Saturday, April 07, 2007

Heckle and Jeckle

I've been in Nottingham today for the dual purpose of finding out whether the comic mart is still a good thing to visit, and to see Boston Utd travel to Notts County in the hope of getting an essential win to pull them out of the relegation zone. It turns out that it's not, they didn't, and tonight's Doctor Who wasn't all that great either, so I'm in a bad mood.

I saw a freakish number of magpies today, not even counting the two Notts County mascots. From the train window I saw a whole bunch of single magpies and one group of four, which I interpreted as meaning that I was in line for a whole lot of sorrow, but at least would get a boy.

The comic thing, which I used to go to regularly when there were rather more people interested in buying and selling old comics, really isn't what it was. It's no longer taking up the whole basketball court in a leisure centre in the unfashionable end of town, but is now relegated to a smallish back room at the ice rink where four or five dealers try to offload their boxes of back issues at 50p each. Sad, really.

As for the game, the Pilgrims didn't play all that badly. It was just that they never really looked like a team that could score a goal - and sure enough, they didn't. County scored two. But they gave it their best, despite the continuing difficult circumstances - with Paul Ellender suspended again, we could only manage to bring three substitutes, and that included Adam Rowntree from the youth team, who looks about twelve.

Five minutes into the game, the ref noticed that we had two players on the pitch wearing number 17 - Colin Cryan had somehow managed to put on Stewart Talbot's spare shirt instead of his own. That's fairly typical of the way the game went. We're not quite doomed to the Conference just yet - with Torquay hopelessly dead at the bottom of the table and Wrexham also in dire straits, a win against Macclesfield (fourth from bottom) next week might just save us at the last. Fingers crossed...

Friday, April 06, 2007

That's how we use an apostrophe

There's a birthday card on sale in Smith's with the words "Life's to short" on the front (and " date ugly men" on the inside). I mean, seriously. What is it with young people* these days? Don't they teach them anything in the schools now that my dad's no longer with us**? He'd be turning in his grave if he hadn't been cremated. Yes, you might say "does it really matter if people don't know the difference between 'to' and 'too'?" You might add "it's perfectly obvious to anyone who reads it what the card means to say, so misspelt or not, the card is doing its job." You might go on to say that in a couple of decades' time, "to" (or even "2") might well be the dictionary-approved spelling of the word we pedants now write as "too". You might question my own grammar and punctuation in the preceding paragraph. And you'd be perfectly correct to make all these points, and within your rights to call me a weirdo for objecting at such length, but I don't care. I hate this kind of thing. With a passion. I'm going to find out who made this horrible birthday card, go round to their house and shout at them.

In less insane news, my mum sent me an easter egg in the post, and for some reason Thorntons decided to package it in a cardboard box that could have fitted a dozen easter eggs of the same size inside it. Seriously, it's the size of a house. I might live in this cardboard box if I ever feel I need a second home in the country. I found this box sitting outside the door to my flat today (someone else in the building must have signed for it) and thought some mystery admirer had sent me a new television set or vacuum cleaner.

*I'm assuming, with no evidence to back me up on this, that everybody involved in the production of this card is younger than me.

**And now I'm apparently assuming that everyone involved in the production of this card is so young that they went to primary school within the last year.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I guess I'm just lazy

This afternoon I got as far as laying out 33 packs of cards on my desk with the intention of doing an hour cards practice, then decided I wasn't really in the mood. So I left them out so I could do it tomorrow instead. A bit later on, after coming back in from the shops, I found that it was unbearably hot in my living room. Possibly, with hindsight, it was a bad idea to turn the heating on on the hottest day of the year so far. But if I opened the window, the wind would blow the cards on the desk all over the floor! I was faced with the choice of either leaving the window closed and the room like an oven (an oven at a temperature of about 30 degrees at the very most, but an oven nonetheless) or putting rubber bands back around each of my 33 packs of cards to keep them together. And I found the latter to be a quite unacceptable use of my time, so spent half an hour in stifling heat before finally giving in. And now I'll have to take all the rubber bands off again tomorrow!

That's if I do the cards tomorrow. Actually, I was planning to devote most of the day to promoting the Cambridge Memory Championship - dig the groovy new website, courtesy of James Kemp and James Ponder! One month to go, start practicing now!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The horrors of commercialism

Blogger tried to persuade me last night to put Google ads on this site. I would, but I gather they don't actually pay you anything until you've amassed a huge number of clicks' worth of money, and I doubt whether very many of my readers would be at all interested in adverts for memory foam mattresses (which is pretty much exclusively the ads you get on memory-related sites). Not that I've got anything against memory foam mattresses. I'd buy one myself if they weren't rubbish.

Ooh! I'm watching Heroes and there's a woman on it whose superpower is a super-memory! Seriously, everyone nowadays is saving the world by remembering long numbers! That's my new job, I've decided.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Land speed record

Ramón Campayo has invited me to the first World Speed Memory Championships, in Spain, on April 28th and 29th. Rather short notice, but since that (I'm almost positive now) is the one weekend in the foreseeable when I'm not doing anything, I might consider it.

"Speed memory" - memorising the maximum possible number of digits or whatever in one second, or three seconds, or half a second or so on - is not really my thing. In fact, it's not really anyone's thing except Ramón's, he's the only person who does it, as a rule. So it might be fun to do something a bit different here. I don't have much spare time to practice what with Cambridge and that loony idea of getting my book finished in the next month, but then the thing about speed memory is that it involves a lot more luck and instinct than 'real' memory competitions - there's no need for fancy techniques and things, it's just a matter of getting your brain used to going quickly.

On the other hand, it means going to Spain, and hanging out with a lot of other people who will presumably be mostly Spanish and complete strangers. As I might have mentioned before, I don't really like going places where I don't speak the language, and I certainly don't have time in the next four weeks to learn Spanish. I can't even watch Dora the Explorer, because I haven't got Nick Jr and it's only on ITV once a week. Also, it's a terrible, terrible cartoon.

Monday, April 02, 2007

It's the holidays!

Or at least it would be if I was a teacher or a schoolboy. It's deeply unfair that I don't get some kind of paid holiday, in fact. I mean, technically, I could go on holiday or just stop doing even the tiny bit of "work" I'm doing at the moment, but it's not the same unless there's some kind of official sanction for me not working.

Anyway, while we're talking about Easter, remember that Tale of the Bunny Picnic video I bid on on eBay even though it was £5? It ended up going for £23! I mean, I didn't really want it all that much, but seeing several other people bid insane amounts of money for it tweaks my competitive impulses. There's another copy on eBay now that I'm bidding on, and I can see me squandering my whole life savings on it.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Brown ale and black pudding

So, last night was Vicky's birthday party. We went for a meal at Soul, a place I've never been before because I had the vague idea that it was all organic food and things, so I avoided it on principle. It possibly is organic food and things, but if it is it doesn't rub it in customers' faces. Now I'm prejudiced against it mainly because it's posh and expensive. On the other hand, the food, though inexcusably posh, was actually very nice. Well, except for the chicken liver parfait which seemed to be the most edible starter on the menu. That wasn't terribly nice. But the main course I had, roast duck with black pudding, some fancy kind of potato with a creamy spinach concoction on top and a blackberry jus, was absolutely delicious. And considering it was posh, which normally means tiny portions on big plates, it was very filling. Big plates, but quite large portions, piled up vertically so it looked like small portions. I approve of this kind of thing. And then rhubarb creme brulee with rhubarb ripple ice cream for pudding, which was really scrummy too. The company was good too - nobody I knew, but a nice bunch of people all round.

Afterwards we went to the beer festival, where the highlight was the live music, provided by a German oompah band. The leader and tuba player, surreally enough, looked exactly like Ulrich Voigt (a comment that will be useful only to the very select group of my readers who not only know what Ulrich looks like but can imagine him dressed in lederhosen and a German army helmet, playing an Abba medley on a tuba). Their music was absolutely brilliant, and everybody got very much into the spirit of it, aided by the wide range of strangely-named beers on offer. They also played happy birthday to Vicky.

Onto other business, I've been "tagged" by a "meme", or by Jemfy, I'm not sure exactly how you phrase these things. So even though I don't do things like this (they make me feel like I'm trying to be a trendy young person), I'll do this one because the answer to it provokes a sort of funny story:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next three sentences in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don't dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.
6. Tag five other people to do the same.

"Call Lionel, over at the Times, and tell him his press privileges have been revoked. I didn't appreciate his little comment about my earrings. Questions?"

Not a particularly exciting three sentences, sadly - if we'd gone a few sentences further you could have read "What the--?" "Leave the lights off." "Gasp!", which gives a bit more of a clue to what the book is - only in comics do people say "gasp". It's from "Blood and Water", the fourth compilation volume of "Noble Causes", the comic by Jay Faerber. It doesn't have page numbers, so I hope you appreciate the effort it took to count 23 pages into it (when I run out of fingers and toes I tend to run into difficulty).

Jay Faerber is an American comic writer who I have a bit of a complex about. Back in the distant dark ages when I first bought a computer and started discovering the wonders the internet had to offer, I commented on a newsgroup about the upcoming second volume of New Warriors. I was a huge fan of the original New Warriors series until it was cancelled, and I was decidedly unimpressed by the previews of the sequel. I said as much on the newsgroup, and observed that Marvel Comics obviously didn't care about the New Warriors and their small but loyal fanbase, since although they had finally decided to relaunch the series, they'd done so with very little publicity, downright bad artwork, a change in tone to more light-hearted adventure with few of the original characters, and a second-rate writer in Jay Faerber. I was horrified to find that Jay Faerber himself replied to my comments, taking exception to the description. This was the first time I realised that talking about comics on an internet newsgroup was a bit more public than talking with friends in my house. It really hadn't occurred to me that I could bad-mouth someone on the internet and the person in question might actually hear about it.

So ever since then, not only have I been a little more careful to keep my opinion of comic book writers I dislike to myself, but I've gone to great lengths to pretend that I really, really like Jay Faerber's writing, so as to make up for my faux pas. This has been quite difficult at times - New Warriors volume 2 really wasn't very good, and was cancelled after ten issues. Volume 3, by someone else, was much, much worse, so I have high hopes for the upcoming volume 4. Anyway, after years of generally not reading anything by Faerber so I didn't have to say it was brilliant, I just recently decided to try "Noble Causes", his series about a family of superheroes. Flicking through the first collected volume in the shop, I was hooked. By the time I'd bought and read the first two volumes, I was positively ecstatic. Not only is Noble Causes quite genuinely and honestly great, it's by Jay Faerber! I really like something by Jay Faerber! I felt like I'd laid some ghosts to rest and could praise him to the skies without knowing that I was just doing it because I was rude about him eight years ago.

So just last week I bought volumes three and four, and... they're not as good. Volume 4 particularly so. I was quite disappointed, in fact. The story shifts towards more traditional superhero adventures and it's rather more insubstantial and less intelligent than the first two volumes. The artist of "Blood and Water", Fran Bueno, is a step down in quality from his predecessors. All in all, I feel let down after that brief burst of euphoria. And the fact that I haven't yet put the book away, coupled with this "tagging" thing, just brings all these conflicting emotions to the surface.

Well, enough. From now on, I resolve to not only buy more Jay Faerber stuff, in the expectation that I really will like some of it, I won't go out of my way to pretend I like the rest of it when I don't. Honesty is the best policy. I'm sure he's long forgotten the whole second-rate-writer episode anyway, so perhaps I should too.

Ooh, unless he reads this....