Saturday, April 22, 2006

Chewing gum for the eyes

I haven't done much but watch TV today. I did go to the trouble of shuffling 33 packs of cards with the intention of memorising them, then remembered that my printer's still broken and I'd run out of my card recall sheets. So I went to Curry's and got a new printer, and printed some out, but by then I hadn't got a three-hour gap anywhere in between all the things I wanted to watch on telly, so I didn't do anything.

Still, today's Ben 10 was very good, the football was quite a fun game and Chelsea lost (always a good thing). Doctor Who wasn't as good as usual - you'd think after 40 years they'd know that the show doesn't work when it's based around some rather dodgy special effects, and the werewolf just didn't look like it was there, I'm afraid. You'd see the characters reacting in horror and then a cut to what looked like an advert for a video game. It wasn't Skarasen levels of badness, but it was in the same ballpark.

St George's Day tomorrow, and I've noticed that some optimistic card-manufacturers are trying to sell St George's Day cards. And I bet nobody gets me one, either.

Friday, April 21, 2006

tweezers continuous

The lastest strategy of those dedicated people who bring you automated spam emails to confound the evil schemes of anti-spam programs is to put random words into the subject lines. I've had a couple over the last week with only a single random word, but today I had one with two - "tweezers continuous". I just love the phrase "tweezers continuous". It sounds like it should be part of a surreal poem, about a beautician with arms long and sinuous, plucking infinite eyebrows with tweezers continuous.

I'm going to find a way to work those words into every conversation I can.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Funny coincidences are great

I just turned off the snooker on BBCi when the match finished, which took me back to BBC2, where Mastermind was on. And the woman in the big black chair was answering on her specialist subject of Antonia Forest's books about the Marlow family. Which I absolutely love! I haven't watched Mastermind for years, and I practically never see a specialist subject that I can answer nearly as many questions as the contestant on.

The next guy's subject is the Indian cricket team, and I didn't get any of them. Hmm, and the next one is British Dreadnoughts 1906-1957. I think I'll change channels.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I've just had a horrible thought!

In three days' time, it will be the tenth anniversary of me starting my first job. Ten years as a wage slave! It doesn't bear thinking about. Perhaps it really is time to give the whole normal-job thing a rest and do something different.

But where did the time go? Ten years ago I was all excited about starting as a trainee accountant, six and a half grand a year, at an exciting meat factory a couple of miles outside Boston. Getting a lift from my dad while saving up for a scooter. Full head of hair, more or less. Never used the internet, and had only the vaguest idea of what it was. Never heard of the world memory championship, or othello tournaments, or the MSO. Granted, the latter didn't exist yet so I can be forgiven for that, but still.

I'd never met any of the people I hang out with nowadays, family excepted. If you'd told me I'd be calling myself Zoomy and writing every evening about my everyday life for a potential audience of millions and an actual audience of at least two or three, I would have looked at you as if you were mad. Which, let's face it, you would have been. Unless you were somehow armed with knowledge of the future, in which case you could still have used it a lot more productively than alarming an innocent nineteen-year-old when he should have been concentrating on his new job.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Memory ramblings

A few months ago I started on a new memory training regimen, which I've stuck with very impressively by my standards - every night I memorise 750 binary digits, 234 decimal digits and three packs of cards, as quickly as possible. The intention is to do 234 spoken digits after that, too, but by the time I get to that point I'm a bit bored with the whole thing, and turning my computer on is too much of a temptation to waste time on the internet. Then the plan is to do hour numbers, hour cards and 30-minute binaries at the weekends.

The logic behind this is that I've previously not done much practice for the five-minute disciplines and need to put a bit more work into them, and that getting faster and more accurate in the short term will improve my performance in the longer disciplines too.

I don't know why, but I've always had the idea that I'm better at the longer disciplines than the shorter one. I think I hold the world record in just about every single five-minute discipline, and neither of the hour-long ones, but my gut beliefs about myself are never based on facts.

Anyway, I've been doing this for quite a while now, and it's going well. I'm certainly faster than I have been before. But I'm letting the longer discipline training slide a bit lately, and when I tried a half-hour binary yesterday, it went pretty terribly. I did a half-hour cards afterwards to make myself feel better, and that went more or less okay (attempting 15 packs, and got eleven or twelve right). But I think I need to work on stamina, so the new plan is to do a half-hour binary, numbers or cards every other night, alternating with the speed training.

This increases the time I spend memorising in a night to 90 minutes, including recall time, which is quite a lot. Not that I spend my evenings doing productive and important things of great benefit to the world, but I do like to spend time staring vacantly at the television for hours on end, or chatting on the internet. Still, while I'm still enjoying the memory stuff, I'm going to keep at it.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Why am I not left-handed?

I know lots of cool people who are lefties, and it makes me feel depressingly normal to be right-handed. It has been pointed out that my handwriting is bad enough that I could write with my left hand and nobody would notice the difference, but that's not the point.

And while I'm in the mood to be annoyed by things, I've got to go back to work tomorrow. I'm really not in the mood.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Motion picture funnies

I was going to write in more detail about all those great cartoon videos I found yesterday, but I've noticed that whenever I've written about cartoons here in the past I always seem to sound strangely humourless, like I'm trying to come across as scholarly and not succeeding. I have no idea why, since the last thing I want in life is for people to think I know what I'm talking about.

On the other hand, I've got nothing better to write about tonight, and I'm still fascinated by the choice of cartoons to put on each tape. Not that I think 'choice' really came into it, it was obviously more a case of digging out the first public domain cartoons that came to hand from the pile, compiling them into a video, chopping off the copyright notices and title cards in some cases (I don't know if that makes them more or less legal, but a lot of these video collections do it), slapping a cheaply drawn cover on and selling it to people so excited by these new VCR things that they'll buy anything.

Although of course all the cartoons on these tapes are good ones, and some are really excellent. So I shouldn't be too scathing. The cover to the 'Betty Boop Noveltoon One' video [Noveltoons were the series that produced 'Tarts And Flowers', but not any of the other five much earlier cartoons on the tape] is in fact drawn by "Marc", an artist I admire greatly. If you're the kind of strange person who collects 80s/90s cheap cartoon videos, you might have encountered Marc without noticing it. I mainly know him as the artist responsible for the covers of 'Krypton Force' releases of the Japanese cartoons known in the USA as 'Force Five'.

These cartoons are five sci-fi series: Dangard Ace/Wakusei Robo Dangard A; Grandizer/UFO Robot Grandizer; Gaiking/Daiku Maryu; Spaceketeers/SF Saiyuki Starzinger; and Starvengers/Getta Robo G. They're all quite fun if you like that kind of thing, especially Gaiking and Starvengers, involving teams of heroes piloting giant robots to fight aliens [my brother will tell you that Spaceketeers is the technically superior and most entertaining one of the collection, so it's each to his own, obviously]. The American translations are mostly very good, although the voice acting is sometimes pretty bad, and the dialogue occasionally quite stupid.

In the UK, these never made it to television, but Krypton Force the video company got their hands on at least some episodes. Their policy for selling them was to give gullible children the impression they were buying Transformers videos (this was when anything with the Transformers logo, or something similar, on it was selling like hot robot cakes). So they retitled the series with names like 'Formators' and 'Sci-Bots', and had Marc draw the covers. I don't know how Marc got this job. Although he was proud enough of his work to sign every cover with his first name or pseudonym, he isn't a great artist. His drawings are collages of swipes from the episodes, drawn with minimal grasp of perspective and none of scale, and pictures of Transformers and other robots. Sometimes they would just cut pictures of Transformers out of books and stick them on the cover, sometimes Marc would professionally disguise them a bit, for instance by keeping the body unchanged but drawing the head of one of the characters from the video on top.

His cover for the Betty Boop collection is one of his most ambitious - it even has a background! I would date this from his later period, when he'd started to get almost experimental. Rather than drawing Betty Boop on the cover (perhaps they hadn't decided on the title when they commissioned him), he opted to draw the setting of Cakeland from the Little Audrey cartoon. It turns out kind of like Cakeland would have looked if Picasso had drawn it, but it does look quite pretty. In the foreground, we have renditions of Little Audrey, plus Porky Pig and the cat from 'Notes To You'. They're direct swipes of poses from the cartoons, of course, but he's gone to the trouble of drawing a slice of cake in Porky's hand, which is a nice touch. Audrey is twice Porky's height, which is a little strange.

On the back cover are three frames from the actual cartoons, again with no actual Betty Boop (the three Betty cartoons on the tape are black and white, and the other three are colour, so they probably wanted to give the impression that purchasers were getting a full-colour extravaganza for their money) and a list of the cartoon titles, with an impressive four out of six spelt correctly.