Sunday, December 04, 2005

Great Googly-Moogly

Of course, the problem with spending a weekend doing absolutely nothing is that you don't have much of interest to put in your blog on the Sunday night. So for want of anything better to do, I'll enthuse about one of my favourite cartoons. Ntl's revolving sample channels (a great idea for encouraging people to pay for more expensive packages) has brought me Nick Jr again this month, so I get to watch Maggie and the Ferocious Beast. Yay!

The show is about a girl called Maggie, who has created an imaginary world called Nowhere Land, populated by an assortment of toys, birds, monsters, jelly beans and the like, foremost among them being the Ferocious Beast (a big, friendly, slightly dimwitted orange thing with red polka-dots) and a slightly neurotic pig called Hamilton. Yes, there are three equally important central characters and only two of them get a name-check in the series title. Poor Hamilton. The fact that the setting and everyone in it are figments of Maggie's imagination doesn't generally come up in the stories at all - they're light, uncomplicated, surprisingly philosophical adventures, occasionally with a moral but more often completely pointless (in a good way). We never see the real world, although Maggie goes back there at the end of the day.

It's the kind of show in which the best episodes are the ones where nothing happens at all. There are some fantastically off-beat episodes - "Morning in Nowhere Land" has no dialogue at all, and just shows the Beast and Hamilton waking up and going through their morning routine to the accompaniment of orchestral music until Maggie shows up and they start the day's adventure. "Where's Maggie" features Hamilton and the Beast sitting on a hill wondering why Maggie's so late coming back from her holiday, and worrying that she might not come back at all.

There are some great supporting characters too - Rudy the mouse is notable for the fact that his hat and boots don't come off. Everybody treats this as a perfectly normal thing, except the Beast, who keeps bringing it up in conversation in the hope that someone will explain it to him. Nedley the rabbit is entirely amoral, and just unable to see the point of doing anything that doesn't benefit him directly. In one episode he borrows Hamilton's jumper and then just refuses to return it because he likes it so much. Rather than ordering him to give it back, because that kind of thing just isn't done in Nowhere Land, the plan Maggie comes up with is to go to the beach, where he'll get so hot that he'll have to take it off.

You have to watch it to appreciate it, plot summaries don't do the series justice. "The Push-Me Popper" (in which Hamilton gets a new toy and won't let the Beast play with it because he'll break it, so the Beast takes it anyway and does break it) doesn't sound at all different from a million other cartoons, but there's something about the characters and the writing that makes it hilarious. I was laughing out loud when I watched it for the first time.

Anyway, back to Cheadle tomorrow. Last week there, fingers crossed, touch wood. See you Friday.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

That's better

Ahh, a day sitting at home doing nothing. You can't beat it. Well, nothing with a side order of memory-training, but I've talked about that more than enough here already.

Let's talk about my brother, instead, Doctor Joseph Pridmore. He passed his viva yesterday and got his PhD, which comes as no surprise to anyone but him - he's one of those genius types who goes through life assuming everything he does is going to be some kind of abject failure even though it never is. It's a good way to be, really - you're always sure to be pleasantly surprised. Anyway, I'm terribly impressed. I sometimes think about going back to university and trying to get at least a degree, just so as not to feel quite so inferior to everyone else. I know too many doctors already - lots of othello players and memory people have PhDs too, and there's only so much satisfaction you can get from boasting about being an unusually young university dropout (I went there at the age of 17 and gave up on it after a few months).

Still, now I get to introduce my bro to people as "This is my brother, the doctor." And I can always add under my breath "(albeit only a doctor of English literature, which isn't a real kind of doctorate)" if I get too envious.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Green Grow The Rushes-O

The poohsticks gang are meeting up tomorrow in a pub called the Seven Stars, in London, but I'm not sure whether I want to go or not. I feel like I haven't been at home here for years, what with being away last weekend and the last two weeks in Cheadle (surprisingly enough, the new building in Burton still isn't ready, so I'm back in the hotel next week too), and I feel like I need to recharge my batteries, rather than having another late-night drinking session.

It's been quite a fun week, though - we went into Manchester on Wednesday night to see the football. There were six of us, proudly walking from the car park to the Old Trafford stadium for the George Best tribute and a quite good game too. The tickets were very cheap by Man Utd standards - £19 each, and in the front row, right behind the goal, and everyone got a free George Best poster, to hold up during the minute's silence. 50,000 people being silent in a big stadium like that is quite a thing to experience. The game itself was enjoyable, too - for the benefit of non-football-liking readers, it was a Carling Cup game, which often means one or both teams aren't actually trying to win (the Carling Cup is not seen as an important trophy, so teams who want to concentrate on doing well in the league, FA Cup or European competitions traditionally field teams made up of reserve and youth players). But Man Utd, realising it was the first home game after Best died, played not quite their best team, but a team that most clubs would be happy to have playing for them in any competition. West Brom took the game seriously too, but they were outclassed, and lost 3-1.

You get a great kind of mob psychology going at football games - we were sitting with the Man U supporters, and so even though I'm cheering for West Brom this year (they survived a great relegation battle last year and I hope they can stay up in the premiership now they've got through that difficult first season) I was yelling for United on Wednesday night. The day before, we went to a pub to watch Doncaster playing Aston Villa. Villa are one of the rare top-level teams who always try to win the Carling Cup, so it was fun to watch them get comprehensively thrashed by Doncaster (who are two divisions below them in the league).

Anyway, I'm back home at number five now (although the 5 symbol at the door is still missing - someone really needs to get a new one) and I don't feel like leaving it for a weekend out in London. I might change my mind tomorrow, I'll see how I feel. But I'd quite like to do a bit of memory training this weekend (beat 30 seconds in the cards for the first time this week, now I need to practise the longer events that I don't have time to do at the hotel), with just a quick walk into Derby for fresh air and a bit of pre-Christmas shopping. I need to get a new book to read next week. After forgetting to bring one the first week and having to make do with Gideon's Bible (which, with the greatest respect to the Gospel makers, isn't an enthralling read), I've been making do with re-reading Stephen King and Flann O'Brien since then, but I could do with something new. I have to read something for twenty minutes or so before I go to sleep - it's a tradition.

Anyway, I need to have a think about memory things - Aubrey de Grey suggested not one but two great ideas for me to work on last Saturday. The first was an offhand remark about my ideas for memorising othello games - I'd said that the problem was there being so many possible moves to remember, to which Aubrey replied "I didn't think that would bother you." And he's right, of course - I've been trying to think of ways to minimise the amount of information I'd have to take on board, but why would I care about that? If I can memorise 50,000 digits of pi without batting an eyelid, why would I care how many othello moves I need to cram into my brain? I'll just do it the long-winded way, and see how far I can get! The other suggestion was for names and faces - apart from the idea a lot of people have toyed with over the years, classifying faces according to things like shape, hair colour and so on and converting that information into something that can be memorised, he suggested memorising a list of faces, and a separate list of names - and that way if both lists are in order, you don't need to associate the name with the face at all. It's food for thought.

Also in memory news, Boris Konrad's Speed Cards Challenge looks like it's definitely going ahead next year - a whole day of people memorising packs of cards, head-to-head against an opponent. It'll be great fun, and great TV - we'll have to see if we can get someone to take an interest. It'll be in Germany, during the World Cup, so there'll be press interest in an 'alternative sport' like that. There'll even be prize money! I might win it, although I'll have at least three rivals who stand a very good chance - Clemens is very fast with the cards, Lukas is great and Andi might just come along to this kind of thing too if we're lucky.

I can't think of any topic to discuss that might involve a reference to lily-white boys clothed all in green-o, so I'll give up on the ingeniuously themed blog and just observe that anyone who's ignored my previous advice to read Ozy and Millie needs to know that the last couple of week's comics have been on the subject of blogs. They answer a lot of important questions about what a blog should be like and why. And I hope my blog comes close to the obvious perfection achieved by Timulty's. Read it here!

Oh, and I've got another documentary-maker calling me tomorrow. I gave her my number especially so I can practice saying no to people over the phone. I do have a very good excuse for not wanting to get involved in this one, after all...