Ranking Fever

Last night I entered a pub quiz with some friends and thoroughly enjoyed myself – it was part of Penryn Week Celebrations. On Friday 22nd July I\’ll be doing my own event for Penryn Week – a literary evening about The Poetry of Food at which I\’ll be reading poems from my new book \”The Poetry Diet.\”
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It was the quiz that really interested me. Here\’s a question for everyone. When I was young (back in the late Cretaceous period), competition was quickly going out of fashion. We went from being ranked in classrooms (first, second, last) to not even being officially streamed. Sports day became a points exercise with no overall winners – although everyone knew who was best. Even prize day turned into something else – just as long and boring but with no prizes.
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This was because the fashionable socialism of the day held that anything elitist was wrong and wicked and all must be equal no matter what. Also that children were easily traumatised by coming last in a class and if no one could be allowed to come last, it followed that no one should come first either.
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The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail ran regular snorticles* about how banning competition in school would lead to woe, destruction and the end of Life As We Know It.
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Since then a couple of decades… er…. some time has passed. The end of the world has not come, I notice. However it seems that there is now an absolute obsession about competition and ranking and who\’s best and celebrity. The effect of banning elitism and competition in school has been horrors like the X Factor and a huge quiz-show industry. So another predictable own-goal there.
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And I think pub quizzes are part of that ranking fever, in a small way. The Arts Alive Penryn team came third. No, that\’s fine. It\’s OK. The better team won. Only 6 points in it, mind you, but…

* A Snorticle. Any opinion article in which the writer can almost be heard to snort. Also known as a \”why-oh-why\” piece [Finney Lexical Expansion Service]

Why do we keep buying these rags?

Rupert Murdoch has chucked the News of the World off his fleeing sled as flocks of horror chickens return home to roost on his head… So the first time I bought the News of the World in my entire life was on Sunday, as a souvenir – its last edition. The feebly gasping carcass, covered in fowl poop…
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Hmm. Perhaps I\’ll just leave that metaphor to die.
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I never buy the Sun either. I don\’t buy the Daily Mail. Occasionally I read somebody else\’s copy to have a laugh at it. The Daily Express… nope. I just don\’t find anything they say at all interesting. I don\’t care what Posh names her unfortunate child. God help me, in my freelance journalism days I wrote features for most of the tabloids, only not the Sun. I wasn\’t skilled enough for the Sun.
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I wrote a weekly TV preview column for the London Standard for two years and features for other papers. To be honest, I wasn\’t a very good tabloid journalist: I can write and I\’m congenitally nosey, but I found it very difficult to pretend to be someone\’s best mate, get all their secrets and then shaft them in public in my printed article. On several occasions I happened upon an outstanding story but kept it quiet because it was nothing to do with the public interest and I valued my friendships more than a scoop.
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The reason why newspapers flail like starving zombies to get The Story of the day is because they know that\’s what people will pay for.
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I wish I had the foggiest notion why.
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Jon Stewart can have the last word.