Saturday, January 19, 2008

Found on the internet

Yes, yes, I know I'm always scathing and rude about unimaginative people whose blogs consist of links to more interesting places on the web, but it's a slow news day, so I thought I'd share a couple of things that have caught my eye.

Did you know there's a campaign to erect a statue of Long John Silver in Bristol? I must say, I wholeheartedly approve. And not just because it would give lots of people a much-needed opportunity to dress up like pirates and say "Aharr, Jim lad" - it's high time one of the greatest literary characters in history got some recognition. As the Trust's website points out, he's an almost unique example in Victorian fiction of a positive role model for the disabled, and also a brilliantly complex character with a wonderful amorality that I think we all admire, and possibly the only example in 19th-century children's stories of a bad guy who not only gets away scot-free but is amply rewarded for his evil ways. I've always thought that Silver and his wife (an almost unique example in Victorian fiction of a strong, black, female character) were just crying out to be included in a flashback in Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Perhaps they still will, some day.

And while we're browsing the internet, might I direct your attention to this article? If there's one group of people who are always, without exception, wildly misrepresented in the press and the public consciousness, it's furries, and this piece is heartily recommended for anyone who thought "What, you mean people who dress up like animals and have sex?" when they read that word.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Something else

I seem to have done nothing but write about memory lately, so instead of lamenting about how I can't get back under 25 seconds in speed cards after not practicing for a while, I'll talk about something else for a change.


I suppose I could poke fun at the way the TV commentator (possibly Willie Thorne, I can't quite tell from the voice) didn't see a problem with using the phrase "it's a Chinese snooker" just now in his commentary on the match between Marco Fu and Ding Junhui. Isn't that actually an offensive term? It means a situation where there's nothing between the cue ball and object ball, but another ball immediately behind the cue ball, hampering cueing, and it became known as a Chinese snooker not because it happened in China once, but because it's 'backwards' from a normal snooker and thus stems from the perception that the Chinese do things in a stupid foreign way, not like us sensible English types. I'll complain to the BBC.

Or I could complain to Viz - an article in the latest issue has Richard Griffiths complaining that he's always typecast as a fat sixty-year-old man. '"I never seem to be considered to play any other sort of part, such as 20-year-old circus contortionists, jockeys or little girls," he added, before being removed from the stage by several burly firemen using a block and tackle.'

A while ago, I wrote a silly film review noting that one of the leading actors, a large, bearded man cast against type as a five-year-old girl, put in an impressive performance. If I'd put that one in my blog rather than scribbling it on the back of an envelope on a letter to my brother, I'd be complaining that Viz stole my joke, and possibly trying to sue them for millions of pounds.

The film had other problems, as I recall, caused by three of the four leading actors dying of natural causes the night before filming the final scene, forcing them to be replaced by life-size marionettes operated by the director hanging from the ceiling.

Or I could write about Wednesday's Torchwood, which I thought was entertaining enough, if pretty unexceptional. It was fun to see James Marsters snogging John Barrowman, though - I haven't checked up on this, but I bet there are a heck of a lot of fan fictions on the internet featuring that kind of scene.

Or possibly I could talk about the way the weighing machine in Woolworth's is broken, so I can't see whether I've lost weight this month. If I'd weighed myself this morning, I possibly would have done, but I've stuffed myself to ridiculous levels this afternoon for no good reason, so if the machine's fixed by tomorrow, I'll probably be heavier than ever.

Actually, whether the machine's fixed or not, I'll probably be heavier than ever. But if it's still broken, at least I won't know for sure.

Ooh, or I could talk about how I found a Nessie the Dragon cuddly toy in Woolworth's, for £7! Well, I had to buy the thing, didn't I? She sings when you squeeze her tummy! And there was just the one of them on the shelf, in a battered old box, that must have been lying at the back of the stockroom since Nessie's brief moment of popularity.

Or perhaps I could talk about the comic strip I'm drawing when I get a free moment (which is surprisingly rarely just lately) - another exciting adventure for the superhero fox kids you may recall from some time last year. It'll take me a while to get the thing finished, but I hope that when people see it, they'll say "Wow, your artistic skills really have improved! Way to go!"

Note that when I say "I hope", I actually mean "I insist, whether you really believe that or not." My ego is fragile, and needs gently massaging.

Or I could talk cartoons. I haven't done that in this blog for ages, and it's not because I don't like cartoons any more, it's just that I always felt I was adopting a show-offy kind of tone somehow, because I felt like I needed to explain a bit more about what I'm talking about than I do for memory or othello or things like that, when I know I have at least some readers who know what I'm talking about. But I still vaguely intend to write at ridiculous length about Thundercats some time, and just maybe I'll get round to it.

Or I could lament about the shortage of jobs around here at the moment, even the scummy short-term jobs that I might resort to just to get back in the office for a while. But it's hard to write very much about the fact that something doesn't exist, so maybe I'll wait till a temporary management accountant job comes along and I start debating whether to take it or not.

Nah, it's no good, I can't think of anything to write about apart from memory stuff. I'm planning to do more long-discipline practice this weekend when I can in good conscience unplug the phone without cutting off job offers and things, although I'm in two minds as to whether it might be better to work on speed instead, since I know I'm not as fast as I should be. We'll see what I feel like.

Also, Online Memory Challenge on Sunday! Not too late to sign up! Go on, it'll be a laugh!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Professor Perfect

Well, as I briefly said last night, yesterday's jaunt down to Plymouth was pretty successful, all in all. This demonstration was hosted by the uni's psychology society, with help from the head of school, Professor Tim Perfect, whose name I'm sure I will eventually stop giggling at. Professor Perfect (heehee), in fact, wants the three of us memory men to be subjects of some kind of psychology experiment in the future, investigating what makes us tick, which might be entertaining.

But as for what we were actually there for, the demo had a small audience of ten people, making it a perfect warmup for Preston, where there will be a couple of hundred, and we all did our various memory tricks without any real problems. I thought we came across as rather awkward and mumbly at the start, but we'd warmed up into professional-sounding performers/lecturers in memory techniques by the end of the hour. None of the students had seen The Mentalists, or my Blue Peter "performance", but they were all hugely impressed by my badge. Which promptly broke, and had to be wedged into my hatband for most of the demonstration. But it's fixed again now, thanks to superglue.

Everybody seemed to enjoy it - Professor Perfect (titter) and his less interestingly-named colleague had to leave half-way through for a meeting, but the students all stayed to the end without looking bored, commented enthusiastically on what they'd seen and all showed interest in the upcoming university memory competition. So it looks like we'll be able to carry through our plans of a competition in each university we visit, followed by a bigger final championship to decide the best student memoriser in the country. James Paterson and I spent the lengthy train journey home planning the impressive memory competition society we'll form when we win the lottery, and that'll be a really great thing, I assure you, but what's actually going to happen seems pretty groovy too. We're sure to bolster the ranks of memory competitors, and people who've heard of memory competitions, in this country by a huge amount.

Also, yet another person recognised me in Derby today. I had no idea so many people watched channel 5!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Memo demo

It all went pretty well, really. I'd go into more detail, but I was up early and it's late now, and I'm going to bed when Torchwood's finished. I'll tell you about it tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Plymouth ho!

We're going to Plymouth tomorrow, to do a memory demonstration at the uni, as I think I've mentioned before. It'll involve me trying that menu memory performance for the first time ever, so the students can look forward to a Blue Peter-style shambles. I bet they all saw Blue Peter, actually, and will jeer and throw things at me as soon as they see me. Maybe I'll wear the Brazilian Mystery Cloak and keep the hood over my head.

Still, another guy stopped me in the street to talk Mentalists with me today! And also, Alexei the German journalist let me know that his article about me appeared in the Badische Neueste Nachrichten and Weser-Kurier last week. So not quite the neueste Nachrichten, but I have pdf files I can send to anyone who wants them and isn't in a position to get last week's local German papers.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Scuse me, mate, weren't you on TV?

Yes, it's doubleplusofficial now, I'm a celebrity! A complete stranger recognised me on the street and congratulated me on having a great memory! His name's Kasim, and I'd like to thank him if he's reading this (which in all fairness he probably isn't, he didn't say The Mentalists was his favourite programme ever and it's made him want to know everything about me, or anything like that).

It was actually quite scary - the rest of the time I was in town I was going around thinking "There are people out there who know me even though I don't know them. If I pick my nose or rob a bank or something, even if nobody I know is around, it might be headline news in the Derby Evening Telegraph - Local Memory Man Picks Nose, Robs Bank". It's frightening, and I don't think I can deal with the intense public scrutiny. I know now how David Beckham feels.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

As one book is lost, another is written

Well, I had the time but not the inclination to do an hour numbers practice today - feeling a bit burnt out, so I decided to rest my brain. But I'm still optimistic about being able to keep up with some pretty heavy training and getting back to world championship fitness, mentally speaking.

Apart from that, I started re-reading The Green Mile by Stephen King, which I've got in the original six mini-books it first came out as, only to realise half way through book 2 that I can't find the sixth one. This is really annoying, because I've got a bookcase now, and while it holds somewhat less than half of my books, the others are all stacked up very nicely on top of my cupboard, so losing books should be a thing of the past. It's probably under my bed, which means lugging the heavy thing around to find it (not to mention risking angering the monsters down there).

Still, on the other hand, How To Be Clever is only needing four more chapters and an introduction before it's finished off! Admittedly those four chapters are the ones that are barely started or in one case not-at-all started, so it'll take some more work, but there really is light at the end of the tunnel now. Actually, just getting this 'first draft' finished will be such an achievement, I might not even bother with the hassle of sending it to publishers or agents. That would all be a bit of an anticlimax, don't you think?

Follow the Sour Bee

An extra early-morning blog post today, just because I feel the need to chronicle the cool dream I had last night. Actually, this was just a segment of a longer and more involved epic kind of dream, but basically I was in my bedroom with a number of other people (who I think were my brother and two embodiments of different aspects of my brother's personality) and an archaic video game system. Which malfunctioned, and sucked us into a magical other world.

There, in a scene that was overplayed as if it was an episode of a sitcom, we were summoned to the throne room of a king, who informed us that he had two brothers, one of them a twelve-foot-tall giant and the other a six-inch-tall Tom Thumb type, and that he required us to go on a quest to kill his brother and save the kingdom. I asked him to clarify which of his brothers he wanted us to kill, noting that I wasn't willing to go on a quest with such easily misinterpreted instructions for a king who clearly had people killed at the drop of a hat, and he responded "Follow the Sour Bee, and it will guide you to the one of my brothers whom I want you to kill."

From somewhere behind the throne emerged an ordinary bumblebee, except that it was green and black instead of yellow and black, which buzzed around us. However, then the giant brother came along and squished the king on his throne with one lazy swipe of his giant club. He then sat down on top of his splatted brother and looked at us, whereupon we all swore eternal loyalty to him.

The thing that really tickles me about this dream for some reason is the Sour Bee. I'm delighted with my subconscious for dreaming this thing up, and I need to include it in all future stories that I write, just so that it can fulfil its true potential.