Wednesday, 30 August 2017

University Challenge - Round One - Heat 6 - Oxford Brookes v. The Courtauld Institute

Oxford Brookes v. Courtauld Institute

It seems to me that Oxford Brookes always field a useful team when they get the invite to appear. Representing them in this week’s heat were Inigo Purcell - yet another contestant from the Centre Of The Universe – that is, Chiswick - ,Pat O’Shea, Emma-Ben Lewis and their captain Thomas De Bock. Now, their opposition were provided by the Courtauld Institute. I always worry that UC is going to be a tough ask for an institution like the Courtauld, far more so than for other specialist institutions like schools of Medicine, for example. The problem is Science. This is by no means an original observation, but the fact is that while you don’t have to be a Historian to answer many of the History questions, or an English student to answer literature questions, or, dare I say it, a Fine Art student to answer an Art question, for most of the Science questions you’re not going to answer them unless you have at least one person studying Science in your team. Not only that, but the Courtauld’s whole student body consists of less than 500. So, frankly, they’d already done brilliantly to be good enough to be invited to the televised stages. But . . . well, they were well beaten in the first round last time they passed this way in 2014. So, that having been said, Courtauld’s team were Ty Vanover, Margaret-Anne Logan, Jack Snape and their skipper Harvey Shepherd. 

In a quiz, if you hear the name “Karel Capek” there are a couple of possible answers. If, though, the questions begins “Which word. . . “ the answer is robot, and you go for your buzzer, as did Thomas De Bock. Indie bands seemed to promise little in the way of bonuses, but the additional information in the questions ensured we both had a full house. Anode and cathode did for both teams, and the Courtauld lost 5 points in the process. Pat O’Shea came in too early for the next starter, yielding 5, but the Courtauld could not capitalise, not seeing various definitions of the word gimmick. Probably feeling under pressure, Harvey Shepherd came in too early for the next question about a French Impressionist painter, losing 5 and allowing Pat O’Shea in with Degas once horse racing and ballet were mentioned. Bonuses on Galileo provided me with one and Oxford Brookes with 2. Now, I didn’t know that Mary Queen of Scots lay for a while in Peterbrorough Cathedral, but I knew Catherine of Aragon did. So did Thomas De Bock, and we both managed 2 of a UC special set on Greek Mythology and Theme Parks. Kudos to the setter of that. A fantastic picture starter followed. We were shown three flags – Thailand, Laos – Vietnam – and asked which country they all bordered. The answer was Cambodia, identified impressively quickly by Thomas De Bock. More of the same provided a fine full house. Thus right on the cusp of the 10 minute mark, Oxford Brookes led by 85 to the Courtauld’s minus 10.

Captain Thomas De Bock ensured that the lead stretched out further, knowing about Gauss’ law. Fathers and Sons known as the Elder and the Younger brought his team 2 correct answers, and allowed him to show us all how to pronounce Breugel  correctly. Now, I’ll be honest, when I heard the novelist’s quote about his own novel for the next starter I thought it sounded like E.M.Forster’s Maurice. Da iawn to Ty Vanover for thinking so as well, and putting his team back on the starting line. Was it pure coincidence that their first set of bonuses were on American Expressionist artists? Who knows? I’ve never heard of any of them, but the Courtauld took a full house. Good. Pat O’Shea took a shy several feet wide of the stumps for the next starter, and I’ll be honest, I did not know Mankad as a type of dismissal in cricket. Neither did Oxford Brookes. Inigo Purcell knew the debut novel by Kate Tempest, and this in turn earned a set of bonuses on the Shipping Forecast. Like US State Capital Cities, this is one of those small sets of knowledge which is a steady source of points in a quiz, and I took a full set. Finisterre becoming Fitzroy is one of those old chestnuts that a regular quizzer would just know. No points though to Oxford Brookes. Margaret-Nne Logan won the buzzer race to say the US General who defected to the Brits was Benedict Arnold. Right – I believe that the Coutauld were – forgive me for using a technical term here – shat upon in one of their bonuses on Tennyson. They were asked which figure from Greek mythology was the basis for a poem ending with specific lines. They answered Odysseus. “No,” replied JP, “It was Ulysses”. For crying out loud! Ulysses might have been the figure in the poem, BUT it is the ROMAN name for Odysseus! This is something that really gets up my nose in quizzes, where the question master specifies Greek Mythology, then requires answers such as Diana, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars etc. It’s the last thing I expect from University Challenge frankly. OK – rant over, but please – the answer given wasn’t wrong, but the question – figure from Greek Mythology indeed – was wrong. As a result Courtauld took no bonuses where they should have had one. For the ensuing music starter, both teams sat on their buzzers before Emma-Ben Lewis identified the song Summertime as coming from Porgy and Bess. Other versions of the same song followed and delivered a further five points. I’ll be honest, the unmistakeable Billie Holiday was the only one I recognised too. I took my lap of honour around the living room for guessing that the celestial objects in the next starter were asteroids. The Oxford Brookes skipper, having a very fruitful evening, took that one. One correct answer on the British coastline followed. A terrific buzz from Harvey Shepherd identified Watteau as the painter referred to in the quote “Is he French or is he Flemish . . . “ Human anatomy rather proved the point I made in the introduction to this review, as they failed to add to their score. Thus at the 20 minute mark Oxford Brookes led by 145 to 35. Theoretically the Courtauld could still win, but in reality I think we all knew that the game as a contest was over by this stage. 

Given a question referring to Orwell’s 1984, Pat O’Shea buzzed early with an answer from Huxley’s Brave New World, earning a bit of a look from JP – he hates it when you get a lit question wrong. It was a good question too – apparently in the book the prole’s favourite form of public entertainment is the lottery. JP did not need to say anything more for the point to sink in. Well done to Harvey Shepherd for buzzing in with the title of one of my least favourite Thackeray novels, Barry Lyndon, for the next starter. Women buried in Highgate Cemetery provided two bonuses. The second picture starter showed us a seashore picture by Constable, and the unfamiliar subject matter did for all of us, I think. When I hear ‘Muslim’ and ‘mystic’ I invariably answer Sufism, and Ty Vanover did the same. This earned the picture bonuses on paintings in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. I identified Landseer, which they missed. Neither of us had Joseph Wright of Derby, and they recognised Ford Madox Brown for the last. Thomas De Bock got his team moving again knowing that Andrew Wiles had proved Fermat’s last theorem – well, something like that – and earned another terrific UC special set. These were all about African capital cities and words spelled with their first 4 letters – Bang and Bangui for example – and they took Oxford Brookes to 165. Along with the OB skipper, I knew that the Saarland was twice returned to Germany. A single bonus on German baroque architecture followed. Surprisingly the OB skipper buzzed with an incorrect interruption for the next starter, allowing Harvey Shepherd to bag 10 points more for Courtauld with the Austro Hungarian Empire. They couldn’t answer the first two bonuses on the performer Danny Kaye correctly, and there was no time for the third, meaning that Oxford Brookes won by 175 – 85.

Look, I take no great satisfaction in the fact that my theory about the Courtauld struggling against disadvantages was conclusively proven by this show. But the fact is that I didn’t find it a great contest to watch. It didn’t help that this was the third show out of 6 so far where the contest has already been decided before we reached the 20 minute mark. As for Oxford Brookes, well, s with Warwick last week, it’s difficult to tell how good they really are. I didn’t count, but I reckon that they probably got very slightly more than half of their bonuses right, which is decent, but not great. As for the Courtauld, well, if you divided the number of points each team score by the number of students in the institution, then they’d probably be right up the top for the series. That is not, however, the way the cookie crumbles on UC, which is all for the best.  

Jeremy Paxman Watch

“ No,” replied out hero when Oxford Brookes suggested that Odyssey (the theme park ride) might be in Chessington World of Adventures, “it IS Odyssey, but it’s in Fantasy Island in Skegness.” Cue much laughter in the studio. All of this moved JP to ask “Why is Skegness funny?” – Well, why did you take that very slight pause between Fantasy Island – and – Skegness? Now, I’ve never been to Skeggie, but I bet it’s great fun. But, maybe it’s something to do with the Viking name of the place, but Fantasy Island in Skegness sounds like an oxymoron to me. 

There was a flash or more of the old JP when he berated the Courtauld for not recognising the Constable painting. When they only managed Ford Madox Brown for the picture bonuses he gleefully exclaimed “You’d have been in deep doo doo if you’d missed that one.” AS far as he was concerned, they still were, since he made sure to rub in the fact that they’d missed these bonuses at the end of the contest.

Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know of the Week

The late, great Vincent Price studied at the Courtauld.


Jack said...

Fair point about non-scientific specialist colleges Dave. The only one of those I can think of that made it to the QFs was the Royal Northern College of Music in 2003-04. I still think it's good that they appear though, even if they don't fare that well, as they add an element of variety to the show which is good to have.

Indeed, despite their lapses on their home subject, Courtauld came across very well when they did get to play. On the bonuses, they managed 7/17, while Oxford Brookes finished on 18/30. Not a bad rate that, but, again, we'll need to see them again to gauge their proper potential.

Richard Poole said...

I was surprised too at first when Courtauld weren't given Odysseus. But if you rewind, he asks "which dramatic monologue by Tennyson, named after a figure in Greek myth", so I think it's reasonable to want the actual title Tennyson gave the poem, which is "Ulysses". I think he's still a figure from Greek myth, even if he's being referred to by a Latin name.

Londinius said...

Hi Both,
I'm not arguing that Ulysses was the answer to the question being asked, I just didn't like the fact that the question confused Greek with Roman mythology. You get this often in pub quizzes, but I expect UC to avoid making basic errors of this kind. Odysseus and Ulysses are of course the same figure. But... like it or not the Greek name is Odysseus, not Ulysses. Had the question even said - figure from Greco-Roman mythology - I wouldn't have quibbled. The fact is it didn't.