Friday, December 17, 2010

Home is where the Hart is

Ahh, the White Hart hotel, the only nice hotel in Boston. I think that's their slogan. Haven't been here for years, but it's nice to come back to the old town once in a while.

I spent the train journey making the first attempt at creating a list of 10,000 images, and... it's going to be a long, long job. Even the me of 2003, who was completely obsessed with developing the best memory system ever, might have balked at this task. Perhaps I could stick with the three-digit system and just practice with it intensively? But I really want a four-digit system. If only there was some way I could just skip the boring preparation and get immediately to the point where I've created and learnt all the images...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

How to really, really impress someone with your memory skills

Hi, can I speak to Darren, please?

He's just on the phone. What's it regarding?

He wanted to talk to me about a Japanese TV documentary. I'm a memory man.

Oh, yes. Can you leave your number, and he'll call you back?

Yes, it's 0115... 8...


I've forgotten. Um... [frantically hunting for my latest phone bill]

Eventually I told her a number, hung up, found the phone bill, called back to tell her the right number, and hung up again in deep embarrassment. And he didn't call me back.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

One Two Three, Sesame Tree

Here's something different to talk about: Muppets! Not something that I've mentioned nearly enough in my blog over the years. But I've got quite into "Sesame Tree" these last few weeks - it's the Northern Irish take on the Sesame Street franchise, and it's really quite fun.

Sesame Street has never really caught on in a big way over here - when I was of a suitable age for watching it, back in the early eighties, it used to be on Channel 4, although I never really paid much attention to it. Nowadays, it's been off British screens for a long time (I think it might be on some super-obscure cable channel, but not one that anyone watches), except for the not-very-good "Elmo's World" segment, which shows up on Channel 5. Performed by the genuinely-very-good Kevin Clash, by the way, against whom I won't hear a word of criticism.

But this hasn't deterred BBC NI from buying into the concept and adapting it for the unique audience of Northern Ireland. It's set in a big hollow tree, and stars Potto the giant purple agoraphobic monster (he's genuinely afraid to leave the tree, but this is played strictly for laughs, even in episodes with the moral that you should try not to be afraid of things), Hilda the hare and Archie the young squirrel (who lives upstairs with his unseen mum - the tree seems to be a block of flats).

Episodes follow a very rigid pattern, and each one revolves around answering a question from a young Irish child, which coincidentally is on the same subject as the cast are already discussing among themselves. These questions, nine times out of ten, boil down to whether or not people should be friends and work together with other people regardless of any difference of opinion. Politics and religion aren't mentioned, but clearly the hope is that Northern Irish kids will pick up on the subtle brainwashing and apply it to adult life in the future.

There's still room for plenty of fun and traditional muppet-style humour around the edges of the many identical sequences (like the looking in on 'what our friends in Sesame Street are up to', as an excuse for a brief American clip on a vaguely similar subject to the episode's theme) in every fifteen-minute episode, and the characters are all genuinely likeable and funny. There's something about Muppets, wherever in the world they get to, that is always watchable, and the performances in this incarnation are really great all round!

One episode had a guest appearance of Oscar the Grouch, which struck me as a strange choice, him being the most extremely American of the Sesame Street cast. And if you're going to fly Caroll Spinney out for some puppeteering (which everyone should do, at every opportunity), why not have him play Big Bird? I personally find Big Bird scary, but everyone else likes him!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It must be Christmas time

I've been in Chesterfield today, working in the store there as part of the usual annual make-the-head-office-people-do-some-real-work-for-once initiative. Then I'm not working at all for the next two days, because on Saturday and Sunday I'm going to Boston to work in the store there. It's all terribly complicated, but it will give me time to plan a memory-training routine and/or a new memory system. I'll also try to think of something other than memory to write about, because I'm sure you're all bored with it by now.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Systems are doing it for themselves

Here's an interesting fact about me: I'm actually not all that good at memorising things. I can memorise cards and binary digits better than anyone else because I invented a cool system for doing so more efficiently, and have been using this system since 2003. On the other hand, the 'numbers' element of the Ben System (I'm officially calling it that now - people have stopped using the name so much, and I realise that I like it after all) is exactly the same as, if not worse than, the systems used by other people.

So I need to expand it. Turning four digits into one image is the way to go, I've known that for a long time but been nervous of trying to do it, thinking that it'd be too much. But now I'm pretty sure it has to be done, so I'm going to give it a try.

Consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel is too restrictive, so my current thinking is that each image will have a two-part name, the first part starting with one consonant-vowel combination, and the second with another. Thinking up all the images is going to be tricky; committing them to long-term memory is going to be even trickier. But I think it's within the bounds of possibility. I'll let you know how I get on.