Quiz shows

I do watch quiz shows on tv sometimes. Not game shows, and definitely not all shows. University Challenge is a no-no, as is Mastermind. My only interest is to answer the questions posed, and the topics for those are specialised and, really, of no interest. Who on earth cares about the History of Dutch Cheese 1842 to 1988?

General knowledge quiz shows are better. You stand a chance. But there are some things that annoy me about them.

First of all, questions are not easy or hard. If you know the answer, it’s easy, otherwise it’s impossible. A Mathematical calculation may be hard, but not impossible given enough time or a piece of paper. Knowing who wrote the play King Charles III is not – you know or you don’t (Mike Bartlett). Maybe you can make a guess, or pick the mostly likely answer of three in multiple choice, but there’s no such thing in the universe as an ‘educated guess’. A guess is a guess because you don’t know something. Educated means you have knowledge ie you know. You may be able to look at three choices and reject one, but if you don’t know between the remainder, a guess is still a guess.

It’s always worth saying something rather than nothing. A ‘pass’ will never win, but there is a miniscule chance a random guess may be correct.

Quizzers know certain rules about guessing: oceans are often Pacific, simply because it is so huge and contains lots of stuff. Dairy products is probably cheese. ‘Bird’ or ‘fish’ is often a good answer for animals. British royalty is either Henry VIII, Victoria or Queen Elizabeth II. Prime Ministers from olden times can often be Churchill, from recent times Thatcher and modern times Blair. If for no other reason, because they were around for a long time. “What star” questions are usually The Sun.

It has always seemed to me that, faced with a question about something you’ve never heard of and three choices, one of which you’ve never heard of, then these would be the best guesses. If you had heard of one, you might be more likely to have heard of the other.

I record the programmes and cut out the waffle. I don’t want to know how old you are, what you did for a living, the names of your ten children, what you will do with the money etc… I don’t want you to sing, especially if you are a female Egghead. I don’t want the sponsors of the adverts. Mind, if I ever appeared on The Chase and Bradley Walsh asked me “if you was to win some money, what would you do with it?” then I have the perfect answer: “buy you a book about English grammar, Brad.”

The Chase can be good, but there are bits that are more than annoying. The player asking the others what choice they should make contributes nothing to anything, nor Walsh insulting the chasers. And when he says “you got one, but you’re a better player than that” is palpable nonsense. If you get one, that’s how good a player you are. If you answered ten correctly, then ditto. You are as good as you are, no better and no worse. To a large extent, there’s luck to the questions too.

The worst aspect of quizzes is this: “Which famous king had six wives?” The contestant answers, “ooh, that’s before my time”. Yes, most of the history of the universe is, but it doesn’t prevent you from knowing things! And comperes who make stupid comments, like Q: Who wrote To Kill A Mockingbird? A: Charles Dickens Compere: Close, you are on the right lines.

Tipping Point is the best for totally stupid people. A classic question was “What country do Scotsmen come from?”. The answer given was “Paris”.

Perhaps even worse is the presenter saying “Of course”. For example:

  • “Who wrote Forever and Sunsmell”
  • “Don’t know”
  • “John Cage, of course”

Right…

Oscars

It seems to be Oscar season again. Some of my chums make an effort to see every film nominated, but I don’t bother.

I do occasionally look at the listings, but all you see are blurays or dvds projected on a slightly bigger screen than my tv.

I was watching Stanley Kramer’s comedy It’s a Mad, Mad etc  World on bluray the other day. When it came out, it must have looked fantastic, on a super wide curved screen, a real immersive experience. Film makers rarely use film these days. J J Abrams does and Christopher Nolan, I believe, and that’s about it.

Web sites

I think it is just about essential for businesses to have a proper web site. Yes, fine, they can have Facebook pages or whatever, but a serious company should have a formal site that provides useful information for any customer wanting to use its services or products.

A restaurant, for example, should have pictures, a sample menu, contact details and opening times, possibly an on-line booking system (this always sways me, given a choice of two, one with and one without), possibly comments from customers (though the only ones are likely to be good and perhaps not 100% representative). The site should reflect the nature of the restaurant and, if there are rules, eg jacket required, it should say so.

Whatever the business is, the information should be accurate and sufficiently detailed. The contact information will have a telephone number and an e-mail address, and if you send them an e-mail, they should respond in a timely manner.

A formal web site does not have to be boring. It should reflect the nature of the business, it should appeal to potential customers. But, at the same time, some care is needed in the presentation. Black writing on a black background is not good, hidden items, broken links, missing pictures etc and spelling mistakes will put potential customers off. Information should be easy to find. Given all the competition about these days, making it hard for a potential customer to get information is not a good plan.

I was disheartened recently to find a pretty well known rock group had announced a tour for 2018, so went to their web site to see if they were coming my way, which is London. This is their official site. Last updated 2009. Really.

Things like a shop or a forum can be a plus, but need someone who will commit to managing it/them. Of course, a shop especially can be a money earner. For musicians, for example, some kind of unique product will sell. I have several signed discs in my collection. On line chat or help can be good (personally I hate ringing companies and being on hold for hours), but the people on the other end need to actually know things and be helpful.

This just seems logical to me. It’s called being business-like, professional. Web sites don’t have to be huge. I have a few sites and one has nearly two hundred pages. It has generated exactly £0 in the 17 years it has been run, but that is not its purpose. As a repository of knowledge on a certain subject, it is pretty exhaustive, either from what I have included or through links to other sites. There is another site I do for someone that is barely five pages and generates thousands each year. It serves its purpose totally and has no gimmicks, mistakes or waffle. People who visit it find what they need and at least one reliable method for getting more help and purchasing the product.

John Young

I was born in 1954 and my formative years were in the 1960s. I always find it hard to explain to people what it was like then, but it was an exciting time, a time for change and advancement.

My big interest was space, and I am sure I just about remember Sputnik. I definitely remember coming home from school and my mum telling me about Yuri Gagarin, an under-sung hero in the history of the world.

I knew all about the America astronauts, all the missions and craft, and I followed it carefully. JFK made a commitment to landing a man on the Moon before the decade was  out, and returning him safely to Earth. If he had said that now, he would have been all over the press for excluding women.

Most people’s “favourite” astronaut was probably John Glenn. The most famous, possibly one of the most famous people who have ever lived, was Neil Armstrong. There are very few of the originals still alive. Glenn died recently and my favourite, John Young died the other day at a good age.

He was, I would say, a character. Famously, on one flight he smuggled a corned beef sandwich onto the craft. He was the only person in the entire history of the World to fly to the Moon twice and land once. You can read more about him here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Young_(astronaut)

If you can catch the wonderful film In The Shadow Of The Moon, Young’s contribution shows that he was still as enthusiastic as ever about space, always looking to the future.

He would be sad, I am sure, that we no longer have the capability to go to the Moon.