Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Beijinger stuffs up

The Beijinger magazine - abruptly, and without much advance publicity - decided last weekend to revive its 'Super Quiz' idea.... securing a large venue for an evening and inviting every quizmaster in the city to contribute a round of questions each (well, almost every quizmaster; our own JK, who's been running a rather jolly little quiz down at 12 Square Metres once a month through the second half of this year, was shamefully overlooked!) to produce a quiz of quizzes, an ultimate test of the trivia buff's powers.

Now, as an idea, this doesn't SUCK.  There are scores of ardent quizzers here in Beijing, and many of them would welcome the opportunity to match their brains against the leading contestants from the other regular bar quizzes around town.

Trouble is.... well, there's a bit of a dearth of really good quizmasters in Beijing (Julian Fisher of the Tim's Texas Barbecue quiz on Tuesday nights is the only one I really have any time for); and putting 6 or 8 bad quizmasters together in one room somehow seems to bring the standard of questions down even more.  There's also a dearth of decent venues large enough to host something of this kind.  And the first staging of this event was such A COMPLETE FUCK-UP (crap venue, crap quizmastering!!) that anyone who suffered it would be extremely unlikely to risk wasting an evening on it a second time.  Moreover, if you're going to try to get this going as a regular event.... well, it needs some kind of regularity about it; it's been over 18 months since the last one!  (And I thought it must have been two years; I just remember that it occurred on a dreary sunless day, but did not recall that it had been a warm grey day rather than a cold one.)

And it would seem that The Beijinger didn't learn any lessons from the disaster of that first Super Quiz.  It was mostly the same quizmasters again this year (Karl Long of Paddy O'Shea's should still be doing hard labour in the gulag for the abomination of a round he visited on us last time!).  And they were again given a free hand to indulge their egos with silly novelty rounds, rather than being given clear guidelines on format, topic, scoring, and degree of difficulty - in order to create a more well-balanced and demanding (dare I say it, a 'harmonious'?!) quiz.  (I gather one guy this time had a round of questions on 'Cryptic Band Names' [Hamlet Humans = Village People, geddit?].  Quite a fun idea at first, but it gets tedious after a while.  And probably too easy as well, once you've got the trick of it.  This is the sort of thing [bizarre themed rounds, 'missing links', odd bonuses or penalties] which can be a good laugh... in your local quiz, at Christmas; but in a 'grand citywide championship' kind of setting are just irritatingly naff, and/or absurdly randomizing of the results [this was what ruined Super Quiz 1]; the sort of thing that the organizers really ought to try to outlaw if they want this event to succeed.  Moreover, I object to rounds like this - that depend on English wordplay - as excessively exclusionary of a Chinese audience.  Admittedly, 95% of quizzers are going to be laowai, and any Chinese that do come along are likely to be a bit lost for the most part [particularly on a music round!], but.... you don't want to make a set of questions completely inaccessible to the locals.  That's just bad manners, I think.)

Worst of all, the folks at The Beijinger had chosen to hold this event at The Hard Rock Café!!!  I don't think I know anyone who's ever been to The Hard Rock Café in Beijing.  It notoriously caters almost exclusively to wealthy Chinese businessmen looking to meet expensive hookers.  Even Beijing Boyce - who generally gives the impression of being a modestly affluent fellow, able to hang out in swanky cocktail bars almost every night of the week - found it cripplingly expensive and eventually left in a huff (and I may return to the question of what the heck he thought was doing there in a further rant shortly...).  As a venue selection, that was somewhere beyond bizarre - absurdly high prices, sleazy reputation, just about zero foreign custom: WTF??  I was just about prepared to give the Super Quiz another chance - particularly as it was for charity - even with Karl Long getting behind the microphone again.  But when I saw where they were holding it, I thought, "Oh no, this is surely just some sort of a JOKE!"

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