Saturday, May 27, 2006

Better things to do

I'm in the middle of an othello tournament on kurnik, trying to remember how to play the game before next Saturday's London regional, and I haven't got the time tonight to write what I was planning to (it's about comics, and I know nobody reading this likes those posts anyway, so you're not missing much). So, sorry, this is all you get tonight. No refunds.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Memory gossip

While I've been rambling about Chaucer, Channel 5 and Charlie Fox, it's been quite a busy week for the world of 'memory sports', or at least my little corner of it. It just turned out today that the German Championship has been postponed until some time in the autumn, which is a real annoyance. Also, the World Championship has been confirmed as taking place at Imperial College, London - not very glamorous, but there are worse places it could be - on August 19-21.

What I need, though, is a competition before then to get me properly in memory-championship-winning mood. For the last couple of years that role's been performed by the German championship, and the year before that it was the MSO. This year there's only the Speed Cards Challenge (which is a completely different kind of affair), unless I can engineer something else to fill the gap.

There is a vague possibility, though, from two sources. Firstly, James Jorasch and Chris Harwood have been talking about holding a memory championship in Manhattan some time in August. Just cards and numbers, James speculated, which sounds familiar. I've also spoken this week to one of the six billion TV producers trying to sell a memory documentary to Channel 4, and he's spoken to Andi Bell (quite a feat, these days). Andi, it seems, hasn't been training, doesn't think he'll come to the WMC this year, but is still talking about organising a championship of his own. Like the Memory World Cup in 2004, which was just cards and numbers, and a lot of fun.

There must be a way to get these people together and use their business sense and passion for memory competitions to benefit me in some way. I would love to see another World Cup - it would be great to have that on the regular schedule of competitions every year (that, and Gunther's reaction would keep me amused). July would be better than August, obviously, now that there's a void left by the German Championship. But would anyone come to a World Cup in America? Probably not. Well, Americans would, and I would, but I'd want to get some Germans over there too to make it a proper competition. We'd need to find a big sponsor or eccentric millionaire to throw money at it, but that kind of thing's possible for the likes of Andi or James if they put their minds to it.

I haven't got a phone number for Andi, of course, and I'm not sure I've got a current email address either, but I'm sure I could track him down...

In other news, thanks to the Metro free-on-trains newspaper, I've just discovered the pop group with the coolest name ever: Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. With full stops in the name and everything. Classic. Their music is pretty good too - check them out.

While I'm talking about the Metro, I should also mention that it has a rather cool comic strip - Nemi. Which according to my research is a popular Norwegian strip that's quite rightly gathering a cult following here in Britain. Although the British translation, given where it appears, is understandably toned down a bit from the Norwegian original - granted that I only speak one word of Norwegian, I'm almost certain Nemi's first word in the third panel of this strip isn't 'sod' like it is in the Metro version...

It's cool that they're still happy to show Nemi smoking and drinking and having casual sex, though. I hate excessive censorship.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Testing, testing, one two three...

My internet connection is a bit dodgy tonight, so I'm hoping this goes through and doesn't get lost in cyberspace. Because I'm not typing it again, I'll tell you that.

Anyway, a couple of days ago I bought myself a new copy of the complete works of Geoffrey Chaucer. My brother borrowed my old one and lost it, somehow. It's about 1500 pages and the size of a house, so it seems to me you'd have to be pretty creative to lose something like that, but never mind. I also really shouldn't be spending twenty-something quid on a book until I get paid next week, since the Cambridge memory competition seriously drained my bank account, but never mind. I can always rob a bank or something.

Anyway, I've been into Chaucer for a long time, ever since stumbling across the Miller's Tale when I was somewhere in the region of 14 years old. I'm not sure exactly what the appeal is - I don't mind a bit of poetry from time to time, but Chaucer's the only great poet I could do the life and works of on Mastermind. The Middle English is something to do with it, I'm sure - reading his works is like a puzzle, you need to translate it into modern words and still appreciate the poetic effects he manages to achieve with a horribly cumbersome language. There's a reason all the poets before the 14th century wrote in Latin or French, they're much easier to make something beautiful from than the English of Chaucer's time.

Then there's the fun of trying to establish exactly what Chaucer originally wrote, since he came from a time before the printing press was invented and no two manuscripts are quite the same. What I'd really like to do some day is discover a lost 14th/15th century manuscript of one of his more obscure poems and keep it to myself until I've transcribed it and compared it to the other existing ones. That would show all those professor types and book-losing English-literature-PhDs how cool I am!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Pesky copycatting Channel 5

I've just noticed there was a programme on tonight called "The Mystery of the Mary Celeste: Revealed". Now everyone will think that that exciting story I wrote last Tuesday was inspired by flicking through this week's Radio Times (which came out that day) rather than by whatever did inspire it. I can't remember what it was. Still, I won't let it discourage me, I know how much my loyal readers enjoy reading my occasional attempts to be funny rather than writing about something interesting or enlightening (actual quote - "I even liked that thing with Sunderland and the Prime Minister...")

I see there's a programme on Channel 4 later tonight about the Pet Shop Boys. I used to be a big fan of them back in the 80s, and I think it's cool that they're still going strong, even if they can't write good songs any more or persuade anyone to buy the ones they do release. They still seem to be nice guys.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Would you, could you, with a fox?

I keep seeing foxes out the window of the train as it's coming into Derby station. Or maybe it's the same fox every time, I'm not sure. But I never used to see them when I was living in rural Lincolnshire, it's only since moving to the big city, which is strange. Admittedly my old boss Andrew and his gang went out shooting foxes back there on a regular basis, but they never seemed to run out of innocent creatures to slaughter so you'd think I would have seen them around a bit more. Maybe Derby's just the fox capital of the world. Or maybe this one fox is following me around with nefarious intent. If I had a wallet, I'd keep a close eye on it.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Auditors, yuck.

Yes, it's the highlight of every accountant's year, having auditors coming around and poking their nose into the accounts to make sure you're not siphoning the company's money into a Swiss bank account and buying Ferraris and helicopters. This lot today weren't too bad, I thought, although other people were saying they were more rigorous than the last bunch. But they were entirely cool with me providing backing information that didn't come close to showing the kind of figures that it should have done for all the little bits and pieces they decided to investigate (due to administrative errors and things that date back to before I started, of course). Secretly, auditors really don't want to find problems with the accounts. Oh sure, they dream of uncovering a multi-billion dollar fraud some time and exposing corruption at the highest levels, but when it comes to bread-and-butter stuff like the little subsidiary company of ours that they were auditing today they just want to be reassured that we more or less know what we're doing, so they can sign it off and get home on time. Still, it keeps a lot of people in unnecessary employment, which is probably good for the world, economically speaking.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Who let the bunnies out?

It must be at least a few days since I last devoted a blog entry to wittering on about a cartoon rather than anything my devoted readers might be interested in reading about, so let's talk about Loonatics Unleashed, shall we?

It's a futuristic superhero action-comedy series featuring heroes based on the Looney Tunes characters, and it's not as good as that makes it sound. It has its moments, but with that kind of premise it should be really quite cool. It also should be funny occasionally, but it really isn't. It bugs me that the Daffy Duck analogue is used almost entirely for comic relief while the others are the cool, useful heroes. Actually, in today's episode he did pitch in in the big fight scenes and pull his weight, but that's a rarity. The plots are generic superhero stuff, which I'm fine with, but there's no character interaction between the heroes, so you can't really connect with the stories.

And the voice acting could be a lot better, particularly Charlie Schlatter as Ace Bunny. I'd never heard of him before this, although looking him up on IMDB, he's done additional voices on quite a few series I've watched in the past. But he really doesn't get this voice right, and I'm not sure whether that's his fault or the director's - he's not trying to sound like Bugs, but the script has him saying 'oi' instead of 'er' sounds, and that just doesn't go with the accent he delivers every other word in. It sounds really weird. And Jason Marsden, who's really quite a good voice actor, doesn't really impress me as Danger Duck. They should have got Joe Alaskey. Rob Paulsen's as good as usual, though.

I always worry about saying bad things about people on here in case they read it. So nobody show this to the cast or producers of Loonatics, please.

On the other hand, the latest batch of Codename: Kids Next Door episodes is brilliant. When I saw the first couple without Mo Willems credited as writer I thought it had lost its touch, but then they came out with a couple of all-time classics (Caked-Five, Daddy) so I'm not worried. And this weekend's Doctor Who was really cool too, one of the best yet.