Friday, September 18, 2009

ISM Inter-house quiz 2009

Q: Id the 2 historical characters caricatured in the pic above.

Had the pleasure of conducting the Indian School Muscat's inter-house quiz for a second time. The event has four teams participating, one from each house. Four members per team, one from each class - IX to XII.

Still haven't managed to get the balance of questions right. Like the previous year it turned out to be a bit too tough for the teams, and way above the head for the audience. Had set an internal target of get  at least 85% of questions to be answered on stage. In the end it turned out to be 80%.

Some expected bouncers were the questions on - U.S. Consulate on Ho Chi Minh Street & Foucault's Pendulum. In some cases, the intention was merely to expose the minds to a few new vistas. Umberto Eco is a much more enriching read than Dan Brown any day.

However the teams bravely attempted all. Very few "Pass" uttered. This was much more comforting than seeing a wall of blank faces. Overall they did well. Three of the four, were in contention right up to the last quarter. Some very good guesswork by all the houses caught the audience by surprise. Yellow house ended up winners, retaining their position from 08. However at the end, only 1 question separated them from the runners-up. Houses Blue & Green too had put up a spirited challenge.

The quiz, being close to Teacher's day, had a link round on famous people who were once teachers. As feared, the connection was not easy to make until the last question, on Dr S. Radhakrishnan, was asked. The problem - it was easy to find celebrities who were once teachers, but not those who were generally known to have been teachers. Another interesting observation when setting: a lot of these celebrities were English Teachers once. Not sure what to make of that. Either English teachers have a lot of potential (prime candidates for a future career as novelist for instance) or that anyone can become an English teacher!?

Surprisingly the teams on stage were not very clued in on media & entertainment. Some or all, missed out on Billy Crystal, Avatar, Sting & David Caruso aka Horatio Caine! A team guessed Michael Jackson for the CSI star's impersonation question! "Every Breath You Take" is 80s, but  everyone  must have heard Sting? Got guesses from Bryan Adams to Elton John. The teams were also not at all familiar with the 50s rock stars, even though some anniversary celebrations were being widely covered in the media.

Some of these passed ones in the entertainment area were remarkably answered by the audience - class IX students. And, as in the 08, the scorer's table came up with a few answers. Guess this has partly to do with the way teams are selected. The selections are done in-house. Possibly the elimination questions are very academic in nature. Hence those with their noses in their books tend to do better. And the ones hanging outside Shatti Plaza tend to miss out. Plus the quota of one member per academic year per team also pushes out some promising talent. Might be better to just have the 4 best from each house represent them. Surely they don't have quotas for other events such as football or basketball?

Tried one other innovation as well. The Pounce, an idea picked from Hirak. Gave two 'Pounce' cards to each team. This was well received, though not all used it wisely. The Pounce basically enabled teams to answer sitter out of turn. The idea was, if a team felt any question was way too easy, and they were too far in the queue to get a shot at it, they could 'Pounce' on it. All teams were pretty enthusiastic about this, and almost all cards were used up by the midway stage. Towards the end, with 3 teams very much in the race, all were regretting that they had not reserved their wild-cards till then. Some of the Pounce cards were wasted on questions that ended up with the teams pouncing anyway. And in a few cases, they ended up giving the wrong answers.

My favourite question for the day was the caricature at the top of this post. Didn't think it was too tough, but went unanswered.

The better half tells me that, even though not a quizzer herself, after seeing many quizzes that I've set, she's able to guess a few answers easily. Says I always seem to set something on Richard Feynman, P G Wodehouse, Calcutta and Calvin & Hobbes. Just as Pickbrain tends to ask on Red Cross, Nobel Prize  and the Pope.  And once the participants cue in on that, they'll start cracking the questions easily.

Of course, once the quizzers figure that, I'll move on to Dawkins, Mostly Harmless & Seinfeld.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rembrandt in Oman

Rembrandt in Oman is an  exhibition of the great painter's etchings organized by Al Salmi Library. Kudos to them for arranging this refreshing show down here. And to all the sponsors as well. The show is soon to close after it's one month run.
Initial feedback on the show, from acquaintances, were poor. They were probably expecting some of his more famous paintings to be up on show. The Night Watch, perhaps. Probably disappointed to see a lot of black & white sketches.
The show was quite fascinating nonetheless. The artist's trademark use of chiaroscuro to highlight parts of the picture was very visible. Rembrandt's use of lighting is quite famous. It is said that he made shadows fall where he wanted them to fall.
His name, of course, even more famous. Once Sam Goldwyn seeing a film he was producing, with only half the actor's face illuminated, worried that exhibitors would pay only half the price. Director Cecil B. DeMille told him it was Rembrandt Lighting. Quoting deMille quoting Goldwyn "Sam’s reply was jubilant with relief: for Rembrandt lighting the exhibitors would pay double!"
It was amazing to see the contrast that Rembrandt was able to bring into the prints. And the level of detail in some of them was wonderful. All this in, essentially, a 2 colour medium. Quite a few of the etchings were on biblical themes.
Besides seeing the beautiful etchings, also learned a few terms related to the art. Drypoint - Using a hard-pointed metal needle to engrave. Burin - Cold Chisel. Chiaroscuro - Use of light & dark to bring out contrast. And Intaglio - the International Business School Meet* at IIMC:) Overall, a positive experience.

* Formerly known as National Booze & Sutta Meet

Friday, September 11, 2009

Austerity - Indian style

Digest this. A couple of Indian Central Govt. Ministers, whose personal wealth run into crores, have been asked to stop spending their own money on accommodation, and waste spend the taxpayers' instead.
And I thought you had to spend your way out of the recession? Your own money, not the taxpayers'. Those who can, should be allowed to spend on their wants. This keeps money circulating in the economy.
So what is the new plan? Shun 5-star hotels and run them out of business? And then maybe airlines as well, by sticking to trains? Ministers have already been asked to use Economy Class when flying. Some have objected to this. Sharad Pawar claims that he doesn't fit into an Economy seat. Other ministers such as Farooq Abdulla have also stated their dislike for the cattle class. Pranab Mukherjee has been lambasted for publicly "advising" his colleagues to cut spending. And funnily he himself doesn't seem to be observing this in his planned jaunt to Cyprus
Of course, being economical when it comes to government expenditure is quite welcome. Apparently a lot of policemen have already been relieved from useless security cover duties. But asking all govt officials to use Air India is clearly not saving the taxpayers anything. Air India should be sold off, and the likes of Kingfisher & Jet allowed to fill its space.
Suddenly everyone seems to be on Krishna's & Tharoor's backs - showing them how their colleagues are very thrifty in spending public money. Poor rich fellows:(