Thursday, November 07, 2019

Our Pathetic Age

Do you know what happened eight years ago this coming Saturday? That was the day I recorded the single coolest and best illustration of the kind of thing memory people visualise when they're memorising a pack of cards! Actually, a surprising number (ie greater than zero) of people do remember that, and it's currently being discussed on the Art of Memory forum, which is always nice to see! Let's share it with the world again, in case anyone hasn't seen it in this pathetic age of ours.

DJ Shadow "Scale It Back" from Ewan Jones Morris on Vimeo.

DJ Shadow has a new album out on the 15th, which nobody has asked me to make a music video for, but I'm sure it's wonderful. As a thank-you to the man who bought this bizarre concept for a video in 2011 from the visionary directors Ewan Jones Morris and Casey Redmond, please everyone go out and buy "Our Pathetic Age" next Friday!

Tuesday, November 05, 2019


I've got this week off work, more to use up my remaining annual-leave days before the end of the year than because I particularly need to do anything, so I thought I'd devote the week to some interesting writing projects  - and have in fact spent the whole time so far cheerfully procrastinating and doing nothing. But I feel entirely entitled to do that anyway, since I could stay in bed all week if I really wanted to. Anything I do is impressively productive!

I really should blog about things a bit more often, though...

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The ice age

Perhaps we're not quite icy yet, but it's definitely getting cold. I really don't like winter. One of these days, I'll win the lottery, and spend the entire six months after my birthday in the southern hemisphere, every year.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The silver anniversary

Just to complete the series of memory championship posts, the length of time I've been competing in the things is another subject we were talking about in France - after all, next year it'll be twenty years since my first championship.

I've just looked up the date, and the first day of the World Memory Championship 2000 (Alexandra Palace, part of the fourth Mind Sports Olympiad), was Monday August 21st. That was, of course, not only the first time I took part in a memory competition, but also (after competing in the first day) the day when I bought a memory book and learned how to use these memory techniques I'd heard people talking about.

It would be nice if the MSO championship next year was on the exact anniversary, but the 21st is a Friday next year, so it's probably not going to be possible to do that. I'll look into it, though...

Monday, October 14, 2019

More by luck than judgement

As I wait for a plane in Paris Charles de Gaulle airport (beautiful sunny weather again, too, like we've had all weekend), let me wrap up my personal account of the championship - I'll write a less Zoomy-focused version for the IAM website when I'm back home, if for some reason you care about anyone other than me.

I should at least mention that I forgot Daniel Fogel when listing the people who've travelled here from the four corners of the earth (and also the middle, which is where whoever coined that phrase would presumably have placed Israel) - it's always great to see a new nation joining the world of memory sports! And I didn't mention that the sheer volume of French competitors was record-breaking too - this is a country that's really going from strength to strength.

And the race for second place behind the all-conquering Andrea was exactly as exciting as I said it would be - luckily, I managed to get a solid 100 digits in spoken numbers, leaving me still in contention after only 130 in images (I really must learn how to do that, one day - as I explained to everyone who asked, the discipline didn't exist when I was last in training for memory competitions), and it all came down to speed cards. On the first trial, I did a 'safe' 34.18 seconds, which really turned out not to be very safe at all - I misread the third pair of cards, 2 of hearts and 8 of spades, as 'chef', which is 2 of spades and 8 of hearts, and fortunately was able to remember all the others and deduce the mistake I must have made. It's strange, though - that's not a kind of mistake I ever make, but I suppose it's the kind of thing that's bound to creep in when I'm so out of practice.

Preeda had done a 40.48 seconds, though, and was slightly ahead of me, so I needed to improve on that time if I was going to get second place (Andrea had done 26.99, which is very leisurely and relaxed for him - I can't wait to see the kind of things he does when he's up against an opponent who can give him a run for his money!). I decided I might as well try to beat that old personal record I was talking about, so went as fast as possible... and still only managed to stop the clock at 25.31 seconds. I'm slowing down in my old age.

The recall, though, was wonderful - lots of gaps in my memory, putting them together in the end with thoughts along the lines of "well, all those images are ones I might possibly have seen, and I've used up all the cards, and I suppose it's at least possible that they occurred in that order..." and it turned out to be all correct! I've never in my life produced a correct pack that I'd been so dubious about!

So, perhaps undeservedly, I just managed to nab the silver medal spot. Andrea was of course the brilliant winner-by-miles, Guillaume took the title of French Champion, and the full results can be seen on the IAM stats site. Looking forward to the next one!

1ANDREA MUZIIItaly7604 (7604)
2BEN PRIDMOREEngland4338 (4338)
3PREEDA HONGPIMOLMASThailand4207 (4207)
4SUSANNE HIPPAUFGermany4009 (4009)
5NORBERT REULKEGermany3758 (3758)
6SILVIO DI FABIOItaly3722 (3722)
7GUILLAUME PETIT-JEANFrance3500 (3500)
8LARS CHRISTIANSENDenmark3070 (3070)
9MICHAEL KARIUSFrance2890 (2890)
10DANIEL EVANSWales2732 (2732)
12FLORIAN MANICARDIFrance2661 (2661)
13YVES BLANCHARDFrance2262 (2262)
14SEBASTIEN MARTINEZFrance2174 (2174)
15LEO LEBARQUEFrance2111 (2111)
16DANIEL FOGELIsrael2053 (2053)
17ARNAUD FEGUEUXFrance1966 (1966)
18VICTOR SEGONDFrance1667 (1667)
19PIERRE BRUZIFrance1644 (1644)
20YANN CAUMARTINFrance1466 (1466)
21DIMITRI HEIDETFrance1188 (1188)
22MAXIME BERGERFrance786 (786)
23JOEL LICCARDIFrance675 (675)
24ROMAIN PERNIERFrance644 (644)
25JIMMY RICAUTFrance619 (619)

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Age is just a (large) number

My new comment-giving blogling, the infamous executioner Jack Ketch, observes that I must be one of the most venerable, or at least elderly, names on the list of competitors in this championship - I'm not the oldest one here, I'm happy to say, but I am in the top five if you put us in order of age.

There's no denying that I'm the old man of memory championships nowadays - it's worth mentioning that today is Andrea's birthday, and he's 20. Tomorrow's my birthday, and I'll be 43.

It really is great that we've got a new generation arising to win these things and break all the records - between Andrea, new Indian superstar Prateek, Mongolian mastermind Munkhshur, and others, it's an exciting time! (And it really is awesome to see how excited Andrea gets when he breaks a record! It reminds me of me, when I was young...)

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The need for speed

It turns out I'm in the middle of an epic battle for second place, after the first day's excitement. Andrea is, not unexpectedly, far and away ahead of everyone else, after some mind-blowing scores (ten packs and thirty cards of an eleventh in ten minutes!), but there are six of us fighting for the other places on the podium...

And with spoken numbers, images and speed cards tomorrow, it really looks like I'll have to get a good time in the cards to secure second place. I've been decidedly hit and miss with speed cards in competitions lately, but maybe this would be a good time to improve that personal best? It's been 24.97 seconds for ten years now. I've very literally stood still while everybody else surged ahead!

Salut from Cergy

It's the first morning of the French Open, and it's a high-tech competition using computers, so I can say hello to my long-neglected bloglings in this pause after the first discipline (we're running late due to technical problems, so it's definitely an official memory championship). We've got a room full of memorisers from around the world - I'm wearing my XMT 2015 shirt, and Johnny Briones is coordinating nicely in his 2016 equivalent. Norbert Reulke, another original XMT veteran, sadly isn't wearing his shirt, but everybody who was and wasn't there is firmly in agreement that we need another big World Memory League Championship.

We've also got Preeda, Lars, Susanne, Andrea, Silvio and Dan from places as exotic as Thailand, Denmark/Germany, Italy and Wales, lots and lots of French people (remember when there were nearly no French memorisers at all? Not any more!), Boris and Francoise running the show admirably, Guillaume expertly sorting out the aforementioned technical problems and even wearing a beret to make the event extra-French, Dimitri Heidet has an awesome Salvador Dali moustache, and everybody has their names in big letters on their desk, so I don't have to pretend I know who they are!

Okay, long numbers is about to start. Stay tuned!