Last Saturday (November 10) the Fourth European Quizzing Championships were held, in Blackpool, England. Three of my favorite trivial-minded bloggers have weighed in on the festivities, and an interesting common theme has emerged.
Those bloggers -Ken Jennings, Bob Harris, and "The Quiz Blogger"- all make mention of how difficult or obscure the questions were by mentioning similarly formated lists of question subjects. Those lists are comprised of items consisting of a cultural or national adjective and a subject. If I were making the list, I'd be tempted to just make something up (Welsh badminton champions, Portuguese poodle pamperers, Marshall Island marshals, etc.). However, my curiosity got the best of me, and a bit of internet research led me to what I believe were the subjects of many of those questions. (Basically I just plopped the term into Google and Wikipedia, then picked the "most famous" web hit that came up. "Research", I call it.)
Here are my best guesses, along with some commentary. The initials following each entry represent the blog where it was mentioned.:
Albanian dictator (BH): most likely Enver Hoxha, who ruled from 1944 until his death in 1985. Jeopardy über-champ Jerome Vered correctly identified him in a Round 4 Ultimate Tournament of Champions game in 2005.
Belarussian table tennis player (KJ)/East German ping-pong player (BH): Could they possibly have had 2 questions about obscure paddle-wielders? Or is one of our fair bloggers remembering it wrong? Regardless of which nationality/ies is/are correct, the Googles, they do nothing. The Belarus Table Tennis Federation English language webpage hasn't been updated since 2003, so that's no help. And searches for "East German Ping Pong" just bring up a bunch of references to the movie "Balls of Fury". Too obscure for even me to spend more than 5 minutes on, at the moment. Color me stumped.
Hungarian fencers (KJ): Boy there are a lot of Hungarian Olympic Fencing Champions, according to this list at Wikipedia.
Islamic hardcore punk (QB): Looks like Taqwacore. This is the kind of thing Wikipedia was made for. The genre was inspired by the book The Taqwacores by Michael Muhammad Knight.
Korean folk songs (KJ): The are many Korean folk songs (obviously), but Arirang is the undisputed king. Here's a link that plays the song in the background. It's a nice little tune, actually. I dig Korea.
Mauritanian film director (KJ): I suppose we're talking about Abderrahmane Sissako here. Remarkably, he has no English-language Wikipedia page for me to link to (yet), so the click there takes you to IMDB. He moved to France in 1993 when his film Octobre was shown at Cannes. His 2002 film Heremakono (aka Waiting for Happiness) seems to be his most popular. Here's an interview from the African Film Festival webpage, and here's one from the UNESCO Courier.
Moroccan feminist essayist (KJ): Fatema Mernissi is the most likely suspect here. Best known for 1975's Beyond the Veil and 1987's The Veil and the Male Elite. Link goes to Wikipeida.
Nicaraguan authoresses (QB): Wikipedia lists 7. Could be any of them, really. However, it's worth noting that Rosario Murillo is also the current First Lady of Nicaragua, Claribel Alegria won the Neustadt Internation Prize for Literature in 2006, and Gioconda Belli was nice enough to put up an English-language biography on her web page.
Senegalese poet (BH): Gotta be Leopold Sedar Senghor, who was also the first president of independent Senegal, serving from 1960 to 1981. He died in 2001.
Swedish hurdling twins (QB): Without question Jenny and Susanna Kallur. The link is from their college days (in 2001).
Ukrainian sculptors (QB): Wikipedia gives us 2, Alexander Archipenko and Ivan Martos. Google gives plenty of others, but I'm not qualified to judge which is most famous. Your guess is as good as mine, better if you were actually at the quiz.
Of these people, Enver Hoxha is the only one I'd even heard of before researching this stuff, and I doubt I could have remembered his name, much less answered whatever question EQC might have set about his life. So yeah, my hat (nay, my whole head) is off those those who could hold their own on these questions. Nevertheless, they'd sure be fun to play on.
For completeness sake, The Quiz Blogger also mentioned tilapia, comic book hero Corto Maltese (caution: official link has loud audio and video), "Italian film directors that weren't Benigni or Bertolucci", zeta functions, and the "idiotically" named video game Serious Sam (It's Croatian!). Click on the links for real "learning is fun" action with kung fu grip.
And finally, this link about the territory-marking civet called the genet doesn't mention the Balearic Islands or handstands, but Wikipedia does. So now you know.
A good time was had by all.
Official European Quizzing Championships site
Wait -- what do you mean, there are civets that do handstands? (November 11, 2007) - by Bob Harris
Be Gentle, It's Our First Time (November 13, 2007) - by Ken Jennings
Get Yer Red Hot League and Cup Action! (November 18, 2007) - by Olav Bjortomt. (Jump to the section "Not Quite a Downward Spiral" for EQC news.)