Sunday, May 21, 2017

Cats cats cats

The German Memory League Championship is happening right now - you can watch the fun on the Memory League website! They've just had the surprise task of the quarter-finals - images, except all 30 images are cats! It's brilliant, you can see the memorisers struggled with remembering which cat came in which sequence (there are also a couple of people dressed as cats, one that's just the word "Katze", one picture of Cat Stevens, one of Katie Kermode...)

The whole Memory League thing is awesome, as I've mentioned before. We're also currently running frequent online competitions - there's a Swiss tournament going on at the moment between memory people of all levels and nationalities, and a "purge" competition where the aim is to get a certain score, increasing at each level, to avoid being eliminated. Coming up soon is a full-blown league structure, four divisions with all-play-all in a 'season', promotion and relegation, and a knockout competition in between each one. It's great!

There will also, we can only hope, be a second UK Memory League Championship, live and in person, later this year. This does depend on finding a location for it - I've insisted repeatedly that finding and talking to sponsors isn't something that's within my capabilities, but nobody else has come up with anything, so I suppose I'll just have to book a room somewhere and then see if the competitors are prepared to pay for it. It's more complicated than a pen-and-paper memory championship, because the whole thing falls down if the room doesn't have a rock-solid internet connection...

But in the pen-and-paper line, we have the Friendly Memory Championship next Saturday! It's at the Priory Rooms in Birmingham city centre, a nice building full of little meeting rooms (and a really cool big lecture-theatre style room too, which would be great for a more swanky kind of event) where the company I work for in my day job has its board meetings. Not that I go to board meetings, I'm not the director type, but I've been there once and really liked the look of the place. I'm currently printing out lots of papers and things - one day, you never know, memory competitions might move into the 21st century and be entirely on computer, just like the Memory League. It'll save a lot of trouble and expense, albeit at the cost of replacing it with a different, more up-to-date kind of trouble and expense. Progress!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The state of British wrestling

You know, I really must write more on this blog. I'll try to keep up a daily ramble from now on - there's absolute tons of things happening in the memory world alone that I feel morally obliged to tell the world about.

But to start with, here's another subject in the "everybody who might plausibly be interested in what I say already knows all about it" category - TV wrestling, of the specifically British variety.

You may remember that at the new year, ITV put on a World of Sport wrestling special, of the family-friendly, Saturday-afternoon, mainstream type, immediately following which the WWE Network inaugurated a UK Championship title with a two-part special edition of the strictly-for-the-wrestling-fanatics type. Comparing the two was really quite fascinating. ITV, naturally, went for 'colourful and entertaining' to appeal to the mainstream audience of normal people, while the WWE emphasized 'technical skills' to excite the nerdy internet people who watch the WWE Network. [It's surprising how very, very nerdy wrestling fans on the internet are, incidentally - Star Trek forum contributors are ten times more macho and well-balanced]

Well, since then, both sides of the UK TV wrestling coin have been more or less in limbo. Tyler Bate has defended his newly-won title here and there - a couple of times on NXT, the WWE Network's 'development' show for wrestlers honing their craft before being introduced on the 'real' shows that appear on real TV; a couple more times at non-televised WWE events. Some more of the guys from the UK Championship special have shown up on NXT and the like once in a while, too. It's not been forgotten, but then it's not exactly been made a big deal of, either.

As for World of Sport, it's had problems. After announcing an alliance with Impact Wrestling, the distant-second-biggest US promotion, there was a special press conference on the internet, in which some of the wrestlers from the new year special stood on the stage and got rounds of applause, followed by a little bit of squabbling and chaos, which promised well for the future - a new 10-part series would be filmed in May, with a regular weekly show expected to follow.

There was a slight hint of not everything having been agreed - Dave Mastiff featured on the poster, but wasn't seen or mentioned in the YouTube video, with Sha Samuels being positioned as 'main baddie'. The awesome Grado, though, was still there as the main attraction, and he's really good. Give him a weekly series and he'll be Big Daddy levels of popularity, no problem. The others who showed up were Zack Gibson (placed with the goodies, though he was a bad guy on the new year special), Viper, Kenny Williams, El Ligero, Johnny Moss, Ashton Smith and Rampage Brown, plus new guy Magnus as the square-jawed-hero type I said at the time was strangely missing from the new year special. It looked like being a lot of fun!

And then it was abruptly cancelled, "as a result of contract negotiations". The internet seems to think that the problem is between ITV and Impact, rather than the wrestlers themselves, which makes you wonder why they need Impact in the first place - surely it's within ITV's budget to pay for a dozen or so wrestlers, a half-decent scriptwriter and a ring in a studio? Oh well.

But WWE, on the other hand, have just done another "UK Championship Special" on the network last night - smaller in scale than before, but as a build-up to a title match on tonight's big live "NXT Takeover" special. That's the most prominent the UK Championship title has been, maybe it'll lead to an ongoing series eventually...

It was pretty good, though some of the technical details didn't seem to be quite right - there was one cameraman just outside the ring who was really terrible, and for the first match the crowd was almost inaudible, so it didn't feel like a big event. Still, good fun all round - we started out with Wolfgang beating Joseph Conners in a doesn't-count-for-anything match; Wolfgang is still really, really good and deserves to be the main event, probably at some point when someone else is the reigning champion. Then, strangely, Dan Moloney joins up with three Americans from the WWE's cruiserweight division for a tag team match, Moloney and Rich Swann against TJP and The Brian Kendrick. He seemed out of place.

The main events were rather predictable, but well done - Pete Dunne beat Trent Seven in a match to determine who would be the challenger in the NXT Takeover title match, and the more I see Pete Dunne the more impressed I am with him. He's a great villain! Then there was a title match to finish it off, between Tyler Bate (rather unwisely having changed his cool and distinctive previous appearance to a beard and floppy fringe) and Mark Andrews (who already has a beard and floppy fringe). Not so much high-flying and agility from Mark Andrews this time round, it was a bit disappointing. There was never any doubt that Tyler would win, but that doesn't excuse putting on a match that looks like they know they're going through the motions...

Still, it's all entertaining, and now I'm cheering for Pete Dunne to win the title and go on to headline a new series. And fingers crossed, maybe we'll still get a World of Sport series too!

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Cambridge beckons

I haven't played othello for longer than I can remember (my memory isn't very good), but I'm going to Cambridge to play it this weekend. I really should get back in practice, at that and all kinds of other games, in preparation for the MSO...

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Mens sana in Men's Health

I'm just the perfect example of a healthy man, obviously - the American version of Men's Health magazine are writing an article about memory techniques, and I've just had a quick chat with the writer. Following fast on the heels of the bit about me in the British version of the franchise eight years ago, it's obvious that I'm the number one go-to guy for all men's health issues now.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Families are an expensive business

The excellent website has made 1939 register details available, and even though you have to pay them a staggeringly huge amount of money to see them, it's very tempting to check up on the family. The Pridmores of Sheffield are somewhat reduced from the way they were in 1911 - within ten years of that census my great-grandmother and six of her ten children had died, and great-grandfather William had also passed away by 1939. But on the other hand, they'd all had hordes of children themselves, so there are plenty of relatives to check up on...

The family home of 34 Hunt Street was quite full in 1939, it seems:
Oswald, who'd never moved out of his parents' house, was now joined by his widowed sister Lilian, Lilian's daughter Florence, and James Palmer, the son of Oswald and Lilian's late sister Florence. And one other person who must have been born less than 100 years ago and hasn't yet been identified as deceased - living people aren't shown on the records. Since the 'officially closed' record comes in between the Mays and the oldest Palmer child, I'm guessing it must have been one of Lilian's two younger daughters.

Oswald and James are builders' labourers, Florence has that classic Sheffield occupation of spoon and fork glazer, Lilian has "unpaid domestic duties", which was the strangely fancy phrase for "housewife" used throughout the register. Just down the road at number 28 are a John and Florence Askham - Oswald married Annie Askham in 1944, I assume she was a relative.

See all the fascinating details you can find? I'm doing my best to resist the impulse to pay them £120 for full access to the records...

Monday, April 24, 2017

Cold turkey

Actually, I haven't got any cold turkey. I've got some cold pork if you want, it's really nice. I've got in the habit of cooking a Sunday roast and putting the leftovers in sandwiches for a packed lunch the next week - I'm very domesticated now, it must be because I'm getting old.

But the point is, I haven't drunk anything but water for the last two weeks - or maybe three weeks, I've lost count. Cherry-coke-withdrawal does strange things to my brain, but I think I've just about got over it now. I'm sure I'll get hooked again eventually, but it's nice to be able to look down on smoking or other vices without having to admit I'm drinking roughly three litres of the stuff every day.

And hey, have you seen that they're making a new full series of World Of Sport Wrestling? I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Memory World

Competitions continue to happen around the globe - since I last mentioned them, we've had the North German championship beziehungsweise* championships (a regional-format, seven-discipline thing with the other optional three disciplines the day before to make it into a national-standard open championship; there were also junior and kids' competitions, so really it was a whole lot of championships all merged into one). The winner of the one that counts was Simon, in another of those pitched battles between him and Hannes.

There was a fiercely-contested Mongolian championship, won by Lkhagvadulam Enkhtuya ahead of the two Narmandakhs - Germany and Mongolia have entirely dominated the year of memory competitions so far (Shijir-Erdene Bat-Enkh, now living in America, won a typically American non-standard competition as well), with the American, Swedish and British contingent presumably biding their time to burst onto the scene...

Next month, though after the excitement of the Tokyo Friendly Championship, we move away from the national-standard format and into the exciting realms of Memory League! There will (hopefully) be Scandinavian and German ML competitions, along the lines of the UK pilot episode last November, taking place in May, and I can't wait to see what happens!

Then at the end of May, I invite everyone to come and enjoy the twelfth (!) annual Friendly Memory Championship in its new home in Birmingham! It'll be great, I assure you!

We will also (very hopefully) have our own UK Memory League Championship again in November; with any luck, I'll be able to share details of it shortly, but this does rather depend on somebody (anybody) else arranging a venue and talking to people about it. We'll see what happens...

*It's a German word that means something along the lines of 'or as the case may be...'. There isn't really an English equivalent, but Germans say it all the time in sentences like that.