Thursday, July 27, 2006

I've broken my TV aerial

I don't use the thing, because I've got cable, but it sits on my telly to look decorative. Or at least it did until I knocked it on the floor and broke it. I suppose I could sellotape it together, but it wouldn't look as cool. Or would it? Maybe it would look cooler, actually. Yes, I will sellotape it. Forget I said anything.

I'm mentally writing a novel at the moment. It's been floating around my head in various little threads for years, but now the thing's coalescing into plots and paragraphs of purple prose. I think I'm going to have to write it down and see if anyone will publish it. I know I said I was going to write that stupid memory book, but you try telling my brain that. Maybe I'll write both. And then publish them, together with "Jayce and Alex" as a three-pack. It'd be different, anyway. I don't want to say what this novel's about in case someone steals or derides the idea (I'm very sensitive). But I think it's going to be pretty good.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Something I missed

It's now a year and five days since I started this blog. Not counting the false start in October 2004. Hooray!

I wrote to all the memory people I was meaning to write to (except one who I just realised I forgot, darn it), and put in a good bit of practice tonight. Did a pack of cards in 27.20, a new personal best - it was the kind of recall that took the full five minutes of hard thought and finished with a bit of guesswork, but they all count. I seem to do my best times when I haven't tried speed cards for a week or so, so I should be good for the world championship if I stick with the plan of doing a final mega training session on the weekend before. With my brother coming round this weekend, I've only got two more after that. Ooh, nerves building up. I'll admit I had a slightly anxiety-based dream about doing abstract images at the WMC last night. But a bit of nerves is good for you.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Hi, fans

I have a huge pile of "fan mail" (by which I mean emails from people involved in memory competitions, who aren't actually fans of mine so much as rivals) to answer, and I was planning to go through it all tonight and get it out of my inbox. But in the end I decided to sit around doing nothing instead. I get like that sometimes. So if you're expecting an email from me, it'll be tomorrow, probably.

It's getting to be the silly season when everyone goes crazy about "memory sports". Well, the vast majority of the world's population still hasn't heard about it, but a few more people than usual realise that the World Memory Championship exists, and it maybe gets a mention in a couple of newspapers and things. This is the height of fame and fortune for us mnemonic types. I'm actually quite looking forward to it at the moment, and hoping I get the local paper tracking me down and interviewing me again. I'll get over it.

Also, I've blown a fuse, in the more literal than usual sense of the phrase. I need to get a new one and I have no idea where to get one from in Burton during my lunch break. But the current situation involves either having the kitchen plug sockets working, or the living room ones. And yes, I haven't got a real kitchen so the kitchen sockets are about six feet away from the living room ones, but it's still an inconvenience. Why can't this house have the kind of fuses I can deal with, that you put new wire in like my old place? I've never had to cope with these cylindrical things before.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Hanging out with the impaler

I dreamt last night that my best friend was a man called Ethan, known to his friends as Vlad. He was a really nice guy, and it was kind of disappointing to wake up and remember that he doesn't exist. The dream didn't see fit to narrate how he acquired the unusual nickname, so we can only speculate. As to why my subconscious mind came up with the name in the first place, I can only assume it's because one of my neopets (the one I adopted and didn't name myself) is called 0_Vladimir_0, Vlad for short. And the name Ethan must be because I was thinking about the Transformers comic storyline featuring a character called Ethan Zachary recently, although why anyone would want to be friends with the man who killed Optimus Prime, I can't imagine.

Meanwhile, in the waking world, I'm trying to think of a memory. Any memory from my life will do, as long as it can be expressed in 150 words (so I can see this is going to be a problem for me, I can't say good morning without launching into a rambling three-volume epic). It's for the Alzheimer's Society Million Memories campaign, which will be launching in a couple of months with interviews and top tips on how to keep your memory sharp from some guy called Ben Pridmore. What, couldn't they find any real celebrities to do this kind of thing?

Anyway, my mind's a blank. So far they've got "Lynda Bellingham's special family Christmases; AA Gill's unforgettable trip to Paris; Richard Briers and his first home on a struggling actor's wage in 1960s; and Jo Brand's first and dangerous driving lesson", so I need something along those lines. But now I can't think of anything that's ever happened to me prior to sitting down and typing this latest paragraph.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Roundheads and Cavaliers

Since I haven't talked about comics for a while, I thought it would be fun to express my opinions of "Civil War", the epic storyline consuming Marvel comics at the moment. For the benefit of readers who aren't into American superhero comics, the two main publishers (Marvel and DC) have taken to doing this kind of mega-crossover to excess in the last couple of years. It has the effect of temporarily boosting sales when an individual issue of any superhero comic is part of a wider crossover, so the logic is that if they do it all the time, sales will go on getting higher forever. Last time they went down this road, the bubble burst in spectacular fashion and Marvel went bankrupt - the problem is that what people buy comics for in the long term is the characters and their ongoing storylines, and when they're being constantly derailed by a story being part 274 of an epic that expects you to pay hundreds of dollars to read the whole thing, it gets old pretty fast. On the other hand, Marvel nowadays have lots of money because their movies have been so successful, so that's not such a big deal now. And, more importantly, Civil War is actually really good. Unlike "House of M" last year, which was diabolical.

The idea is that a major tragedy caused by second-string superheroes the New Warriors, which kills hundreds of children in small-town America, sparks a huge public reaction and finally persuades the government to put through a law forcing people with superpowers to register with the authorities, get proper training and work under government supervision. Which is actually quite sensible, but it goes against the superhero tradition of anyone just being able to put on a mask and go out and fight crime. So all the world's superheroes pick a side and end up fighting each other. It's an interesting idea that hasn't been done before on this kind of scale. The individual heroes' storylines have mostly been well done, especially She-Hulk (which gives the New Warriors the kind of serious treatment they've been lacking for years now) and Thunderbolts (which is always great and seamlessly incorporates this storyline into its many ongoing plots). The only ones I haven't bought after reading them in the shops are Wolverine (which has atrocious art) and X-Factor (which gives a token acknowledgement to the Civil War background and carries on with its own impenetrable plots).

We automatically sympathise with the rebel anti-registration superheroes, but they're making an effort to give coverage to the other side too - Spider-Man, at least for the moment, is firmly pro-registration, even revealing his secret identity to the world, and in the latest Civil War issue Captain America and his rebels are decidedly out of line, starting a big fight when Iron Man and his join-the-government-team gang just want to talk. I'm enjoying the whole thing, and looking forward to seeing where it goes (although you just know that it'll end with the whole thing being swept under the carpet and the status quo restored, like they always do. Maybe with Spider-Man's wife written out somehow because the idiot in charge of Marvel doesn't like her).

DC are also doing an epic storyline in a rather different way at the moment - instead of crossing over into their regular comics, they're doing an additional weekly series called '52', on account of it runs for 52 weeks. I don't normally read DC, but I'm getting this because I think weekly comics should be encouraged - I hate waiting a month or more for the next issue. The gimmick here is that it's in real time - each issue covers a week in the life of the DC universe, while all their other comics have jumped ahead a year in the lives of their heroes. So in '52', we get to see a world where Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are all missing, without it getting in the way of the other comics. We're eleven weeks into it now, and it's been very entertaining. Although the latest issue is focusing on the least compelling of the various interconnecting storylines, so it isn't as good.

If you want to get into the world of superhero comics, either of these is a good place to start. Try "Civil War" especially - see if your comic shop can get you all the comics so far, it's worth giving it a try.