Saturday, April 21, 2018

The league of memorisers

One thing I forgot to do yesterday was put a link to the Memory League website, where you can watch everything that's happening in Gothenburg this weekend. The group matches have been played today, and the format of the competition is I think ideal now - 16 competitors, with Idriz taking the place of the goldfish, in four groups. Everyone plays head-to-head matches against the other three in their group, with each match consisting of one go at each of the five disciplines. Then the finals tomorrow start with the people who finished second in a group playing off against someone who finished third in another group, for the right to play the winner of a third group in the quarter-finals.

Our matches tomorrow will be Simon against Konsti or Selim; Jan-Hendrik against Florian or Martin; Sylvain against Niklas or Hordiy; and Marcin against Jan or Paweł. So a lot of exciting games to look forward to!

In other news, since the summer's suddenly here, I cycled up to Birmingham today - first time I've done that this year. I've got a new bike, too, which I haven't mentioned (even though I know you all care so deeply about the trivial details of my life) - the old one fell to bits irreparably, and now I've been trying to remember how long I've had it. It wasn't particularly new when I moved to Belper at the start of 2014, I know that much. I should have written it in my blog. Perhaps I did, but I can't be bothered to check. Still, I'm confident that this blog entry will help Future Zoomy when he wants to know exactly when (give or take a couple of weeks) I bought this latest bike!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Next stop Scandinavia!

Well, not for me, but for international memory competitions - this weekend, the Scandinavian Memory League Open Championship is happening in Gothenburg, Sweden. I wish I could be there, but it was that or Canada, and I've already been to Gothenburg. But 15 competitors are coming to the championship organised by Idriz Zogaj and Sylvain Estadieu, and they've just held the draw for the group stage, conducted by special guest, former World Memory Champion and all-round awesome guy (no, not me), Jonas von Essen! It looks like this:

Group A:
Simon Reinhard
Florian Minges
Hordiy Ostapovych
Daniel Andersson

Group B:
Jan-Hendrik Büscher
Konstantin Skudler
Paweł Milczarek

Group C:
Jan Zoń
Sylvain Estadieu
Selim Aydın
Rickard Liu

Group D:
Marcin Kowalczyk
Niklas Månsson
Martin Nilsson
Ceyhun Aydin

There's a lot of memory league talent and experience in there - most of the competitors are regulars on the Memory League site and online league. Niklas goes by BurningDesire or Niklas Hendrik, incidentally - I had no idea his name was actually Månsson, which just goes to show what happens when you only know people on the internet.

You can never bet against Simon in these things (although apparently there'll be a dummy player, "maybe a goldfish", in group B, who might spring a surprise), but keep an eye on Marcin - he's very dangerous! It's going to be an epic contest, all weekend.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Happy birthday, Superman!

DC Comics are celebrating Superman's 80th birthday today, and I suppose it's as good a time as any (the copyright date of Action Comics no. 1 is April 18 1938, though it probably didn't hit the stores until a couple of weeks later - and of course the story had been written and drawn years earlier, and repeatedly rewritten and redrawn as Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster tried to get someone to publish it), so let's all take a moment to cheer for the world's greatest superhero!

A lot of people talk about Superman as if the guiding creative philosophy behind him is "Wouldn't it be nice if I could fly?". That's a long way off beam - if you read the earliest comic stories, it's obvious that Superman is all about "If I could hit people without them being able to hit me back, I could make the world a better place!". Which is a worthy kind of view too, I suppose, but it's not what most people think of when they think of Superman.

He's not about saving the world from natural disasters, let alone Lex Luthor's evil schemes, at first. In that first published story (which reads like what it is; a chopped-up newspaper comic strip arbitrarily cut down to size to fit in a comic book - most comics were like that at the time, the only difference here was that Superman had never been actually published in a newspaper strip; they'd all rejected it!) he applies his ability to hit people to save a woman wrongly accused of murder, beat up a wife-beater to teach him a lesson, rescue Lois Lane from the unwelcome attentions of a thug, and get half-way through exposing a crooked senator. It's almost comically rough around the edges, but you can still see why it was such a sensation right from the start!

Where would the world be today without Superman? And why can so few people write good Superman comics nowadays? Any old idiot can (and regularly does) write Batman, but the modern approach to Superman all too often takes the Batman approach of "have him be beaten to a pulp but still somehow win in the end", which requires a flood of enemies of ridiculous power-levels. A good Superman story has Superman be by far more powerful than the bad guys, but still keeps the reader's interest by being clever and exciting! You can't really get away with the 1930s approach of him making the bad guys confess by threatening to kill them (it's surprising that that ever stood up in court...), but you can still make him the unequivocally-moral-and-good hero who's entirely indestructible and tell a good story if you really put your mind to it!