Saturday, March 29, 2008

"Ironman" Ivan Stewart's Super Off Road

This morning, I did a half-hour cards practice (attempting 18 packs, got 15 right, the others were silly little memorising mistakes that I'm not too worried about), went to the supermarket and got my hair cut. The problem I have with memory is keeping the mental state going for a whole day, or a whole three-day period like you have to do at the world championships. Because my mind was seriously wandering by the end of the recall period, and I couldn't get into any other practice I tried to do this afternoon.

So instead, I spent my time playing "Ironman" Ivan Stewart's Super Off Road. This was an extremely cool arcade game, back in the good old days when arcade games were fun to play. It was one of those games in a cabinet with a pedal and a steering wheel - three pedals and three steering wheels, in fact, so you could race against two friends. They don't make games like it any more - the whole of the racetrack fills the screen and you drive a tiny little car, viewed from above, around the track. Those were cool. The first cool one was Super Sprint, and Super Off Road was basically just a clone of that, only with cooler tracks with bumps and puddles, and with "Ironman" Ivan Stewart's endorsement.

"Ironman" was apparently a real person, an off-road racing driver, and the title screen lists all the races he'd won. There weren't all that many of them, actually, and they were in the seventies for the most part, so why they thought kids might be attracted to the game by the name Ivan Stewart, I can't imagine. Possibly he was cooler in America, where people might have heard of him. "Ironman" drove the computer-controlled white car in the game, and when the red, yellow and blue cars weren't being controlled by players, they were driven by "Madman" Sam Powell, "Hurricane" Earl Stratton and "Jammin'" John Morgan. I don't know if these were real people too - if they were, I can't imagine they were too happy with the way that Ivan Stewart's car always won the races. Jammin' John generally came second, and a fun alternative way to play the game is not to try to win, but to try to hold up "Ironman"'s car so that someone else wins. I like to think that would teach him a lesson for being so full of himself. Assuming that he was in any way full of himself - I know nothing about the man at all.

Also cool about the game was the way you could enter your country of origin at the start of the game (as long as you were from the USA, Canada, Japan, Britain, France, Germany, Italy or Australia) and get your own national anthem played when you won a race. Admittedly the anthem that plays for Britain only bears a slight resemblance to God Save The Queen, but still, it was very, very unusual for an American game of that generation to consider the possibility that non-Americans might play it. Especially an American game based on the appeal of a strictly American minor celebrity.

You can play the NES version of the game on your computer here, at the wonderful Virtual NES site, where you can also play lots and lots of other classic games, one or two of which are some good (the Master System was so much better, apart from the absence of Super Mario Bros). Or if like me the NES version just makes you long for the better graphics of the arcade version, the MAME roms are out there too. Now I just have to get an original cabinet with steering wheels and everything.

When I'm a millionaire, I'm going to own an arcade filled to busting with all the classic games of the good old days, and everyone will be welcome to come along and have fun. And they'll cost 10p a play.

Friday, March 28, 2008

What, already?

Wow, weekends come around fast when it's a three-day week. Right, so, this weekend I'm going to do all those things I was going to do last weekend, and probably some other things too. I'm going to be industrious and hard-working.

Speaking of hard-working, my boss said today that he's very happy with the work I've been doing this last month. That makes one of us, at least, because personally I don't think I've been all that much use. Still, it's his opinion that counts. And it is nice to be appreciated - a lot of bosses don't bother to say anything unless they think you're rubbish.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ow ow ow!

Remember I said that I skinned my elbows? At some point during Saturday's unhealthiness? Well, now I've got scabs on them, just where I lean my elbows on tables, and it hurts. I can only assume that while I was drinking I was leaning with my elbows too excessively, or something. Or else I took a cheese grater to them, thinking it would be funny. But seriously, ow. I need someone to kiss my elbows better. It's not possible to kiss your own elbow, you know. This is proof of God's non-existence.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Joyce Grenfell met Elvis Presley, you know

See, I was going to do some memory training or something tonight, but my boiler's broken and the landlord came round this evening to poke at it and by the time he'd gone, there was only time to sit around watching an hour-long documentary about Joyce Grenfell that I might possibly have seen before but I can't quite remember.

And I'd had a very productive and successful day at work too, and felt all motivated to keep the hard work going in the evening, especially after an email from a local freemason offering to help out at the Derby Memory Championship. Perhaps I can get the brotherhood on my side and have them funny-handshake 'memory sports' into a government-funded mega-million-pound enterprise!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What a waste

I haven't done anything useful this long weekend. I didn't even get my hair cut, because the barber's was closed today, for no adequately explained reason. Perhaps he's gone away on holiday. That only leaves me with the unisex salon or the barber with a stall on the market, neither of which I really trust to cut what remains of my beautiful locks in a way that still looks rugged and handsome. So I decided to just leave it. Save the money and go around with shaggy, unsightly hair for a while longer.

I did a little bit of memory training, but I'm still just not in the mood for the long disciplines - I can't get the concentration going. And I bumped into someone I used to work with in town today, and I took a heck of a long time to remember who on earth he is. I think my brain's gradually rotting away, and I feel like I really should do something about it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

I can't cut the mustard like I used to

Well, so, Saturday at twelve I met up with my brother for lunch in the Ropewalk pub, Nottingham, which is something we do from time to time. It's a really great place, if you ever happen to be in that part of the world, it gets five stars on the Zoomy guide for food, drink and atmosphere. We got in there out of the blizzard howling outside (did anyone dream of a white Easter? Because we certainly got one in this part of the world), had a drink, decided we didn't feel like lunch just yet, had an entertaining conversation about this, that and the other with particular emphasis on Thundercats, Max Fleischer cartoons and general setting-the-world-to-rights. This naturally leads into singing raucous songs for the entertainment of the Ropewalk staff and the handful of other customers, and before too long it was seven o'clock and I was feeling a little light-headed. The idea of food had entirely slipped from both of our minds.

We went into town to see what was happening at Chambers, where they do karaoke, only to be besieged by people wanting me to memorise things for them. Which was very nice, because I got a chance to say "Oh, woe, the life of a celebrity, constantly hounded by admirers when I just want a quiet drink and a sing-song!" Although by that point I wasn't in quite such eloquent mood. We quickly went on to Cast, where it's quieter, forgoing the karaoke (it's one of those activities that are sometimes less fun in a place where everybody knows your name) and finished an eight-hour binge-drinking session there.

What's worrying is that I was decidedly lagging behind on the drinking front by this point, and basically being led around mumbling incoherent drunken witticisms and songs. I know I don't exactly have a reputation for holding my booze, but there was a time when I could safely keep pace with my brother. I have a feeling I'm turning into an old man. This feeling was intensified when I got back to my brother's place, having decided that the journey home from Derby just wasn't worth the effort (he shares a house with Hungarians, so we avoid drunkenly hanging out there as a rule), had half a pizza, went to bed and then spent the night throwing up a great deal more than I can logically have had in my stomach. My brother was relatively unscathed by the day's excesses. I also skinned both my elbows somehow, somewhere along the line.

I made my way back home yesterday morning, but I can't really remember what I did all day, except that it was freezing cold and still occasionally snowing, so I stayed indoors. I posted that brief and unilluminating blog, went to bed, changed my mind, got up again and watched the football, went back to bed at eleven, woke up this morning at half past six, got up, decided after a couple of hours that I really had a bit more sleep I needed to catch up on, went back to bed and got up again a bit before midday.

And after a start like that, although I feel fine again now, it's hard to get cracking with the stuff you were planning to achieve over the long weekend. So, basically, I haven't done any of the memory training I was aiming for. This is annoying on multiple levels. I've never been a hardened drinker, but I'd like to think I can occasionally go out for a booze-up without it wasting three whole days of my life! I don't know, maybe if I want to be world memory champion, I'll have to avoid excessive intake of alcohol. Who'd'a thunk it?

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Sorry for not blogging yesterday, too much alcohol, spent night at brother's, still feel unwell, going to bed, normal service resumed tomorrow. Blaargh.