Awix in Exile: Questions are a Burden to Others, Answers are a Prison for Oneself

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A message in a bottle
Awix in Exile

'Questions are a Burden to Others, Answers are a Prison for Oneself'

Welcome to the Big House, at least as far as last week's Cryptic General Knowledge Quiz is concerned. I should probably make clear that some of the following information is a well-attested matter of public record, while other items head more into the realm of folklore, urban legend, and stories which sound so good it's not worth running the risk of checking their actual veracity. But anyway. Congratulations if you were able to work out any answers, or already knew them.

1. Kong’s victim was Gary Cooper’s wife Veronica Balfe, who also acted under the name Sandra Shaw. Performing Hand in Glove with the Smiths in 1984 was Sandie Shaw – as a tribute to their guest vocalist, the rest of the band were barefoot.

2. 2021 saw the 90th birthday of Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, who could trace his descent back to Charlemagne. So what could be more logical than for him to release Charlemagne: The Omens of Death to mark the occasion? This was actually his fourth album; the previous one (Charlemagne: The Sword and the Cross) had been in a more symphonic metal style, apparently.

3. Patrick Stewart appears in one episode of the history-of-art series Civilisation, playing Horatio in its segment on Shakespeare, four episodes of the toga mafia epic I, Claudius, playing Lucius Aelius Sejanus, and (of course) too many episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation to easily count (not to mention several movies and his own current spin-off).

4. For obscure didactic purposes, the Pilgrimage Window of York Minster portrays a group of monkeys enacting a funeral. The rooftops of York were apparently home to a colony of escaped monkeys in the late middle ages, although whether this has any bearing on the stained glass no-one seems entirely sure.

5. Goran Ivanisevic put his success in the 2001 tournament down to a daily viewing of Tinky Winky and the others. The question of which TV show had inspired the Croat came up at the Fylde Inter-Church General Knowledge Quiz later that year, and while none of us knew the answer it seemed like a reasonable deduction: it had to be a show that was on every day, at a time when tennis wasn’t being played, with a pretty basic level of English required to understand it. However, I was over-ruled as this was deemed ‘a rubbish answer’, and as a result our three-year winning streak came to an ignoble end. It’s a good thing I don’t dwell on incidents like this, isn’t it?

6. It used to be the case that the activities a uniformed soldier in the US army was allowed to engage in were strictly prescribed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and amongst the no-nos were going into a restaurant to buy burgers. So one enterprising McDonalds franchisee knocked a hole in the restaurant wall so the troops could pick up their food without leaving the car, and Drive-Thru was born.

7. Do Detectives Think? was one of the last films Laurel and Hardy made in which they were billed individually, rather than as a double act, and the first in which they adopted their bowlers – in the film they play private detectives, whose headgear this traditionally was at the time. The hats stayed in future films even when their jobs changed.

8. Legendary Marvel Comics supremo Stan Lee cooked up a scheme based on putting Uri Geller into one of his publications, and outgoing Marvel editor Marv Wolfman obliged in the May 1976 issue of Daredevil. The ‘origin story’ the comics version of Geller offers, explaining his ‘special powers’, is actually somewhat less outlandish than the one his real-life counterpart lays claim to.

9. Both are lipogramatic, in that neither features the letter E.

10. BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell spent several months living on the shore of Loch Ness in his early twenties, but had no luck in actually seeing the monster. He was later immortalised in the newspaper headline ‘Beeb man sits on lesbian’ following a protest on live TV, and was described by the Prince of Wales as a ‘bloody awful man’. Possibly suggestively, the existence of the Loch Ness Monster legend in its modern form only dates back as far as 1933, with the first sighting coming a couple of weeks after King Kong (which features its own long-necked lake monster) opened in Scottish cinemas.

11. The final scene of The X Files was intended to feature the President (implied to be The West Wing’s Jed Bartlet) being told that the Mulder and Scully issue had been dealt with. Apart from its own spin-offs, other shows to cross over with The X Files were Millennium, Homicide: Life on the Street, and The Simpsons.

12. After leading his squad through a minefield on D-day, Lieutenant James Doohan of the Canadian army was shot by a nervous sentry and badly injured. He transferred to become an artillery observer and pilot, where some of his exploits (slaloming telegraph poles on Salisbury Plain ‘to prove it could be done’, and so on) earned him the nickname ‘Crazy Jimmy’. These days he is best remembered for his long association with Star Trek, where (in addition to playing Scotty for many years) he was the initial creator of the invented Klingon language.

13. The members of Clan Kerr habitually fought left-handed, because of the tactical advantage this brought them, and this meant that the spiral staircases of Ferniehurst Castle (a Kerr holding) were built anti-clockwise.

14. All called Sinclair: Clive Sinclair, creator of the ZX Spectrum and Sinclair C5; Sinclair Lewis, whose It Can’t Happen Here (in which crass demagogue Buzz Windrip rises to become US President and civil war ensues) struck people as rather prescient; and Mark Sinclair – better known as Vin Diesel. It was while Diesel and the Dame were making The Chronicles of Riddick together that he invited her to join his regular Dungeons and Dragons game; apparently she later used to Dungeon Master games for her grandchildren. (Definitely one for the much-too-good-to-risk-checking file.)

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