Saturday, August 06, 2005


I was planning to write about my memory training and plans for some last-second changes to my techniques tonight, but then I discovered possibly the greatest artwork ever created: PotterPuffs!

I just love this kind of thing to bits, and this is the best example I've ever seen. I am completely in love with that website.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Fame and Fortune

Everyone's after interviewing me now. The BBC want to do a bit about the world memory championships for the 'Child of our Time' series, apparently to show what the human mind is capable of. Although it's flattering to be considered an example of the pinnacle of human intellect, I can't help thinking they're in for a rude awakening when they see what the WMC is really like. I got copied in on an email from the director, which contains a couple of choice lines:

"From first glance the binary numbers, faces and names, and random words look most appealing for the television audience."

Now, I'm not sure what they think binary numbers involves, but if you didn't know, it's a room full of people looking at sheets of paper with lots and lots of 1s and 0s on them, for half an hour. Then the invigilators take away the sheets of paper and give the competitors blank paper. Then the competitors spend the next sixty minutes writing down all the 1s and 0s they can remember. If you're the kind of weirdo who likes this kind of thing, then it is a lot of fun. If you're watching it on telly, you will not be enthralled. Believe me.

In the same email, we have "At the moment I feel it may be good to follow a British child and an adult who are looking like hopeful."

Obviously it would be natural to think that the dozens of people competing in the WMC would contain a reasonable selection of Britons. In fact, while there might be anything up to fifty competitors there, Team Britain will almost certainly consist of me and Ed again, with the possibility of Andi showing up to round it out to a whopping three. Britain always provides the world champion (a tradition I'm determined to keep going), but for the last few years we've been decidedly short on numbers.

As for children, there aren't any in Britain who are interested in 'memory sports'. In fact, I doubt there are any who even know such a thing exists. Not like in Germany and Austria where people like Gunther Karsten, Franz-Josef Schumeckers and Luise Sommer train huge hordes of enthusiastic littluns in memory skills, organise children's championships with big prizes, lecture in schools and everything. If there was someone over here who could be bothered to do that, perhaps memory tricks wouldn't be a dying skill in this country.

Not that I'm complaining - the WMC will doubtless move away from Britain for good, and I'll get to travel abroad a bit more. And all the above complaints aside, it's great to see it getting a bit of coverage on the BBC. I'm sure they'll find something to entertain and enlighten the viewing public, and I'll look forward to seeing it. I might try to persuade them to follow Ed around instead of me, though - he's more of a character, and that's what we need if we're trying to make the WMC a bit more popular.

Anyway, I practised binaries tonight, and it went very well. Practically no mind-wandering all the way through. This weekend, the hour events. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


I got round to watching Extras for the first time tonight. It's basically The Office with added celebrities, and I found tonight's episode more embarrassing in a bad way than the good way that The Office usually managed to achieve. It had its moments, though, so I'll keep watching it. Also, Rachel out of Grange Hill was in it.

Catherine Tate's new series is just as funny as the previous one, too. She deserves to be much more famous than she is.

Wrote a sort of CV at work today. It's pretty rubbish, really, but Hazel pointed out a fantastic job on the Michael Page website that looks like it would be right up my street.

Okay, I was going to go on about that a bit longer, but I just got an email from Alexis Lemaire, pointing out that Ralf Laue is not fair, and definitively not honest and that Alexis will never take part in a false competition organised by Ralf. As far as I can tell, this comes about because Ralf hasn't allowed one of Alexis's posts on the mental calculations forum, relating to some new world record. Presumably that's the one for adding ten 10-digit numbers in the fastest time possible, because I haven't heard about any other record lately.

But the mental feats aren't really important if you're a spectator of this kind of forum. It's the fun of watching the strange personalities involved in this kind of thing. Alexis holds the record for finding the 13th root of a 200-digit number, a record which as far as I know nobody else has ever attempted. He thought up the rules and regulations himself, and talks about them at length on his own forum, when he's not complaining at length about his many enemies or explaining why it's numerologically plausible for him to be the reincarnation of Christ. He also has a tendency to try to enlist me as an ally in this kind of dispute, which is why I feel entitled to make mildly snarky comments about him here.

I've never met Alexis, but I hope to some day. I try to cultivate the friendship of eccentrics, and anybody who'd devote their life to finding the 13th root (or, on special occasions, the 23rd) of huge numbers has to be the kind of person I'd get on with.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

You're listening to Steve Wright in the afternoon...

Well, you're probably not, actually. But if you should happen to listen to him next Tuesday, you might hear him talking to me about the world memory championships. Unless the people involved change their minds, which is still entirely possible. I would, if it was me - I'm sure there must be more interesting people Steve could be interviewing.

Anyway, there are more interesting things I could be talking about. Nasty Canasta, for instance. One of the cartoons on Boomerang tonight [there's a whole hour of them at 6pm now, which is great, although their playlist doesn't seem to be as extensive as I thought at first] was 'Barbary Coast Bunny', featuring Nasty and Bugs Bunny, which I think provides a lot of food for thought, if you like that kind of thing.

Nasty Canasta was apparently meant to be a major new character when Chuck Jones thought him up, but he never really caught on, and I think the basic problem is that he's just too big. He certainly doesn't work in this one - the basic story is that he robs Bugs of a gigantic gold nugget that Bugs has stumbled across, which provokes Bugs to come to Nasty's casino and bankrupt him in revenge. The idea, clearly, is that we see Nasty towering over Bugs and cheer when he loses, but this is based on a total misunderstanding of what Bugs is all about. Bugs isn't the little guy who wins out because of his superior intellect; he wins because he's Bugs Bunny, and Bugs Bunny always wins.

In 'Barbary Coast Bunny', there's no particular brains to Bugs's strategy - he gambles all his money on games of chance, fully aware that Nasty has rigged them all so he can't win, and of course he wins them all anyway. Not by any active intervention on his part, just by being Bugs Bunny. We shouldn't be cheering for the hero who's beaten the big bully in a situation like this. We should be sympathizing with the poor sap who's lost out because the guy he's facing is able to defy all the laws of nature! And this is why Elmer Fudd will always be the archetypal Bugs Bunny counterfoil. And why Friz Freleng was thinking much more along the right lines with little, short-tempered, perpetual-loser Yosemite Sam than Jones was with poor old Nasty Canasta.

This is also why Daffy is more fun to watch than Bugs. Where's the appeal in someone who can't lose because the universe itself is on his side?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


It occurs to me that anyone reading this who was enthralled by my ramblings of last week would want to know that I did eventually get hold of a copy of GLA #4, at only the third comic shop in London I looked in on Sunday. Three cheers for Forbidden Planet's policy of buying three times as many copies of every comic as they could possibly hope to sell!

I didn't like it as much as the first three, to be honest. Less outright funny stuff and more poking fun at Identity Crisis than was really necessary. It was still worth the effort of finding it, though.

Anyway, today was a fun day at work. More ice cream and less working hours than usual. Having nobly refrained from ordering a McFlurry when Sarah went to McDonald's at lunchtime, I capitulated and asked for one when Lisa went out at three. The caramel ones aren't as nice as the lions, but they're still yummy. Then half an hour later Zoe came back from picking her car up with another tray of McFlurries, having decided to treat us all to one. So I had another, a crunchie this time. Then we all left half an hour early too - Tony's on holiday and nobody else is all that bothered. I have a feeling there's going to be a lot of this kind of thing in the months to come.

Monday, August 01, 2005


The Mind Sports Olympiad is a big annual event involving competitions in dozens of different mental games and skills, and I've been to all the previous eight of them since it started in 1997. When I was twenty years old, living in a rented room above a family home, had just grown an unflattering moustache and hadn't ever used the internet. So it's a pretty big part of my life, all things considered - it's where I discovered memory competitions and othello. Which is why I sing the praises of the MSO to anyone I think might be remotely interested, every chance I get.

So why am I thinking about not going this year? Various reasons, really. It's expensive, for one. In fact, the cost probably hasn't gone up too much since last year, but you have to pay for the week's entry fees and accommodation all in one, and when I see £460 in black and white I wonder what kind of value for money I'm going to get. I'm thinking that a lot of people are going to be put off by this - it discourages people who come to just play in one event, because nobody's going to spend £50 for a two-day othello competition, for example. So I suspect attendance will be lower than usual, limited to those of us who just come along and play everything.

Also, there's no memory competition. That's been the main reason I've gone to the MSO for the last four or five years, and before that my main reason was the world intelligence championship (also no longer in existence due to terminal lack of interest). All the other competitions I've entered at the MSO over the years have been sideshows to one or the other 'main event'. This year, it would be all sideshows and nothing else, and somehow that doesn't appeal to me so much.

I think I might just give it a miss, to be honest. I could spend the week off compiling a CV and signing up with job agencies, and maybe go to Paris for the EGP othello at the weekend.

Of course, when I take time off work to do something practical, I generally end up sitting around watching cartoons all day, like I have done today. So much for memory practice...

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Are You Dave Gorman?

If he'd been born Ben Pridmore, that book would have been a lot shorter. However, it would still have been a good read. I cheerfully admit that I occasionally type my own name into Google to see what people are saying about me, but it's especially fun when I find a website about someone else of the same name. And since I last did this, there's another one - a Ben Pridmore plays cricket for the Newby Hall 3rds in division 8 of the Nidderdale and District Amateur Cricket League.

I'm wondering if this is the same person who plays for Steeple Claydon FC, maybe switching sports for the summer. I suppose I could look up Steeple Claydon on a map and see if it's anywhere near Nidderdale and district, but I can't really be bothered. Still, it's always nice to know someone of my name has some kind of sporting ability.