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In case you’re wondering why I haven’t been posting…

1 Oct

Sorry about the long hiatus. I will be back with more Souda entries soon, but in the meantime, I thought I’d post up myself and my wonderful Globetrotter teammates, Michael Reeve and Captain Chris Clough, playing against the highly entertaining Boardgamers on Series 8 of Only Connect. We’ll be playing again on BBC Four 8:30pm on 21st October against the lovely Pilots, so please do tune in if you can (or catch it on the BBC IPlayer for a week after). In preparation for this, and other quizzes, I’ve been doing less blogging and more concentrated “prep” (mainly consisting of watching too much TV and eating the *right amount* of cake). I hope you enjoy the show!

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This is not a Souda entry

24 May

Welcome back to the rebirth of the Soudacycle! Now that I have covered every category once I feel that I have reached a mini-milestone in my quest, and I would like to make a few announcements. Firstly, I am rapidly running out of imaginative ways in which to open my blogs, so I would like to establish one greeting with which I can begin every post, a sort of “Gooooood morning Vietnam” style sign-in if you will. I’m not sure if I should go with some sort of semi-witty pun (“Call me Quizmael” for example) or devise a Lady Gaga-esque nickname for my readers (I quite like the Soudanyms). If you have a particular preference, or indeed an idea for a better way in which I can start these posts, do send me a message on Facebook, or Twitter (@SudasSouda), or just leave a comment,  and I’ll begin future posts with the smartest and/or most popular option. Secondly, given that the purpose of this quest is for me to learn about new things, I would greatly appreciate any suggestions from readers regarding topics which you would like me to cover. I have already covered aeroplanes at the request of the radiant Carlene Metcalf, and this week’s topic came from a suggestion from the renowned doctor, scientist, artist, and all-round-super-genius, Sumi Perera (aka my mum), who asked if I could write a post about modern art movements. Obviously, I cannot write just one post on this topic, as I limit each entry to around 3,500 words, and there is absolutely no way I could adequately cover such a diverse subject within those constraints, but I have decided to learn about a particular sub-genre within that category namely, Surrealism. However, as is my wont, I will first give you last week’s cheeky answers…

Firstly, Quim, whose real name is Joaquim Manuel Sampaio da Silva, is Portuguese. Despite the obvious derision that having this name would bring in England, he is not the first professional footballer to take this name, as another (now retired) Portuguese player, Joaquim Carvalho de Azevedo also had the same sobriquet. Suet is the fat usually used in Spotted Dick. I personally find suet puddings delicious, but the fact it is the raw hard beef/mutton fat found around the kidneys and loins of sheep and cows might not appeal to everyone. Also, on an etymologically unrelated, but nonetheless vaguely interesting, note George III’s favourite Shakespearean clown was called Richard “Dicky” Suett. Along with gannets, the booby is part of the Sulidae family. A day after I posted my last post, TV’s finest comic-quizzer Paul Sinha, shared a link on Facebook to a Wikipedia article about the rough-faced shag (a rare bird endemic to New Zealand), and I instantly regretted how predictable the booby question was in comparison. In my defence, I am not a successful comedian and, given that the last time anyone thought I’d done something actually funny I had my skirt tucked in my knickers, I’m afraid a booby joke is the calibre you will continue to get from me. Limp Bizkit released Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavoured Water, and if you’re not sure why that’s in this set of questions be *very* careful when Googling it! You may know Baron Condon better as Paul Condon, and when I was a kid he made me giggle every time he was on the news as the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Robin Swallows and Ivana Humpalot were both in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Brian “Johnners” Johnston famously said The bowler’s Holding, the batsman’s Willey” when Michael Holding of the West Indies was bowling to Peter Willey of England in a Test match at The Oval in 1976. Finally, that fantastic character played by Arthur Bostrom in ‘Allo ‘Allo was called Officer Crabtree.

Although this blog post will mainly focus on the visual artists who were involved in the surrealist movement, it is perhaps worth pointing out that Surrealism was a wider cultural movement, aimed at reconciling dreams with reality. The term Surrealism was first coined in 1903 by Guillaume Apollinaire in the preface of his play, The Breasts of Tiresias, to describe his new style of drama. The play was later adapted into an opera by Poulenc, but Surrealism didn’t really develop into a movement until the establishment of the Bureau of Surrealist Research and the publication of Andre Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto in 1924. Surrealism grew out of the Dada movement, which itself developed during World War One as a response to the horrors of war. Breton had served in the First World War as a medic, and became interested in Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytical methods of treating shell-shock. Much of Freud’s work focussed on understanding the unconscious desires and meanings that were contained within dreams, and a core tenet of Surrealism was an attempt to allow the unconscious to express itself. In the Surrealist Manifesto, Breton described Surrealism as “Pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express, either verbally, in writing, or by any other manner, the real functioning of thought. Dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason, outside of all aesthetic and moral preoccupation”. Automatism refers to spontaneous motor or verbal behaviour which is often unconsciously performed, and while I am sceptical of the degree to which surrealist writers could produce unconscious works, I imagine in practice automation equated to some form of improvisation. Originally, Breton was of the opinion that visual artists would not be able to fully embrace the surrealist philosophy, but artists such as Max Ernst developed a number of techniques (such as frottage – a form drawing by rubbing a pencil against a textured surface) which allowed for the development of a surrealist visual art movement based on automatism – which  several artists believed to be a better approach to challenging societal values than the existing Dadaist approach. In this post I am going to cover a few surrealist artists who I feel epitomise the movement, but it should be noted that prominent artists such as Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp were peripherally associated with the movement, and Duchamp demonstrated that the line between Surrealism and other early modern art movements such as Dadaism, Futurism, and Cubism is not easy to define. Furthermore, although the movement very much saw its “Golden Age” in the 1930s and lost momentum after World War Two, many of its ideas and techniques re-emerged in other modern art movements such as Abstract Expressionism, and Pop Art.

So that I can at least do into a bit of detail into their lives and styles, I am only going to cover four artists in this post; Max Ernst (1891 – 1976), Joan Miró (1893 – 1983), Salvador Dalí (1904 – 1989) and René Magritte (1898 – 1967). Although I am covering them in this order for no reason other than the fact that this is how they are listed in my notepad, it is perhaps fitting I begin with Ernst, as he played a key role in the development of the surrealist movement. Born in Cologne, Ernst’s early work was strongly influenced by Picasso, Van Gogh and Gauguin. In 1914 Ernst began a lifelong friendship with my favourite non-canine Alsatian, Jean/Hans Arp[1]. Ernst was conscripted to fight on both the Western and Eastern fronts during World War One – an experience which may be summarised by the following extract from his diary: “On the first of August 1914 M[ax].E[rnst]. died. He was resurrected on the eleventh of November 1918.” After the war, he returned to his art and, together with Arp and Alfred Grunwald, Ernst set up the Cologne Dada group in 1919, launching a controversial Dada exhibition in 1920 which focused on nonsense and anti-bourgeois sentiments. In 1914 Ernst married an art history student named Luise Straus, and had a son by her in 1920, but the marriage was not very stable. In 1921 he met the surrealist writer Paul Éluard, and through him, Andre Breton, and even though he did not divorce Straus until 1927, by 1922 Ernst had illegally entered France and was engaged in a ménage à trois with Éluard and his wife Gala.

In 1925, Ernst invented the frottage technique I described earlier, and the next year he began a collaborative project with Joan Miro for the founder of the Ballets Russes, Sergei Diaghilev. If you Google for images of Ernst’s art, you will probably find Ubu Imperator features must prominently, but I have chosen to feature in this post his 1942 work, Surrealism and Painting, which perhaps better reflects his later fascination with birds. Indeed, in several paintings Ernst features a bird called Loplop whom he presents as an alterego. In 1927, Ernst married his second wife, Marie-Berthe Aurenche, and in 1930 he appeared in the film, L’Age D’Or, a surrealist comedy directed by Luis Buñuel and with a screenplay by Salvador Dalí. In the mid 1930s he began experimenting with sculpture and he gained the patronage of Peggy Guggenheim in 1938, who bought a large number of his paintings for her new museum in London (situated in Cork Street). When World War Two broke out, Ernst faced persecution from both French and German sides, and so fled to America with the help of Peggy Guggenheim, whom he later married, and lived in New York city along with other artists like Marc Chagall and Marcel Duchamp. During this time he helped develop the Abstract Expressionism movement, which would dominate post-war American art. With the War over, Ernst (who I imagine Patsy Kensit modelled her love life on) divorced Peggy Guggenheim in 1946 and married the American artist Dorothea Tanning in a double ceremony with the avant-garde American photographer Man Ray and Juliet P. Browner. In fairness to Ernst, fourth time was the charm and he remained married to Tanning for 30 years until he died in 1976.

011-max-ernst-theredlist

If Ernst took his time trying on different wives before finding one he could stay with for any length of time, his contemporary, Joan Miró, took the approach of finding a wife in 1929 (Pilar Juncosa Iglesias) and sticking with her until he died in 1983. Born in Barcelona in 1893, into families of  goldsmiths and cabinet makers, Miró trained at both business and art school, but after suffering a nervous breakdown he devoted himself to art full-time. Miró’s early work is sometime dubbed the Catalan Fauvist period, and was inspired by Cubists, Fauvists, and artists such as Cezanne and Van Gogh. In 1918, Miró had his first show at the Dalmau Gallery, but his work was highly criticised, ridiculed and defaced. From 1920, Miró cultivated a very precise style which art historians (well, Wikipedia at least) call Magical Realism. This style, epitomized in the 1921-2 work The Farm which I have featured in this post. Each element of the composition has been carefully considered and placed in the composition and, although he tried to promote his work extensively, many of his surrealist contemporaries found the work too conventional and realistic. During this time, a community of artists (including a number of Surrealists and Dadaists) were gathering at Montparnasse in France and, giving in to pressure to adopt a more surrealist approach, Miró  moved to Paris to be closer to the Surrealists – collaborating with Ernst on the aforementioned Diaghilev project in 1926.

Miro_The_Farm

In 1931 Henri Matisse’s youngest son, Pierre Matisse, opened an influential art gallery in New York and started representing Miró, introducing his art to the American market. Miró also became friends with the French poet, Robert Desnos, and the two made plans to collaborate on a number of artists books. Incidentally, I chose Miró for inclusion in this post prominently because my mum is a book artist and Miró himself made over 250 artist books, or Livres d’Artiste. Unfortunately, Miró’s and Desnos’s plans for collaboration were put on hold by the Spanish Civil War and then World War Two. Due to his Catalan ethnicity, Miró faced persecution from the Franco regime, and during World War Two Desnos was incarcerated in Auschwitz and died shortly after his release in 1945. Although Miró rejected explicit membership of an early modern art movement, he was a pioneering force in the development of automatic drawing and was described by Andre Breton as “the most Surrealist of us all”. Throughout his life he continued to experiment with new artistic techniques and media, even exploring the possibilities of gas sculptures and four-dimensional painting towards the end of his life.

Admittedly, Miró may come across as a bit weird but, compared to his Catalan compatriot Salvador Dalí, he was as normal as a catfight on a night out in Essex. Dalí was the second son born to his parents, but his older brother (also called Salvador) died a few months before Salvador the younger was born, and his parents fostered in their younger son the belief that he was the reincarnation of their recently deceased firstborn. Dalí’s father was a strict and serious lawyer, but his mother encouraged Salvador to express himself through art – although she sadly died of cancer when he was just 16. Dalí’s father then married his aunt, which I’m led to believe wasn’t that weird a thing to do at the time. In 1922 Dalí, an already-flamboyant-dresser, went to study at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid where he met the filmmaker Luis Buñuel (whom Dalí collaborated with on several film projects) and the poet and playwright Federico García Lorca. Lorca’s Wikipedia page describes him as being “passionately involved” with Dalí, but it’s not clear exactly what this means, but it appears that even if Dalí did not initially turn Lorca down, he did at some point reject his advances and their relationship became strained. Dalí himself was more interested in Gala, the wife of Paul Éluard (who you may remember from her earlier ménage à trois with Max Ernst) and, despite being ten years her junior and being disowned by his father over, amongst other things, his relationship with her, Dalí married her in 1934. I have to admit that reading about their relationship made me blush (although, you couldn’t tell, because I’m brown), and I’m definitely too innocent to quite understand how it all worked, but I learnt a new word this week – Candaulism – which the less prudish among you may be interested in looking up, and which Dalí and Gala apparently practiced.

In the same year that Dalí met Gala, 1929, he went to Montparnasse and joined the surrealists there. In the early 1930s, he developed the paranoiac-critical method of accessing the subconscious for greater artistic creativity, which was hailed by Breton as an ‘instrument of primary importance’. However, Breton’s regard for Dalí declined during the 1930s – in part because while the other surrealists became increasingly associated with leftist politics, Dalí remained politically ambivalent and refused to out-rightly denounce Fascism, and in 1934 he was expelled from the surrealist movement. Whether or not Dalí actually was a Fascist is not my place to say, but it is clear that he had some pretty strange ideas about good taste, as he and Gala once attended a masquerade party in New York as the recently deceased Lindbergh baby and his kidnapper. Although Dalí apologised for the outfit choice, he was then criticised by the surrealists for apologising for a surrealist act (though I’m not sure what the difference between a surrealist act and a dickish act is). In the mid-late 1930s, Dalí received the patronage of the British poet Edward James, and it is during this period that he produced the Mae West Lips Sofa and the Lobster Telephone. While both these pieces are seen as icons of Surrealism, it is also possible that other surrealists’ contempt for Dalí also came from a feeling that he was a commercially driven sell-out, and in 1939 Breton gave Dalí the anagrammatic nickname “Avida Dollars”. When World War Two broke out Dalí and Gala escaped to the USA, but returned to Spain in 1949. Dalí’s return to Fascist Spain was criticised by many other artists, who had remained in exile, as support for the Franco regime.

Dali’s style of painting was fairly distinctive, and while I am personally a great fan of his piece The Hallucinogenic Toreador (if you don’t know it, look it up now and thank me later), I have chosen to include as his artistic contribution is this post a piece of artwork by Dalí which has brought me even greater joy over the course of my lifetime, even though at the time I wasn’t aware that Dalí was its creator. Therefore I have included the Chupa Chups logo, designed by the crazy Catalan himself in 1969 – the same year that he designed the publicity for the Eurovision Song Contest. The last decade of Dalí’s life was fairly tragic. In 1980 he developed Parkinson’s style symptoms, which ended his artistic career, and it emerged that his senile wife had been feeding him a strange cocktail of unprescribed medicines that caused irreparable nerve damage. In 1982, King Juan Carlos of Spain – a longstanding fan of Dalí’s work – bestowed Dalí with the title of Marquis of Pubol, although this accolade would soon be overshadowed by the death of Gala later that year. There were allegations that Dalí attempted to take his own life in a number of suicide attempts in the years after Gala’s death, but he passed away in 1989, due to heart failure, just a few blocks away from his place of birth.

Dali Chup

Finally, we get on to the artist whose 1928-9 work, La trahison des images, provides the inspiration for the title of this entry (I’ve featured it below so that you can see why) – the Belgian surrealist, René Magritte. Some of you may have been watching the recent BBC Four series The High Art of the Low Countries, hosted by Alan Partridge-a-like, Andrew Graham-Dixon, in which Magritte was featured, but it didn’t cover a lot about his personal life. Born in 1898, like Dalí, Magritte lost his mother when he was very young, as she drowned herself in the River Sambre in 1912. The following year he met Georgette Berger, who he would marry a decade later in 1923. Magritte’s early work, dating from 1915, can be described as Impressionistic, and he then moved to be influenced by the Fauves from 1918, concentrating mainly on female nudes until 1924. In order to make money, Magritte then moved into advertising, working in a wallpaper factory as a designer in order to fund his first exhibition in 1927 in Brussels. Unfortunately, the critics panned the show, plunging Magritte into a pit of depression and causing him to leave Belgium for Paris, where Andre Breton was waiting like a surreal fisherman with his artist-capturing net.

Magritte - Treachery of Images

Magritte remained in Paris for three years, but returned to Brussels and advertising in 1930, setting up an agency with his brother Paul. Magritte, like Dalí before him, also secured the patronage of Edward James, and James featured in Magritte’s two paintings, Not to be Reproduced and The Pleasure Principle (both painted in 1937). When World War Two broke out, Magritte remained in Belgium, and this period is known as his “Renoir Period” – in which his works reflected the abandonment and alienation he felt under German occupation. After the War, however, he perked up a bit and wrote the surrealist manifesto Surrealism in Full Sunlight during what became known as his “Vache Period”. I forgot to mention earlier, when I was discussing Dalí that collectors were initially reluctant to buy Dalí pieces because he signed a number of blank canvasses before his death, which would have aided the production of forgeries. However, it is possible that an art collector could own a Magritte which is also a forgery, as Magritte supported himself by forging Picassos, Braques and Chiricos, and later branched out into forging bank notes. Magritte’s turning to crime would indicate that he was not a high-selling artist in his lifetime, and for the majority of his life this was probably true. However, shortly before Magritte died in 1968 his work rose in popularity and greatly influenced Pop Art and later conceptual art movements. Magritte’s work has also been influential popular culture – for example his 1964 piece Son of Man not only featured prominently in the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, but artists ranging from Norman Rockwell to Danny from The Script have also paid homage to it.

So that’s this post over, but I leave you with a few surreal questions…

1. Which star of the film Requiem for a Dream also fronts the band 30 Seconds to Mars?

2. What is the name of Real Madrid’s home ground?

3. JWoww, Snooki and The Situation are all cast members of which US “Reality” TV Show?

4. Who composed the Flight of the Bumblebee? (Also, extra points if you know why this question is relevant to theme)

5. Known for his surrealist films, who directed Dune, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive?

6. Which former Boston Celtics NBA star co-captained the 1992 Dream Team with Magic Johnson?

7. In which continent would you find Inexpressible Island?

8. First synthesized by Albert Hofmann in 1938, how is lysergic acid diethylamide better known?

 


[1] Apparently, when Arp spoke in German he referred to himself as “Hans”, and when he spoke in French he referred to himself as “Jean”

Ooh Matron, I’ve been at it again…

9 May

Bonjorno Quiztuplets! Like Act 3 of Wagner’s Gotterdammerung, I am nearly at the end of my cycle– though, unlike Wagner, I will be starting all over again next week. I mentioned last week that I was saving my favourite category for last, so here it is…Entertainment! Anyone who’s ever had a conversation with me will quickly learn two things about me: One, I have the maturity of a 14-year-old boy and two, I watch an insane amount of television (especially television that’s aimed at 14-year-old boys). Therefore, while I’m far from world-class, I usually do fairly  well on Entertainment questions. Because of this, I have been struggling this week to decide what to cover. A TV series would be an obvious choice, and there are a few series where I would barely have to do any research for before writing my blog, but this quest is about me learning new things, so I don’t want to take the easy way out. I tried watching The Young Ones a few weeks ago to this end, but I really couldn’t seem to get into it, so I’m afraid that’s going to have to be one for another time. I do like going to the cinema, but to be honest I haven’t seen that many movies (I watched the Godfather for the first time this weekend), so I thought this week I’d learn about some films. I really hate it when people on quiz shows claim they don’t know the answer to something because it was “before their time”. If this was an acceptable excuse for ignorance, then it’d be okay not to know that there was a Battle of Hastings, or who Hitler was. This being said, however, there are a few questions in which actually remembering it happen does help you remember it. For example, I always remember when Princess Diana died  (31 August 1997) because it was the same day my Tamagotchi tragically shat itself to death. On the other hand, I find it harder to remember when Sid Vicious died  (2 February 1979) because I don’t have a “what I was doing at the time” scenario to pin it to. The same goes for films and TV shows – I can remember the  hype about Avatar but not Ben-Hur so, although I’ve not watched either, I know considerably more about the weird-looking blue things, and not so much about the epic starring the NRA-dude. This week, therefore, I’ve decided to learn about a series of films that I’ve often seen clips from, but never really watched properly: The Carry On films. Before I do that, though, here are last week’s answers:

Iris Murdoch wrote The Sea, The Sea – a title taken from the words uttered in Xenophon’s Anabasis by the Ten Thousand Greeks when they saw the Black Sea. George Monroe Woolf was the Canadian jockey known as “The Iceman”. All Saints released Pure Shores. I’m sure most people liked one of the Appleton twins, but as a huge Artful Dodger fan, I would say Melanie Blatt was the best All Saint, and for those of you who care, she is a judge on New Zealand’s X-Factor this year. When David Seaman retired he was playing for Manchester City. Antonio Vivaldi wrote the Four Seasons in 1723. If anyone can remember back to my first post on Laureates, you may have remembered that John Masefield wrote Sea-Fever, which first appeared in his 1902 collection of poems Salt-Water Ballads. Ian McEwan, of Atonement and Enduring Love fame, also wrote a book called On Chesil Beach which was unsurprisingly set in the eponymous Dorset holiday-spot. Finally, Captain Pugwash’s ship was called The Black Pig.

If I was so inclined to claim that the Carry On films were before my time, I wouldn’t strictly be correct. Of the 31 films made, one – Carry On Columbus – was made in 1992 to celebrate 500 years since the eponymous hero sailed the ocean blue. The rest, however, were all made between 1958-1978, long before I was even a twinkle in my father’s eye. From what I can discern (although discrepancies between competing Wikipedia articles does it make it a little unclear) every Carry On movie was directed by Gerald Thomas and produced by Peter Rogers who generally operated on fairly low budgets, using a cast of about 14 or so core members (NB: To qualify as a “core” member in my list, an actor has to have appeared in at least 4 Carry On films, so Lesley Phillip just about qualifies, and Kenneth Williams tops the list with an appearance in 26 films). With titles like Carry On Dick, Carry On Cruising and Carry On Screaming, it’s perhaps not surprising that most of the scripts relied heavily on innuendos and bawdy humour. The Wikipedia page suggests that Carry On’s stock-in-trade also involved “the gentle mockery of British institutions and customs” – and while this is certainly true, I wouldn’t say that the mockery was limited to the British. I don’t really see any way to cover this subject which is more sensible than going through the list chronologically, but I would like to begin with a little discussion of some of the key cast members.

I mentioned earlier that Kenneth Williams made the most appearances in the Carry On films, and I would argue that he, Sid James, Hattie Jacques and Barbara Windsor are the iconic names associated with the series. Interestingly, although James, Jacques and Windsor appeared in 19, 14 and 10 films respectively, they are not the next most-frequently appearing actors in the series. Sid James’s nineteen appearances are beaten by Joan Sims who appeared in 24 films and had the longest uninterrupted run of roles (being in all 20 films, excluding That’s Carry On, from Carry On Cleo to Carry On Emmannuelle), and Charles Hawtrey (who appeared in 23 films and four Carry On Christmas TV specials). Kenneth Connor (who appeared in 17) and Peter Butterworth (who appeared in 16) made more Carry On films than Hattie Jacques – who made the same number of films as Bernard Bresslaw – and you would see Jim Dale in one more film than Barbara Windsor. I think the stronger association of Williams, James, Jacques and Windsor with Carry On, may stem from the fact that they often took the lead roles in the films. Furthermore, Barbara Windsor (who I know better as Peggy “Get aat of my paaab” Mitchell) had a fairly well-publicised affair with Sid James, and various dramatisations of this affair[1], linked to the Carry On sets in which they met, may have boosted their legacy as Carry On icons. I personally think that Barbara Windsor’s other romantic entanglements, as a former girlfriend of Georgie Best, and the wife of an associate of the Kray twins, are more interesting, but that is a tale for another day.

So, if I asked you to use the words “William Hartnell” and “first” in a factually accurate sentence, I imagine the majority of you would come up with the sentence “William Hartnell was the first Doctor in Dr Who”. However, the following sentence is also factually accurate, and if this were a question on Pointless would almost certainly gain fewer points: “In 1958 William Hartnell starred, alongside Eric Baker and Bob Monkhouse, in the first Carry On film, Carry on Sergeant”. The film took its name from an earlier, 1957, film called Carry On Admiral (directed by Val Guest), which was not part of the Carry On series, but did star Joan Sims, and had a similar bawdy tone to the Carry On films that followed it. Norman Hudis adapted Carry On Sergeant from the R. F. Delderfield play, the Bull Boys, and it was not originally conceived as the beginning of a series. It was only after the surprise success of the film (despite being a low-budget film, it was the third most successful movie at the British box office in 1958), that the idea of a series of films with the Carry On prefix was conceived. The following year, in 1959, two more Carry On films were therefore released: Carry On Nurse, and Carry On Teacher­. Carry On Nurse was probably the most successful of the franchise, with the most cinema viewing figures of any of the films, and the top grossing film of 1959 in the UK. It was also the first film to feature Joan Sims, and like Carry On Sergeant was adapted by Norman Hudis (who wrote the screenplay for the first six films) from another play – this time Ring for Catty by Patrick Cargill and Jack Beale. Released later that year, Carry On Teacher starred the popular comedian Ted Ray, who was also the intended star of the next film, Carry On Constable. Ray was meant to play the role of Sergeant Wilkins, but conflicting contracts meant that there was pressure to drop him, and he was replaced by Sid James, who made his debut in this film. The fifth film Carry On Regardless was the first film not to follow a clear plot, consisting instead of a series of comedic sketches. Having played the Matron in Carry On Nurse, Hattie Jacques was initially asked to play the lead role in Regardless, but couldn’t due to illness, so she assumed a cameo role as Matron. Hudis’s last film, Carry On Cruising (1962) was also the first of the films to be released in colour, and was based on an original story by Eric Barker.

The next twenty films in the series, made between 1963 and 1974, all had screenplays written by Talbot Rothwell (although Carry On Spying was co-written with Sid Colin). Rothwell’s first film, Carry on Cabby in 1963, was the first to star Jim Dale, and for some reason returned to filming in black and white. Originally the film was not intended as a Carry On film, but rather a film called Call Me A Cab. Similarly, the other film made in 1963, Carry On Jack was originally going to be called Up the Armada, but the British Board of Film Censors felt the title too rude to allow. Carry On Spying became the last Carry On film to be filmed in black and white, and the first film to star Barbara Windsor. The film was planned to be released earlier, to capitalize on the success of the first Bond film, Dr No, in 1962. However, Hudis’s original script for the film was not well-received, and it was only after Rothwell and Colin re-wrote the script that the film was made in 1964. Several Carry On films capitalized on the success of Hollywood box office hits, and the next the film made, Carry On Cleo, spoofed the 1963 film Cleopatra, starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. The original Cleopatra achieved notoriety for nearly bankrupting 20th Century Fox, following a botched shoot in London, the film had to be re-shot in Rome and the original budget of $2 million ended up being closer to $44 million. In contrast, Carry On Cleo was a much more low-budget affair, and was filmed using most of the abandoned sets and costumes from Cleopatra’s original London shoot. The Carry On version did however, achieve a notable infamy – that is to say Kenneth William’s famous line as Caesar: “Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!”. Interestingly, this was not a line written by Rothwell, but rather taken from the BBC radio show Take It From Here, written by Frank Muir and Denis Norden. Carry On Cowboy, released in 1965, did not parody a particular film but rather the Western genre in general, and Carry On Screaming, made a year later, spoofed the Hammer horror films. This was also the last film to be produced by the Anglo-Amalgamated production company, and the next film made that year – the thirteenth in the series – Don’t Lose Your Head, was distributed by the Rank Organisation. Don’t Lose Your Head was loosely based on Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel, starring Sid James as an English noblemen called Sir Rodney Ffing (pronounced “Effing”) aka The Black Fingernail – in homage to Percey Blakeney and his eponymous alter ego. Incidentally, Baroness Orczy herself went by the name “Emmuska” (a diminutive form of her first name, Emma) but her full name was Baroness Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála Orczy de Orczi, which must have made official paperwork very tedious for her. Rank Organization were not that keen on Carry On… titles and Don’t Lose Your Head broke from tradition by omitting the prefix, as did the next film Follow That Camel (1967), which based itself on P.C. Wren’s 1924 book Beau Geste. Sid James was intended for the lead role of Sergeant Ernie Knocker, but had suffered from a heart attack shortly before filming, so producer Peter Rogers cast Phil Silvers of Sergeant Bilko fame in the lead role. Phil Silvers was paid £40,000 to appear in the film, which was considerably higher than any payment offered to any other actor for a single film throughout the entire series, naturally causing animosity among the cast.

Given Rank Organisation’s aversion to beginning the film titles with Carry On…, the next film Carry On Doctor was originally going to be called Nurse Carries On Again, in a call back to the film that had been made some eight years before. However, Don’t Lose Your Head and Follow That Camel had suffered at the box office because they were not clearly associated with the franchise, so the Carry On prefix was added to the name and Hattie Jacques returned to her iconic role as Matron, although originally the role was going to go Joan Sims. Although the British Board of Film Censors had ruled that Up the Armada was too rude for the film that was released as Carry On Jack five years earlier, their attitude clearly relaxed in 1968 when Carry On Up The Khyber was released and, given what Khyber Pass is cockney rhyming slang for, I would say this is considerably more offensive! To be fair, it was probably preparing audiences for their next film, Carry on Camping, which is arguably the best known of the films (not least because of the famous Barbara-Windsor-bra-fly-off scene). Camping was banned in Ireland for being too risqué, so if you see it in an Only Connect list with Brief Encounter, A Clockwork Orange, and either Monty Python’s The Life of Brian or The Meaning of Life you’ll know the connection to be “films deemed inappropriate for Irish cinema-goers”. The next film Carry On Again Doctor returned to the popular medical theme, and was the last film to feature Jim Dale for 23 years, until he returned for Carry On Columbus. There were originally legal concerns that the script for the film was too similar to another script that Talbot Rothwell had submitted to a rival film producer, Betty Box, however Box did not accept that script, so Rank Organisation went ahead with the filming. Legal concerns also overshadowed Carry On Up the Jungle (1970), which was originally going to be called Carry On Tarzan, but the Tarzan name was owned by estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs who did not release the rights for the film. The next film, Carry On Loving also had its name changed from Carry On Courting as did the film after that Carry on Henry. A few years ago I went to a quiz at a student bar in Kent where an entire round was dedicated to guessing the titles of pornographic remakes of well known films (e.g. In Diana Jones and the Temple of Poon, Wombraider, you get the idea). The original title for Carry on Henry was Anne of a Thousand Lays, in homage to the film starring Richard Burton about Anne Boleyn, Anne of the Thousand Days, and I imagine the concern that the film would mainly be seen in darkened backrooms in Soho led to the necessity for a name change! On a slightly classier note, Carry On Henry was also the first British film to be filmed on the grounds of Windsor Castle.

The first box-office failure of the franchise was Carry On At Your Convenience in 1971 (though if you’re reading this from outside of the UK, you may know the film from its international title, Carry On Round the Bend). At Your Convenience alienated much of its working class audience by exploring the trade union movement and concluding the union activists were largely incompetent idiots. Following the flop, the series played safe with its return to medicine with Carry On Matron, which saw the return of Hattie Jacques as the eponymous Matron in 1972. In that same year, Charles Hawtrey made his final appearance in Carry On Abroad, and although Talbot Rothwell’s epic screenwriting run for the series was due to end with Carry On Girls, his last film was actually Carry On Dick in 1974 – which was banned in South Africa for ostensibly being too anti-Christian. The first film not to be written by Rothwell was Carry On Behind, which was written Dave Freeman, who would later return to write Carry on Columbus. Having now made 27 films, it is possible that production companies were getting tired of the franchise, but anyone who can do basic maths would know that there are still four more films to cover. In 1976, Carry On England was the only film to be partially funded by both Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas, after the Rank Organization refused to pay the full amount. The next year, the last film to feature Barbara Windsor was released. Entitled That’s Carry On. The film drew inspiration from MGM’s successful That’s Entertainment! documentary series and consisted of compilation of clips from the franchise co-presented by Barbara Windsor and Kenneth Williams. Perhaps unsurprisingly, That’s Carry On was a flop, and Rank did not fund another film. Nonetheless, in 1978 a private production company funded Carry on Emmannuelle, which capitalized on the French erotic films which were extremely popular at the time. For legal reasons, an extra “n” was added to the title, to avoid a copyright infringement of the Emmanuelle franchise that the film parodied. Another Carry On film would not be made for 14 years until the release of Carry On Columbus for his quincentenary in 1992. Okay, deep breath, that was all the Carry On films. I wasn’t really sure what questions to set this week as “Carry On” is quite specific, so I leave you with eight innuendo-filled questions:

1. Currently playing in goal for Sporting de Braga, what nationality is the footballer known as Quim?

2. Which cooking fat is typically used in the steamed pudding Spotted Dick?

3.To which family of birds does the booby belong?

4. Which band released the album Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavoured Water in 2000?

5. Between 1993 and 1999 which notable position did Baron Condon hold?

6. In which film do Robin Swallows (née Spitz), and Ivana Humpalot feature?

7. Which cricket commentator once famously announced The bowler’s Holding, the batsman’s Willey”?

8. Played by Arthur Bostrom, what was the name of the British undercover agent masquerading as a gendarme, who would often greet people with “Good Moaning” in ‘Allo ‘Allo?


[1] See, for example, the Terry Johnson 1998 play  Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick or the 2000 TV dramatisation Cor Blimey!

I’m not a Dogger, but it’s possible I Bight…

29 Apr

Onward Quiztian Soldiers! I know some of you may be surprised to see a new post uploaded within less than a week of the last one, but I did promise I’d be more regular, and I thought I’d show you I really mean it. When I began this quest, I decided to divide the topics up in categories, so that I could ensure that I was learning a broad spectrum of topics, and not just cherry-picking topics I already knew a bit about. That is not to say I will exclusively be writing about the stuff I don’t know about, but I am trying to push myself to learn things that are slightly out of my comfort zone. Having covered five of the seven categories already, there are now two more categories left before I can begin the cycle again – namely Geography and Entertainment. I decided right from the beginning that I would leave Entertainment until the end, as a bit of a reward for trudging through the other subjects, so this week I am dealing with Geography. Despite having absolutely no sense of direction, and a general lack of awareness of exactly where I am at any given time, on paper at least, my geography knowledge is generally ok. I do know the capital cities of all the UN-recognized states in the world (and a few non-recognized states as well), and I’ve been travelling about a bit, so I know where a few things are. My UK geography may leave a bit more to be desired, and although I have some basic knowledge of where most major cities in the UK are, having lived in more than ten places between Portsmouth and Durham since I moved to England, and also spending a lot of time travelling by train, I don’t really know where most motorways go, and the only knowledge I have of the West Country pertains to cheese. I have decided, therefore, that like charity, geography begins at home and my first Geography post will be on Britain, and more specifically on the shipping areas around Ireland and the British Isles. The inspiration came to me a few weeks ago, when while suffering from work-stress induced insomnia, I rather naïvely thought listening to Radio 4 may help bore me to sleep. In fact, I was waiting specifically for the Shipping Forecast, which I thought would be particularly dull. Actually, it wasn’t as uninteresting as I thought, and I found myself deriving a sort of puerile amusement from the various names of the areas and the strange forecasts given. This week, therefore, I have decided to learn about the forecast zones and, in doing so, learn a little about the waters around the British Isles. But before we set sail, I’ll reveal the answers to last week’s questions…

Firstly, Top Gun was directed by Tony Scott, who sadly died in 2012 when he jumped off the Vincent Thomas Bridge which spans Los Angeles Harbour. The American, Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. In 1937 she attempted a round-the-world flight but disappeared in the Pacific Ocean somewhere between Lae (in New Guinea) and Howland Island. Aristophanes wrote The Birds, which features the city-in-the-sky known as Cloud Cuckoo Land.  The plane that dropped the “Little Boy” atomic bomb on Hiroshima was called The Enola Gay, and was named after Enola Gay Tibbets, the mother of Colonel Paul Tibbets who piloted the plane. “Per Ardua Ad Astra” (or “Through Adversity to the Stars”) is the RAF motto. Phil Collins released “In the Air Tonight”, which is perhaps better known as the song which the drumming gorilla drums to in the Dairy Milk adverts. Dennis Bergkamp is the non-flying Dutchman. Apparently during the 1994 World Cup, Bergkamp was unlucky enough to be on a flight during which both the engine cut off and a journalist thought it’d be funny to joke about having a bomb in his bag (luckily for the journalist, this was in an era before that sort of thing would result in indefinite rendition to Guantanamo).  Finally, flies belong to the order Diptera.

Despite being born in one island country, and bred in another, I am not a fan of the sea – it’s a cold, big, scary place full of nasty creatures that want to eat you, and evil currents that want to drag you to your death. I know I make a living out of travelling to war zones, but I derive some comfort in knowing that in areas where humans are your biggest threat you at least stand a chance of assessing the risk to your personal safety, and avoiding the places that it would just be silly to go to. What scares me about the sea is the fact you can’t negotiate with a shark, or a strong current, or a massive storm. It was because of similar concerns (ok, well concerns about storms, maybe not so much about sharks) that the Shipping Forecast was developed and established. So here’s a surprise quiz question for those of you who love being asked stuff: Who captained the H.M.S Beagle on its first and second voyages between 1826 and 1936, before going on to become governor of New Zealand from 1843-1845? The answer is: Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy, the fourth great grandson of Charles II. (If you just said FitzRoy, pat yourself on the back, if you got his first name, rank, and his relation to Charles II, get someone to pat it for you). In 1854 the Met Office was established as the Meteorological Department of the Board of Trade, and Robert FitzRoy was appointed as its first head. In 1859, a steam clipper called the Royal Charter was wrecked in a storm off the coast of Anglesey, killing 450 people. As result of this disaster, FitzRoy utilized electronic telegraph communication to establish a coastal warning system which would become the precursor to the modern shipping forecast. While I tend to display a penchant for impressive failures in this blog, I also like to highlight people who are just plain impressive – like Hiram Maxim last week, who was also plane impressive(!) – and FitzRoy was no exception. In addition to his achievements on the Beagle, and in New Zealand (although he was hardly the best Governor ever), he was a highly respected meteorologist, has been credited with coining the term “forecast”, and invented two types of barometers, which are still in use today. Forecasts consisted of gale warnings which were then issued to the coastal observation stations, and then the station would hoist an appropriate flag to signal the danger to the ships in that area. By 1911, there were gale warnings being broadcast to ships throughout the Eastern North Atlantic approaching the British Isles.

Broadcasting of gale warnings to ships ceased with the outbreak of World War One in 1914. However, in 1921, a broadcast for ships approaching the west coast of the UK resumed, broadcasting twice a day from Poldhu in Cornwall. In 1924, the Air Ministry station, G.F.A, began transmitting a weather bulletin called Weather Shipping twice daily at 0900 and 2000 hours from London. The transmission could be received 2,400 miles west of London, and 2,000 miles south of the capital. The seas around the British Isles were divided into three areas, which were then sub-divided into districts. The areas were: Western Area (consisting of Hebrides, Clyde, Shannon, Mersey and Severn), Southern Area (consisting of Channel and Wight) and Eastern Area (consisting of Thames, Humber, Dogger, Forties, Tay and Shetland). The districts were named after islands, rivers or banks within those areas so that mariners could easily identify and memorise them. At that time, the forecast used information from 10 weather stations around the UK, which were coded 0-9, beginning with Wick at 0, and moving anti clockwise around the British Isles were Wick, Stornoway, Malin Head, Valentia, Holyhead, Scilly, Guernsey, Dungeness, Yarmouth and Tynmouth. In 1932, reflecting the fact that more and more trawlers were fishing within its limits, a Northern Area was added. The Northern area consisted of Shetland (which no longer fell under the Eastern Area), Orkney and Faroes, and information was supplied by a weather station in the Faroese capital, Tórshavn. Today, 22 coastal weather stations are included in the forecast, but I’ll come back to them later. When World War Two broke out in 1939, the shipping forecast once again ceased, but resumed business and usual when the war ended in 1945.

By 1948, it had become apparent that the forecast needed to cover a wider area, and the Northern, Eastern, Western, and Southern area classification was abandoned in favour of simply dividing the seas surround the British Isles into 26 forecast areas. Since 1948, there have been some modifications of these boundaries  – both in terms of their names, and in terms of their physical reach. In 1955, for example, three significant changes took place: Heligoland was renamed German Bight, Dogger was split in two (tee hee hee!) and the north-eastern half was named Fisher, and Forties was also halved with its northern portion being renamed Viking. Both Fisher and Viking were taken from the names of banks within the newly created territories which were well known to local mariners. A year later, it was decided that the area known as Iceland should be renamed Southeast Iceland, just to make it absolutely clear which bit of the waters surrounding Iceland the report was referring to. In 1984, North and South Utsire were added as two new areas between Viking, and Norway’s west coast. Both areas were named after the island of Utsira in the North Sea. The most recent change to the forecast areas came in 2002 when, in order to avoid confusion with the smaller sea area of the same name featuring in the marine forecasts produced by the French and Spanish meteorological offices, Finisterre in the Bay of Biscay was renamed FitzRoy in honour of our old friend the Vice-Admiral. This change also coincided with a few subtle western boundary changes (although they’re so subtle, I can’t really seem to see what they are!). Therefore, since 2002, the Shipping Forecast Map has looked like this:

Shipping Forecast Zones

The Shipping forecast has certainly come to be seen as something quintessentially, and perhaps quirkily, British – even featuring prominently in the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony – and supposedly attracts a wider audience than just mariners.  I’m not sure if non-seafarers bother listening to every show, but the forecast goes out four times a day every day, which makes it to Radio 4 what Come Dine with Me is to More4, although the shipping forecast is nowhere near as tedious. I listened to the 0048 (local time) broadcast when I was trying to get to sleep, which lasts about 10 minutes and is followed by the National Anthem. Transmitted on both FM and LW radio bands, the 0048 broadcast is also the only time of day when a shipping forecast for Trafalgar is given. The other three broadcasts go out at 0520 (both on FM and LW), 1201 (normally only on LW), and at 1754 (only on LW on weekdays, but on both at the weekend). Apparently the forecast is limited to 370 words – I’m not sure why, and if anyone can explain this to me, they’ll win my “Blog-Spod of the Week Award”. The format follows a very particular order: Firstly, the announcer says “And now the Shipping Forecast, issued by the Met Office on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency at” whatever given time and date the broadcast is going out on. Secondly, any gale warnings are issued, (which is defined as a wind force above 8 on the Beaufort Scale). Third, a general synopsis is given which announces the position, pressure and track of pressure areas. After that, each area’s forecast is read out (although if the conditions are similar in consecutive areas, they may be read out together), reporting wind direction and strength, precipitation and visibility. The areas are read out in a very strict order. I don’t really want to list them, as I’ve got another list coming up soon, so I’ve skilfully drawn a squiggly line to demonstrate the order here (I appreciate that sometimes the line obscures the name of the area, but it’s good practice to see if you can remember them from the earlier picture!)  Also, remember that Trafalgar only features in the 0048 broadcast, so all the others go straight from Biscay to FitzRoy. You begin at Viking and follow the line round to Southeast Iceland:

order of forecast

I mentioned earlier that I’d come back to the the 22 coastal weather stations which provide information for the forecasts, and which are included in the extended broadcasts at 0048 and 0520, and I’m nothing if not boringly predictable. The stations are situated all around the British Isles and Ireland, and I have listed these in the order that they are read out in the forecast. Also, if like me, you like to pretend you watched Coast when you were really watching Geordie Shore, I have also added a bit of info about where you might find them, and a few other interesting facts are thrown in for good measure.

  1. Tiree: The most westerly island of the Inner Hebrides.
  2. Stornoway: A town on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.
  3. Lerwick: The capital, and main port, of the Shetland Islands.
  4. Wick: An estuary town in the Scottish Highlands, in the county of Caithness.
  5. Aberdeen: Scotland’s third most populous city, situated at the mouths of the rivers Dee and Don.
  6. Leuchars: A small town near the north-east coast of Fife, get off the train here for St Andrew’s University.
  7. Boulmer: A village in Northumberland, situated on the North Sea to the east of Alnwick.
  8. Bridlington: A seaside resort in the East Riding of Yorkshire, also on the North Sea.
  9. Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic: It’s actually a ship which acts as a lighthouse/weather station in the English Channel, but it’s named after the Sandettie Bank in the Strait of Dover.
  10. Greenwich Light Vessel Automatic: Like the Sandettie one, but it’s located off the east coast of Sussex, close to the Greenwich Meridian.
  11. St Catherine’s Point: The Southern-most point of the Isle of Wight.
  12. Jersey: The largest Channel Island, home of Bergerac, scummy tax-dodgers, and cows that produce delicious milk.
  13. Channel Light Vessel Automatic: Another ship, situated north-northwest off the coast of Guernsey which is also good for tax-dodging and dairy products if you can’t get into Jersey.
  14. Scilly: An archipelago off the southwestern tip of the Cornish peninsula.
  15. Milford Haven: A town in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, situated on the north side of the Milford Haven Waterway estuary.
  16. Aberporth: A small town in the county of Ceredigion, in Mid-West Wales.
  17. Valley: A village near Holyhead on the Isle of Angelsey.
  18. Liverpool Crosby: A town in Merseyside, though historically it was part of Lancashire.
  19. Valentia:  An island lying off the southwest coast of the Inveragh peninsula in County Kerry.
  20. Ronaldsway: A settlement in the south of the Isle of Man, it’s also the location of the Isle of Man Airport.
  21. Malin Head: The most northerly point of Ireland, in County Donegal
  22. Machrihanish: A village in Argyll in Scotland. If you care about golf (or just like innuendos), it is home to a classic links golf course, and is reputed to have the best opening hole in the world.

So that was a quick tour of the British and Irish coast and, now that my tour of the British Isles is over, I leave you now with eight coastal questions…

  1. Who won the Man Booker Prize in 1978 for The Sea, The Sea?
  2. Which Canadian-born jockey, nicknamed “The Iceman”, rose to fame when he rode Seabiscuit to multiple victories in 1938?
  3. Featuring on the soundtrack for Danny Boyle’s 2000 film, The Beach, which band recorded and released the song Pure Shores in that same year?
  4. Which club was David Seaman signed to when he retired from professional football in 2004?
  5. Who wrote the 1723 violin concertos known as The Four Seasons? (By the way, it’s not just a bad pun involving the sea; it’s also a weather-related question)
  6. Which former poet laureate wrote the poem Sea-Fever?
  7. Which beach in Dorset can be found in the title of an Ian McEwan novel?
  8. What was the name of Captain Pugwash’s ship?

Four strokes for the perfect Wankel…

23 Apr

Willkommen meine kleine Quiz-Freunde! It appears that I begin most of my blog posts with an apology for my delay in posting, followed by an excuse for my quiz-tardiness.  This week, I will not make either an apology or an excuse, but I will assure you that the circumstances which had previously prevented me from learning (and writing) as much as I had wanted to have now changed and, while I cannot promise I will deliver a post every week, I will certainly be posting with more regularity than before. If we define success during this quest in terms of gaining some knowledge and interest in a topic which I previously neither knew nor cared about, then I would say that last time’s little foray into the world of heavyweight boxing was a minor triumph. This week, therefore, I am going to try a similar technique and tackle a subject within Science. It’s not that I don’t like science, and I think for a non-scientist my science knowledge is quite good, it’s just that so many good quizzers are scientists and as a result I tend to pass my science questions on to those who seem to know far more than me. This week I have decided to focus on a topic which may loosely fall within the science category, although I should perhaps create a “Transport and Technology” category for it, as this post is going to be about aeroplanes, and I am classing it as a science topic for no reason other than the fact that planes obey the laws of physics. Those of you who are familiar with my QLL team, JAN, are probably aware that we are a young and spritely team and, although we have a good spread of knowledge across a range of subjects, we fall down on what we call “Old Man Questions”. These include questions on the Napoleonic Wars, cricketing legends, and the history of planes, trains and automobiles (basically all the questions that get Chris from the Eggheads hot under the collar). Personally I have very little knowledge of any of these things, and usually have a stock answer for any question on the aforementioned subjects. For example, for any question that begins ‘Which battle of 18…?’ I always say Austerlitz; a question which asks about an early twentieth century cricketer is always answered with W.G. Grace; and if I’m asked about an aircraft manufacturer, regardless of chronology, I will always say de Havilland. These answers are not based on even the most basic knowledge of any of the subjects, but rather an observation that about 13.4% of the time one of those answers has a 50% chance of being correct. This week I decided I would try and gain a bit of knowledge about aeroplanes – for no other reason than the fact that I don’t know who/what de Havilland is, and it’d be nice to find out, and also a very good friend of mine recommended that I do a post on transport some time. Strictly speaking, given that I am filing this post under the science category, I should be finding out about the technical workings of an aircraft. However, and despite the fact that a lengthy discussion of the four stroke engine’s “suck, squeeze, bang, blow” cycle would provide me with an innuendo-horn-of-plenty[1], I have decided to focus less on the mechanics of flight, and more on the history of the aeroplane’s development, which I feel would offer up more quiz chestnuts. But before I begin, let’s deal with last time’s questions.

Firstly, the Boxer Rebellion took place in China and was launched by the Yihetuan Movement (aka the Righteous Harmony Society) against the forces of foreign imperialism. Boxer in Animal Farm was a horse, and apparently serves as an allegory for the Russian working-class who helped to oust Tsar Nicholas and establish the Soviet Union. The 2005 Ron Howard movie is called Cinderella Man which was the nickname that the writer Damon Runyon gave to Braddock because of his unlikely rags-to-heavyweight-title journey during the Great Depression. If anyone cares about Russell Crowe, he’s the one who played Braddock in the film. Manny Pacquiao is Filipino. Boxers, St Bernards and Newfoundlands are all Molossers, which derives its name from the ancient region of Molossia in Epirus (in modern-day Greece and Albania). Because of their massive size, Molossers are mainly used as guard dogs, but they are also used in search and rescue. Technically the second Chinese question of this set, Mao Zedong was born on Boxing Day 1893. Bauxite is a major ore of Aluminium. And finally, the “Rumble in the Jungle” took place in Kinshasa in what was then called the Stade du 20 Mai, although it is known today as the Stade Tata Raphaël.

As with most of the other topics I’ve covered, it’s quite difficult to know where to begin with aeroplanes. We could argue that the first manned flight was by Daedalus – closely followed by his son’s ill-fated journey too close to the sun. Or I could discuss da Vinci’s Codex on the Flight of Birds which set out the plans for a rudimentary flying machine. I was tempted to begin with Sir George Cayley, who designed and built the first passenger-carrying glider in 1853, but in the end I decided to begin with Sir Hiram Maxim, of Maxim gun fame. Maxim was a prolific inventor and even made a challenge to Edison’s claim over the lightbulb. Among Maxim’s several inventions (which ranged from the fire sprinkler to the curling iron) was a flying machine in 1889, which developed the helicopter plans that had been designed by his father. Maxim’s flying machine weighed three and a half tonnes, and used two compound 360 horsepower steam engines driving two propellers. The machine did not lift off the ground, because it was prevented from doing so by two safety rails. Maxim’s intention was to show that lift was possible, but he was aware that the flying machine could not be controlled, and the safety rails served to ensure that the “flight” could be stopped before it caused any damage. Although Maxim was unable to devise a method of either stabilizing or controlling a flying machine, in order to attract both funding for, and interest in, powered flight, he designed a number of “Captive Flying Machines” amusement rides in 1904, the first of which appeared in the Earl’s Court exhibition of the same year.

Maxim was not the only person to be experimenting with flight at the end of the 19th century, there were several other aviation pioneers who were experimenting with heavier-than-air flying devices – most notably the German inventor Otto “The Glider King” Lilienthal who was the first person to document and repeatedly make successful gliding flights. However, according to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (the organization responsible for aeronautical record-keeping), the first sustained and controlled heavier-than-air powered flights took place on December 17 1903, when Orville and Wilbur Wright each made two successful flights in an aircraft from ground level. Before I discuss the Wrights, it is probably worth highlighting a point of pedantry for those people who care (and I imagine if you are reading this blog, you are exactly the kind of pedant who would care): The term “aeroplane” initially only referred to the wing of an aircraft, as it referred to a plane moving through the air. However, given that aeroplane was commonly used as a synecdoche for the whole aircraft, people thought it meant the whole aircraft and it is therefore mostly used as such.

I’m not sure where I got this idea from, but I was under the impression that the Wright brothers were twins, and I also imagined that they were the only children of their parents, Milton Wright and Susan Koerner. In fact, Orville and Wilbur Wright were born three years apart (Wilbur was older) and were two of seven siblings. Neither Wilbur nor Orville finished high school, and even though the brothers clearly had a gift for invention and an interest in flight (apparently triggered by a toy helicopter that they were given by their father, which they played with so much they broke it, though they also subsequently fixed it) neither brother initially went into engineering. Instead, after they dropped out of school the brothers set up a printing company in 1899, using the printing press that they made together, and launching a weekly newsletter called West Side News. In 1892 the brothers decided to change direction and profit from the bicycle craze that was sweeping across America by setting up their own bicycle shop called the Wright Cycle Company, which made its own brand of bike by 1896. That year was also marked by a number of events that would reawaken their interest in flight (such as Samuel Langley’s successful flight of an unmanned steam aircraft, Octave Chanute’s work with gliders, and the death of Otto Lilienthal during a glider accident). Using the profits from their bicycle business, Wilbur and Orville began working on aeronautical designs, drawing on the work of their forebears, and finally achieving flight in The Wright Flier – an aircraft made of spruce and muslin. (Interesting vaguely-related fact: Howard Hughes’s famous aircraft, the Hughes H-4 Hercules, known more popularly as the “Spruce Goose”, was not actually made of spruce, rather it was constructed almost entirely of birch). Although the Wrights had invented the first aircraft capable of controlled flight, it was not the first aircraft able to take off unaided. This distinction was awarded on 23 October 1906 to the 14-bis designed by the Brazilian, Alberto Santos-Dumont.

The development of the aeroplane really took off (sorry!) during World War One, when it soon became apparent that an attack from the skies would not be pleasant for the enemy. This is not to say that World War One was the first time that armies had thought about using aerial tactics to gain a military advantage. While there may be a case for arguing that shooting some arrows into the sky, and convincing Harold II to look up while they came showering down to earth in 1066 was an early example of an attack from the air, I think it’s more sensible to suggest that the first use of an aerial advantage in warfare was during the 1794 Battle of Fleurus in the French Revolutionary Wars, when hydrogen observation balloons were used for intelligence gathering and artillery spotting. Indeed observation balloons were also used in the American Civil War (1861-65) and the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1). Indeed, in World War One, airships such as the German Zeppelin were initially considered of greater military value than aeroplanes. From what I understand, this was because both sides were initially focussing on the utility of flight in aerial reconnaissance and, apart from the fact that the poor buggers in the highly-flammable balloons ran the risk of catching fire, there didn’t appear to be much advantage in using an aeroplane over an airship (I imagine if you’re shot down, you’re plummeting to an unpleasant death regardless of what you’re in). However, when they started thinking about using aircraft for actual combat purposes like aerial bombing, then the advantage of heavier-than-air flight soon became very apparent. Before the war broke out, the British company Vickers had been experimenting with machine-gun carrying aircraft, and by 1915 they had brought out the FB-5, aka “The Gunbus”, which could carry a machine gun. Originally the aircraft carried a Lewis Gun, but was soon replaced by the good old Maxim Gun, which was much better suited. In fact, the German equivalent fighter plane, the Fokker Eindecker, carried the Spandau gun, which was a modification of Hiram Maxim’s original 1884 gun. With aircraft now capable of air-to-air combat, a number of aviators emerged as sort-of military heroes in World War One, and aviators who were responsible for five or more aerial victories gained the accolade of being known as “aces”. Perhaps the most famous of these was Baron von Richthofen (the Red Baron) who scored 80 victories for the German Luftstreitekrafte, but it is also worth mentioning the Frenchman Rene Fonck who had 75 victories, and the Canadian Billy Bishop who gained 72. Towards the end of World War One, in 1918, and realising the importance of a force in the air, the British Royal Air Force was established, and unsurprisingly it underwent rapid expansion in 1939 with the imminent outbreak of World War Two. Obviously, airplanes played a seriously big role in World War Two, but I’m not going to go into that here – it’s too long, and quite frankly too tedious, for me to list the manifold ways in which aeroplanes were both useful and brutal between 1939 and 1945, but do look out for some Second World War-related questions at the end of this post.

Normally, I like to do things as chronologically as possible, but I felt it was sensible to deal with aircraft and war in one paragraph, and then dedicate a paragraph to “aeroplane firsts”. The first non-stop transatlantic flight was made by John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown in June 1919. In April 1913, the Daily Mail had offered £10,000 to anyone who could fly non-stop from anywhere in the USA or Canada to any point in the UK or Ireland in less than 72 continuous hours. The competition was postponed for World War One, but in 1919 the two men flew a modified Vickers Vimy from Newfoundland to Galway in order to claim the prize. It was a similar prize that motivated Charles Lindbergh to achieve the first solo transatlantic flight in May 1927. Lindbergh was pursuing the Orteig Prize, which was offered for the first solo flight in any direction between Paris and New York. French flying ace Rene Fonck did make an attempt to win the prize in 1926, but his attempt both literally and metaphorically never got off the ground. Lindbergh achieved the feat in The Spirit of St Louis, a plane specially built for the trip and named after the town in Missouri where Lindbergh and his financial backers lived. Two German planes achieved the distinction of first using jet propulsion; in 1939 the Heinkel He 178 became the first jet aircraft, and in 1943 the Messerschmitt Me 262 (the first jet fighter aircraft) went into service in the German Luftwaffe. The first aeroplane to break the sound barrier was the rocket-propelled Bell X-1 in 1946. And in 1952, the first jet airliner was…wait for it…the De Havilland Comet…so now, I can finally get round to discovering who/what De Havilland was! Ok, so it’s pretty obvious that the De Havilland Comet is a plane, but the Comet was named after the de Havilland Aircraft Company which was founded in 1920 by Geoffrey de Havilland. During World War Two, the De Havilland Mosquito (aka “The Wooden Wonder”) was used as a multi-role combat aircraft, and (according to Wikipedia at least) has been widely considered one of the most versatile warplanes ever built. De Havilland also produced a number of other significant aircraft, including the Gipsy Moth “Jason”, which Amy Johnson used to become the first woman to fly solo non-stop from England to Australia in 1930. Indeed, several of Johnson’s record-breaking flights were carried out in De Havilland planes.

Most of the planes outlined in this post have been planes which were initially used for warfare, but I will end this post discussing commercial aeroplanes. The first widely successful commercial jet was the Boeing 707, which made its maiden voyage from Baltimore to Paris in October 1958. The 707 was produced between 1958 and 1979, but they have remained in service for around half a century, and although by August 2012 only two Boeing 707s remain in service (both in Iran), I think it’s fair to say they’ve lasted a bloody long time. Boeing also held a long-standing record with their 747, which between 1970 and 2005 was the largest passenger airliner, until it was surpassed by the Airbus A380. So that’s my post on aeroplanes over. If I’m honest, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed boxing, but I do have a new found respect for early aviation pioneers who put their lives on the line so that I could travel the world and not have to risk scurvy or pirates. On the other hand, I do risk the possibility of plummeting to my death in a fiery metal coffin, so it’s all swings and roundabouts really! And on that cheery note, I leave you with 8 airy questions…

  1. Who directed the 1986 film Top Gun?
  2. Who in 1932 became the first woman to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic?
  3. Perhaps best known for giving us the phrase “cloud cuckoo land”, which Greek playwright wrote The Birds?
  4. What is the name of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945?
  5. What is the Latin motto of the British Royal Air force?
  6. Which British singer and musician released the song “In the Air Tonight” in 1981
  7. Owing to his fear of flying, which footballer was nicknamed “The non-flying Dutchman”?
  8. Taking its name from the Greek for “two wings” to what order do flies belong?


[1] Thanks go to Paul Gilbert for the suggestion to add the Cornucopia joke, proving that going out with a pervert has its literary perks!

I’ll take it on the chin, but not below the belt…

8 Mar

Merry March quiz-buddies! This week I’m tackling my most dreaded of subjects: Sport. Recently, I was asked to describe myself in three words. After much deliberation, I felt that only two answers would sufficiently sum me up: “I love cake”, and “I hate sport”. In the end, I decided that I would go for the more positive response reflecting my love of a good Victoria sponge, but my dislike of sport still stands. To be honest, it’s not that I hate all sports; I used to be an ardent collector Merlin Premier League football stickers, I’ve been to a few football matches (and would consider myself somewhat of a Pompey fan), I’ve seen live NBA exhibition matches at the O2, and I’ve been to both the Beijing and London Olympics. The problem is, while I suppose I’m not averse to watching the occasional sporting contest (and to be honest I rather enjoy them), I’m completely useless at playing sport, and I also seem equally incapable of learning even the most basic sporting facts. I think I’ve diagnosed the cause of the problem as being a mixture of a lack of interest and a lack of understanding. There are probably only three sports which I would claim to understand even the most basic rules of (athletics, football, and basketball). However, it’s been years since I followed either football or basketball, so my knowledge in these areas is extremely out of date and generally useless. Indeed, until I looked them up this week I could not name the current first-choice Manchester United goalkeeper, or tell you which team LeBron James plays for at the moment  (it’s David de Gea and Miami Heat, respectively, if you didn’t know).

Despite my shaming lack of knowledge, at least I understand the rules of football and basketball. I decided this week that I wanted to learn about a new sport of which I knew nothing, so that as well as learning about champions, I could also learn its rules and conventions. A few months ago, my boyfriend took up chess-boxing, a relatively obscure sport involving alternative rounds of boxing and chess until you reach either knock-out or checkmate. While I understand the chess element of the sport, the boxing aspect completely eludes me – though from watching him train, it soon became clear that there’s as much strategy in boxing as there is in chess, and it’s much more than “just two guys beating each other up” (which is what I think a lot of non-boxing fans might think it is). Therefore, I decided this week to learn about the world of boxing, and in particular learn about world heavyweight boxing champions.  But before we talk a-bout (see what I did there?) that, I’ll give you the answers to last week’s quiz…

Firstly Edie Sedgwick was the subject of Factory Girl. The film tells of her life in New York city where she became one of Andy Warhol’s superstars. Sienna Miller played her in the movie.  L.S.Lowry painted the Factory at Widnes, which is currently housed in the Christchurch Art Gallery in New Zealand. Lowry was well known for his industrial landscapes of the North West of England, and his “matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs” (as immortalized in the 1978 song by Brian and Michael). Also, there is a theatre and art gallery called The Lowry in Greater Manchester dedicated to him. The Wasp Factory was the first novel by Iain Banks. It’s worth noting that the answer is not Iain M. Banks, as it wasn’t one of his science fiction offerings, but if you’re interested, the “M” stands for Menzies. Danny Dyer played Tommy Johnson in The Football Factory. I can’t think why the director Nick Love thought Mr Dyer would make a good violent southern football hooligan who enjoys kicking people’s heads in, it’s such a departure for the characters he normally plays. Charlie Bucket, of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame, had a dad who worked at a toothpaste factory, his precise job involved screwing the caps onto the tubes. Boundary Park is home to Oldham Athletic. The Manchester ship canal begins in Eastham Locks in the Mersey Estuary, it then follows the route of the Mersey until it reaches its confluence with the River Irwell, and then follows the old course of the River Irwell into Manchester, ending at Salford Quays. Finally Manchester Oxford Road is the second busiest station in the Manchester station group. The group consists of four stations which, in order of busyness, are Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Oxford Road, Manchester Victoria, and Deansgate.

If you look up boxing on Wikipedia, you’ll find a few alternative names for the sport – such as pugilism, prizefighting, and a pygmachia (meaning fist-fighting in Greek). Boxing in its loosest sense (i.e. a combat sport involving throwing punches) has been depicted in Sumerian reliefs dating back as early as the third millennium BC. In these reliefs, fighters are shown with bare hands, but there is evidence dating from 1500 BC that the Minoans in Crete fought with gloves. There seems to be a dearth of evidence of people boxing after the fall of Romulus Augustus in AD476 (which is often given as the date for the fall of the Western Roman Empire), but there is evidence that from the 13th century, fighters in a medieval polity called Kievan Rus (which formed the basis of the Russian Empire) engaged in a sport called “Kulachniy boy” – a type of bare knuckle boxing. In the early 16th century, bare-knuckle boxing (aka prizefighting) became popular in England, and the first English champion, James Figg, was declared in 1719.  At this time, boxing had no formal rules, which were first introduced by the English bare-knuckle champion Jack Broughton in 1743, in order to try and reduce the number of deaths which occurred during boxing matches. Under these rules, if a man went down for 30 seconds, the match was declared over (as the man was “out for the count”), he could not “hit a man when he was down”, and hitting “below the belt” was prohibited. During my research, I found that a lot of phrases and idioms come from boxing etiquette. Broughton also invented the padded boxing glove (then known as muffles) but they were used for training, rather than in actual fights. Broughton’s rules, along with the stipulation that the boxing ring should be in a 24sq. foot ring, and a prohibition on biting and headbutting were codified in the London Prize Ring Rules of 1838, and would remain the rules of the game until the introduction of the Marquess of Queensbury rules in 1867.

The Marquess of Queensbury rules, which still govern the sport today, were written by the all-round sporting good-egg John Graham Chambers. If like me, you find running to catch a bus physically strenuous, you’ll understand why I was put to shame when I read about Chambers who, in addition to writing the Queensbury rules, could include among his sporting accolades: rowing for Cambridge (and coaching four winning Boat-Race crews); becoming an English Champion walker; founding the Amateur Athletics Club; and instituting championships for billiards, boxing, cycling, wrestling and athletics. Furthermore, when Matthew Webb swam the English Channel, Chambers rowed beside him, and in his spare time he managed to edit a national newspaper! Despite Chambers writing the rules, they were named after the John Douglas, the 9th Marquess of Queensbury, a boxing patron who publicly endorsed the code. (Interesting side fact: John Douglas’s third son, Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas was famously the lover of Oscar Wilde – the character played by Jude Law in Brian Gilbert’s 1997 film, Wilde). In total there were 12 rules, which I’ve tried to simplify to the following:

  1. The ring should be 24 sq. foot.
  2. Wrestling or hugging is prohibited.
  3. Rounds should last 3 minutes with 1 minute breaks between rounds.
  4. A fallen man must get up unassisted within 10 seconds in order to continue, during which time the opponent must return to his corner.
  5. If a man is hanging off the ropes with his toes off the ground, he is considered down
  6. No seconds or extra people shall be allowed in the ring.
  7. If the fight is interrupted the referee must name an alternative time and place for the fight as soon as possible.
  8. Good quality, new, fair-sized boxing gloves should be used.
  9. If a glove bursts during a fight, the referee must be satisfied with the replacement gloves.
  10. If a man is down on one knee, he is considered down, and cannot be struck.
  11. Boxing shoes and boots are not allowed springs or spikes.
  12. All other elements of the fight are to be governed by the revised London Prize Ring Rules.

With the Marquess of Queensbury rules in place, a number of recognized boxing championships were established. To begin with the titles were Universal, but from 1910, a number of organizations were created which had the power to award world championships. Between 1910 and 1961, three organizations were particularly prominent in this regard: the International Boxing Union (IBU); the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC); and the US-based National Boxing Association (NBA). From 1961 to the present day, four organization issue championship awards: The World Boxing Association; the World Boxing Council (WBC) – which incorporated the IBU and NYSAC; the International Boxing Federation (IBF), and the World Organization (WBO).

The American, John L. Sullivan, is widely regarded as the first world heavyweight champion of gloved boxing (although he was previously a bare-knuckled fighter, and is also regarded as the last bare-knuckled champion). Sullivan became a world champion when he defeated Dominic McCaffrey in 1885. Sullivan is also notable in that he was the first American athlete to make over US$1,000,000 in career prize money. Sullivan fought in 47 fights, and only lost one – when he was knocked out by fellow American James Corbett in 1892. From 1885 until the end of the 20th century, heavyweight boxing was dominated by the Americans. According to my calculations (which involved counting the list on Wikipedia), between 1900 and 2000, world heavyweight titles were won by Americans around 73 times, compared to just 7 times by the Brits, twice by the Italians and Canadians, and once by the Swedes, South Africans and Ukrainians (technically, as Vitali Klitschko won the WBO title on 26 June 1999, though his brother Wladimir did also win the title in 2000). Even the earliest Brit to win the title – Bob Fitzsimmons between 1897 and 1899, changed nationality in 1898 to American.

I can’t cover all the boxing champions in this post, but I will highlight some of the notable winners, and I’ll try and at least name-check all the non-American or non-British ones. The first Canadian to win the Universal title was Tommy Burns (born Noah Brusso). At 5’7”, Burns was noted for his diminutive height and for being willing to fight any challenger to the title (previous champions had only fought against white fighters). Burns’s biographer, Dan McCafferey claims that Burns said “I propose to be the champion of the world, not the white, or the Canadian, or the American. If I am not the best man in the heavyweight division, I don’t want the title”. This sporting attitude, however, led to Burns’s famous defeat against Jack Johnson on Boxing Day (yes, it’s true) 1908, making Johnson the first African-American to win the title the Heavyweight Championship title. Almost half a century before Muhammad Ali was championing black rights (but nonetheless calling his black opponents names like “Uncle Tom” and “Gorilla”), Johnson was challenging the Jim Crow system speaking out against racism, and causing controversy by marrying white women and beating them. In fact, Johnson’s first wife, Etta Terry Duryea, shot herself in September 1912. Just less than a month later, in October 1912, Johnson was arrested for “transporting Lucille Cameron across state lines for immoral purposes” after it was alleged that Lucille was a prostitute (though it was most probably because Johnson was black – and there have been several attempts to gain a Presidential pardon for him). Lucille became Johnson’s second wife, but she divorced him over infidelity in 1924. In 1946 Johnson died in a car crash – allegedly after driving angrily away from a restaurant that refused to serve him. Despite what you might think of the man himself, Johnson’s boxing dominance clearly challenged the idea of white supremacy, and influenced fighters like Muhammad Ali.

It’s worth having a brief interlude at this point about the cool nicknames that many heavyweight boxers were given, and they’re particularly useful for remembering where a particular boxer came from. Sullivan, for example, was known as “The Boston Strongman”, Tommy Burns was “The Little Giant of Hanover”, and Jack Johnson was the “Galviston Giant”. Johnson lost his title to Jess Willard, “The Pottawatomie Giant”, but when Willard beat Johnson on 5 April 1915, he gained the nickname “The Great White Hope”. Willard then lost the title in 1919 to Jack Demspey – AKA the “Manassa Mauler”. On 12 June 1930 Max Schmelling, “The Black Uhlan of the Rhine”, became the first German to win the heavyweight championship, and the first Italian was Primo “The Ambling Alp” Carnera in 1933. After Carnera, there were only American champions until 1959. Perhaps the most noteworthy of these champions is Joe Louis (“The Brown Bomber”) – who in addition to being the boxer who has held the heavyweight title for the longest period (11 years between 1937 and 1949) – was also an accomplished golfer and became the first African American to play in the PGA Golf Tour. Between January 1939 and May 1941, Louis defended his title 13 times and won so convincingly against his opponents that they became collectively known as “The Bum of the Month Club”. The era of American dominance was briefly interrupted on 26 June 1959 when Ingemar Johansson beat Floyd Patterson, and held the title for just under a year before Patterson won it back on 20 June 1960. In that same year Cassius Clay, as he was then known, won the light-heavyweight Gold Medal at the Rome Olympics. By 1964, he had won the world heavyweight title, and had changed his name to Muhammad Ali. Ali had a number of nicknames, including “The Greatest” and “The People’s Champion”, but perhaps the most quiz-worthy nickname is “The Louisville Lip” – I’m assuming because of his reputation for pre-match trash talk. Muhammad Ali could have an entry post all to himself, but I think it’d be nice to give some other boxers a bit of a chance, so I’m not going to say much more about him.

The first African to win a WBA heavyweight title was Gerrie Coetzee, “The Bionic Hand” from South Africa. Coetzee attempted to gain the title three times – losing to both John Tate and Mike Weaver, before finally taking the title from the reigning champion Michael Dokes in September 1983. I’m going to jump now to 1986 – not just because it was the year I was born, but also because in this year there were three simultaneous champions: Michael Spinks, who had held the IBF championship from 21 September 1985 (and lost it on 19 February 1987), Tim Witherspoon who held the WBA title from 17 January to December 12 1986, and from March 22 to November 22 the Canadian Tim Berbick held the WBC title. Berbick lost his title that year to Mike Tyson, who subsequently went on to win the WBA title, and by August 1987 had consolidated all of his titles into one easily-affordable Universal title. I’m not sure if Tyson ever consolidated his loans in this way, but he did have huge financial troubles and filed for bankruptcy in 2003. On May 6 1989 Tyson lost his WBO title to the Italian Francesco Damiani, but he managed to hold on to the IBF, WBA & WBC titles until February 1990 when James “Buster” Douglas took them all away from him.

The first Brit since Bob Fitzsimmons to win a world title was Lennox “The Lion” Lewis in December 1992, but like Fitzsimmons he also has gained another citizenship  and currently has dual citizenship of Great Britain and Canada. The next Brit to win a title was Herbie Hide who became WBO champion in March 1994. His real name is Herbert Okechukwu Maduagwu and he was born in Nigeria but raised Norwich, making him a sort-of Alan Partridge of the boxing world. In September 1995 Franklin “Frank” Bruno won the WBC title, and although it isn’t strictly a quiz fact, he is the only boxer on the list that I can do a fairly OK impression of! Now I will quickly mention Henry Akinwande who got the WBO title in June 1996 and that’s all the Brits who won a title until the end of the twentieth century (Hide and Lewis both won titles in the late 1990s and 2000s, but I’ve mentioned them already). Since then, David Haye is the only Brit to have won any heavyweight title. The 21st century has also seen a decline in the dominance of the Americans in heavyweight boxing. If, like me, you’ve ever tried to order a “normal” size meal in San Diego and been presented with a trough about four times wider than you, you’d understand why the Americans are still very good at generally being heavyweight, but I think the decline in their boxing abilities is perhaps more to do with the rise of the Eastern European boxers, most notably the Russian Nikolai Valuev and the Ukrainian Klitschko brothers – who, proving that boxing is not just for mindless thugs, both hold PhDs. So this has been my little foray into the world of heavyweight boxing, I leave you now with a round of question on the theme of boxing…

1) In which country did the Boxer Rebellion take place between 1898 and 1901?

2) In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, what animal was Boxer?

3) Which 2005 Ron Howard movie was inspired by the life story of  heavyweight boxing champion James J. Braddock?

4) Long hailed as the world’s best pound-for-pound boxer, what nationality is Manny Pacquiao?

5) Boxers, Newfoundlands and Saint Bernards all belong to which category of dog breeds? (It’s got a specific name, I will not accept “big!”)

6)  Which Asian world leader, and major twentieth century figure was born on Boxing Day 1893?

7) Bauxite is a major ore of which metal?

8) In which capital city did the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” take place between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman?

Twisting a melon will tear it apart…

26 Feb

Bienvenue mes petites quiz-fleurs. Apologies for the long silence, unfortunately my quest was a little delayed by my real-life job, which took over my life the last month. I’ll be honest, my last mini-quest to learn about French kings left me a little drained, and like many of you I was left still fairly confused about the events which followed 1789 with the to-ing and fro-ing between monarchy, empire and republics. This week, I’ve decided that, having tackled the cerebral topics of Poet Laureates (or, rather, Poets Laureate) and French Kings, I would be justified this week in going for something a little bit more low-brow. As a result, I’ve decided to research a topic within the subject of Music. My choice has largely been decided by a process of elimination: Unless I go for a post on ‘places in the UK with “cock” in their name’ or ‘sexually transmitted diseases’, there’s not many topics within Geography or Science and Nature which can reasonably be considered low-brow. I’ve already covered topics within Arts and Literature and History and Politics, so they’ve been excluded for a few weeks. Nothing about Sport can be considered not-too-mentally taxing for me, and there are too many low-brow topics within Entertainment for me to choose from, which only really leaves Music. The problem with Music for me is that I sort-of like everything (apart from Eurovision and Musicals, but that goes without saying), but wouldn’t really say I love anything. As a result I know a teenie-tiny bit about quite a few artists and genres, but I don’t really know enough about any of them. As a result, I often find I’m useless on ‘guess the intros’  or ‘name the album covers’ rounds in pub quizzes, as I rarely known any songs well enough to identify them from their opening bars, and I haven’t bought an album for nearly a decade. Now usually, when it comes to learning new topics, those which have a clearly defined list of things to learn are useful, because you can structure your learning along a logical chronology (which was the case with both the Laureates and the Kings). Accordingly,  my first port of call was to research into musical awards like the Ivor Novellos or the BRITs. To be honest, though, both these lists were fairly dull and didn’t provide much fodder for a blog-post. As a result, I decided in the end to research into a topic which I’ve always found quite interesting; the Factory record label and the Madchester music scene. But before I get you high on a knowledge rave, here’s last week’s answers…

Firstly, if you are using a french press, you’re most likely making a coffee (incidentally, if you’re working in Starbucks, whatever you’re making is never a coffee!). A french press is basically what most people would call a cafetière. Strangely enough the device was patented by an Italian called Attilio Calimani in 1929, which may explain why in Italy it’s called a caffettiera a stantuffo – which just means ‘coffee plunger’. Charles de Gaulle pondered how to rule over prolific cheese-consumers as an expression of his frustration over the divisiveness of the Fourth Republic. He eventually came up with the solution of establishing a Fifth Republic and served as its President from 1959-69. Sébastien Chabal had the nickname ‘Sea Bass’. According to a blog called ‘Chabalmania’, he was given the nickname to distinguish him from fellow teammate and Frenchman, Sebastien Bruno, though I would not have picked a nickname that sounds like the common forename they share, and I would have told them apart by looking at them! Jules Chéret designed all those lovely posters, and is known as ‘the father of the modern poster’ for it. Jacques Derrida wrote those three books, which established his reputation when they were published in 1967. The Pyrenees mountain range forms the Spanish-French border. It separates the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of continental Europe, and extends for about 305 miles from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean. The very sexy Guillaume Canet is the former husband of Diane Kruger and current boyfriend of Marion Cottilard. His 2006 directorial debut film Tell No One won him the César Award for Best Director. Finally, François-Marie Arouet was better known as Voltaire. Among his many witticisms, Voltaire is reputed to have said that ‘anything too stupid to be spoken is sung’ and with that in mind I shall get on with telling you about Factory Records…

I picked Factory Records primarily because of three songs: Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division, Blue Monday by New Order and Step On by the Happy Mondays. Three fantastic songs which I’m sure are well known to many of you, and all of which were produced by Factory Records. Despite being responsible for such classics, the record label lost a tonne of money, and was marked by tragedies. Many of you may have worked out by now that I have a bit of a penchant for learning about achievements which are accompanied by some degree of failure (like being a poet laureate who’s a bit shit, or becoming a French King and then being nicknamed ‘The Fat’), so learning about the record label that produced amazing music, but ended up bankrupting itself in the process, seems perfect. What I find most fascinating about Factory is the reciprocal link between its development and the cultural development of Manchester in the late 1970s and 1980s. Now, I don’t normally reveal my sources for this blog (mainly because my sources are largely Wikipedia), but I based a lot of this week’s research on watching 24 Hour Party People. I can definitely recommend the film as an excellent watch – though, if I’m honest half the amusement came from the fact the trippy acid-rave scenes made my feverish and delirious boyfriend, who had a nasty vomiting bug when we were watching it, totally freak out!

The past two posts have been easy to organize, because they lend themselves quite well to a chronological listing of key characters, this week’s topic is not so easy, but I will start at what I believe is the beginning, and that is on 4th June 1976 at the Manchester Free Trade Hall (which was built on the site of the Peterloo Massacre). On that particular day the Lesser Free Trade Hall hosted a gig by the Sex Pistols. The gig itself wasn’t a massive success – it was reported that only 43 people attended the gig, but some thought that was a fairly generous estimate. Manchester at the time was a bit of a shithole; high on unemployment and rat-filled canals, but pretty much low on everything else. The people who were at the Sex Pistols gig, however, would be instrumental in turning that image around and giving the city cult status as “Madchester”. The gig was organized by Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto from The Buzzcocks, and among those who attended the gig were musicians who would later go on to become members of the Smiths, Joy Division/New Order, and weirdly enough Mick Hucknall from Simply Red! Also in the crowd was Tony Wilson, a Manchester boy-made-good, who after graduating from Cambridge began working for Granada Television presenting a music TV show called So It Goes, which was named after the refrain in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. Whatever you may think of Wilson (and the spectrum of opinions does range from deity to bellend), he was passionate about Manchester, and like the Sex Pistol’s manager, Malcolm McClaren he was heavily influenced by the Situationalist International movement. The Sex Pistol’s performance in Manchester in June 1976 seemed to speak to the frustrations felt by many angry unemployed young men in Manchester at the time, and Wilson saw an opportunity to use music as a form of empowerment.

In January 1978, Wilson partnered up with an unemployed actor called Alan Erasmus, and by May 1978 they had launched their first club night. Erasmus wanted to call the club “Factory” on the grounds that a sign which read “Factory Opening” in Manchester would make a nice change from all the signs that said “Factory Closing” that were cropping up around the recession-hit city. The event was advertised with posters by Peter Saville – a graphic designer noted for his innovative and eye-catching designs (although, they were often also impractical and high-budget), which gave Factory its distinctive “look”. The first Factory club night featured the band that Erasmus and Wilson co-managed, the Durutti Column (named after, although they misspelt his name, Buenaventura Durruti, who led a column of anarchists during the Spanish Civil War), a Sheffield-based band called Cabaret Voltaire (presumably named after our witty friend from earlier), and Joy Division. Joy Division’s one of those bands that went through several incarnations, but they can all be traced back to that Sex Pistol’s gig at the Free Trade Hall. The band was formed by childhood mates Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner and their friend Terry Mason, who had all been at the Sex Pistols’ gig. They also invited school-friend Martin Gresty to join as vocalist, but he turned them down after getting a job at a local factory, and Ian Curtis – who Hook and Sumner new from other gigs – replaced him as the frontman. It was originally suggested by various members of the Buzzcocks that the band be called Stiff Kittens, and their first public performance in 1977 was under this name. However shortly before the gig, in reference to the song Warszawa by David Bowie, the band decided to change their name to Warsaw. The band did receive some national exposure as Warsaw, but in order to distinguish themselves from the London punk group Warsaw Pakt, they renamed themselves Joy Division – from the novella House of Dolls by the Jewish writer Ka-Tsetnik 135633 (aka Yihiel De-Nur). Joy Division, rather darkly, refers to the women of the Jewish concentration camps who were kept for the sexual pleasure of Nazi soldiers, but for Joy Division’s lead singer, Ian Curtis, there was a rather weird twisted hope in the term which appealed to him.

Ian Curtis is probably one of the most interesting characters associated with Factory, though I suspect that part of this interest is rooted in the fact that his life was tragically cut short. People often refer to the 27 Club when talking of musicians who died too young (because Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse all died at the age of 27), but Ian Curtis outdid them by four years, hanging himself in his kitchen on 18May 1980 when he was just 23 years old, while Joy Division were at the height of their success. I haven’t seen it, but I’ve been told that the whole affair is very well portrayed in the 2007 biopic Control, directed by Anton Corbijn (who had previously worked as a photographer with Joy Division) and starring Sam Riley and Samantha Morten. When Ian Curtis died, the remaining members of Joy Division decided to form a new band – New Order – and they went into business with Tony Wilson and their band manager Rob Gretton to launch Manchester’s most infamous club – The Haçienda – in 1982.

I mentioned earlier a certain twisted fondness for silver clouds with shitty linings, and The Haçienda fits the bill perfectly. The club which was given the Factory catalogue number ‘FAC 51’ was designed to be funded by New Order’s record sales, but New Order Bassist later claimed in his book The Haçienda: How Not to Run a Club that the club lost £18million in its last few years. The Club itself however, was a remarkably ambitious project designed by Ben Kelly (under instruction from Peter Saville). The name itself came from the slogan “The Hacienda must be built” which features in Ivan Chtcheglov’s 1953 work Formulary for a New Urbanism which was a sort of Situationalist handbook. The Club also paid tribute to the Cambridge Spies: There was a cocktail bar called “The Gay Traitor” (named after Anthony Blunt) and there were also bars called “Kim Philby” and “Hicks” (the codename of Guy Burgess).

The Haçienda also hosted battle of the bands nights, and it was at one such night that Wilson discovered The Happy Mondays. The Happy Mondays were not a popular choice at the battle of the bands night (and probably came last in the public vote), but Wilson rigged the competition so that he could justify signing them. Wilson later described Monday’s frontman, Shaun Ryder as being like W.B. Yeats. After Shaun Ryder, perhaps the most iconic member of the band was Mark Berry, aka ‘Bez’ – the band’s dancer and maraca player. Bez was also the band’s supplier of drugs, and heroin addiction is widely seen as the band’s downfall. The band’s first album in 1987 had one of my favourite names of any album ever: Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out), but it was probably their follow-up albums, Bummed (1988) and Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches (1990) that really gave the band iconic status. However, after this Shaun Ryder’s heroin use was really hampering his ability to write good songs. In a move which shows the significance of doing your research before you go abroad, Factory decided to send the band to Eddy Grant’s recording studio in Barbados to work on their fourth album, hoping that the dearth of heroin in Barbados would help the Mondays record a good album. The strategy failed horribly, the band became addicted to the readily available supply of crack-cocaine and began selling off furniture from Eddy Grant’s studio to fund their habit. The album recorded in Barbados, Yes Please! (1992) was not very good at all, and the huge cost of the whole venture is widely credited with bankrupting Factory.

Factory’s financial woes were also being exacerbated by the fact that The Haçienda was also haemorrhaging money. Part of the reason why the club made no money is because it became the site of acid-house raves, and the club barely sold any alcohol as most people were busy getting high on ecstasy instead! The other downside was that the UK’s first ecstasy-related death occurred at the club in July 1989 when 16 year-old Clare Leighton collapsed and died after her boyfriend gave her an ecstasy tablet. Furthermore, in the later years there were also several shooting outside the club, and by the Summer of 1997, difficult relations with the law and its crippling finances forced the club to shut. At this point Factory records had also been sold to London Records, and had lost a great deal of its momentum. So that’s Factory Records in a nutshell. Now, returning to Voltaire, who’s already featured a few times in this post, he also said ‘judge a man by his questions not his answers’ so here’s some questions on factories and Manchester…

1)      Which American socialite and underground film star was the subject of the 2006 biopic Factory Girl?

2)      Who painted the 1956 work Factory at Widnes?

3)      Who wrote the 1984 novel The Wasp Factory?

4)      Who stars as Tommy Johnson a violent member of a Chelsea FC firm in the 2004 film The Football Factory?

5)      Which Roald Dahl protagonist has a dad who works at a toothpaste factory?

6)      Which Greater Manchester football club are based at Boundary Park?

7)      At which river’s estuary does the Manchester ship canal begin?

8)      What is the second busiest railway station in the Manchester station group?