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University Challenge: Grand Final

April 8, 2010

The Grand Final! Oxford took on Cambridge, the age-old rivals represented respectively by St John’s College and Emmanuel College.

I think the audience, and Paxman, and probably the teams themselves, were expecting a hard-fought battle – after which it came as something of a surprise that Emmanuel steamrollered the St John’s team by a staggering 315 to 100. St John’s did nothing spectacularly wrong: they were simply unable to withstand a bravura performance from the Emmanuelites, led by another tour de force from captain Alex Guttenplan.

An aside on Guttenplan: first, is there no limit to this man’s knowledge? Second, I find it telling that he has had almost zero media attention to his brilliance, whereas the comparable performance by Gail Trimble a couple of years back was all over the tabloids. It would seem that vast knowledge in a soft-spoken identifiably-Jewish (from his surname, more than anything else) geek is so unremarkable as to pass without comment, whereas that same knowledge in a whitebread English girl makes her an object of confused and prying media interest. Doesn’t say much for our media stereotypes of either white girls or Jewish guys, really.

Anyway. I scored 230, 215 without un-startered bonuses, including 14 starter questions (though not the one about varieties of Linux. J got that one.) The only round I scored full marks on was the one requiring you to identify, from their binomial Latin names, plants and animals homophonic with letters of the alphabet – pea, jay and tea (Camellia sinensis, and I can’t remember the other two.)

And that’s it for this year.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul Skinner permalink
    April 8, 2010 10:11 pm

    ” whereas that same knowledge in a whitebread English girl makes her an object of confused and prying media interest.”

    No, it was the smug look and flick of the hair that did it.
    Whether or not that was intentional or was some sort of shy reactionary thing is another thing entirely.

    It certainly wasn’t based on the fact she was a woman (unless you look at the Sun or the Mail’s website I imagine – but I discount their opinions on anything).

    And yeah, the varieties of Linux question I got right and the homophonic letters of the alphabet. I think they were the only two I got right.

    I really liked the man from New Zealand who got the NZ prime minister question right. He seemed like he didn’t really care that much if he won or lost. Guttenplan seems like a pleasant chap too (effectively the antithesis of Trimble).

    It’s not about knowledge, but how you flaunt that knowledge. Being humble (or at least the illusion of such) never goes amiss.

  2. wickedday permalink
    April 8, 2010 10:31 pm

    I would like to point out that that guy was Australian …

    I try to discount the opinions of the Sun and Mail on most subjects, but between them they have about as many readers as the broadsheets put together.

    I also submit that Trimble’s male clone, i.e. another faintly smug upper-middle-class Oxfordian Latin PhD, wouldn’t have had a tenth of the attention she got, no matter what he did with his hair.

  3. Paul Skinner permalink
    April 8, 2010 11:16 pm

    Oh balls, of course he was from Australia. Silly me.

    I like to think at least half of The Sun’s readership doesn’t actually believe any of the stories in it. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of people who actually believe The Mail though.

    I faintly recall someone called Kaufman or similar on the 07/08 series who seemed a smug wally, but I can’t seem to find any videos.

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