3, 1966, which newspaper broke with tradition by putting news on the front page and its columns of classified advertising on the back?
5.Nicknamed "Hubble Bubble", which Duke, who served as Prime Minister for 7 years and 205 days, is best known for leading Britain into the Seven Years War? His real name was Thomas Pelham-Holles.
6. Director-General of MI5 from 1956 to 1965, which British journalist and secret-service agent was twice investigated on suspicion of being a Soviet spy?
7. Derived from the Latin word for 'apple', what name is given to the solid remains, as in in the skins, pulp and seeds, of grapes, olives or other fruit after pressing for juice or oil?
8. Which English action film star has played the title role in three Transporter movies, as well as a 2011 remake of The Mechanic - a character previously played by Charles Bronson?

The Church Commissioners have decided to sell which castle in Cumbria - the home of the Bishop of Carlisle?
Kumite and Kata are individual competitions at which sport's world championship?
What is the more common name for a plantar wart?
Which song became the breakout hit for The Supremes after The Marvelettes rejected it for being too childish?