Monday, June 26, 2017

OK Computer

According to WZebra, the genius othello computer, my move to e8 wasn't that bad, it was still roughly a draw at that point. My winning line was an entirely unfathomable one spinning out of me playing b6, which I would never have thought of in a million years. But that's computers for you. They're not so great. I bet WZebra would explode if I ask it to define love, or tell it that everything I say is a lie and I'm lying now.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

There's no room 54 either

If you go past room 53, the corridor goes round another couple of corners and ends with 55, 56 and 57, all clustered together.

But anyway, the second day of the othello was exactly as successful as the first, if by that you understand that I ended today also on a total of four wins for the weekend. I lost to Helen, who usually does beat me though I always feel I should have won, and then was well and truly thrashed by Imre and Iain. Before that last game I realised there could still be a permutation of results that would end in me coming fifth and missing out on the semi-finals, but it didn't happen, and I ended up in fourth. Final round-robin results:

1: 7 pts [342] LEADER Imre (79) {GBR}
2: 5 pts [302] HAND David (2357) {GBR}
[278] BARRASS Iain (2047) {GBR}
4: 4 pts [206] PRIDMORE Ben (4019) {GBR}
5: 3 pts [190] ARNOLD Roy (2006) {GBR}
6: 2 pts [180] DEXTER Helen (100002) {GBR}
7: 1 pt [168] KYTE Bruce (2078) {GBR}
[126] STEPHENSON Ken (2001) {GBR}

So the semi-finals were David against Iain, and me against Imre. As the highest-placed in the round-robin, he had choice of colour and went for white, which was fine by me. I much prefer playing black, and I'm fairly sure I was black for most or all the times I've beaten him in the past.

You can play along with our game on LiveOthello - and the other games too, if you're the kind of person who comes to this blog to read about people other than me. But if you're looking at mine, pay particular attention to my move 27 to d1, which removes Imre's access to practically everything - it's such a lovely move that even though I thought it would probably turn out to be very bad, I just had to play it.

And then my move 31 to e8, Ian and Guy commenting on the game there were pretty sure was wrong, and so was Imre after the game... but I really didn't want to play h2 simply because I felt it was very important to keep the white disc on g3. I was probably entirely wrong about that, but I thought it could only lead to a situation where Imre's playing e1 without flipping f2, and everything goes badly for me from there.

But anyway, it was a fun game! And at least it wasn't an outright massacre like our first game today (that one ended 56-8). After the semis (David won the other, maintaining his record of only losing to me and Imre this weekend), we went to the pub across the road for lunch, which for some reason they took hours to serve us, and came back to find the final already in progress. And a fascinating game it was, too - David looked well ahead, but let Imre back in to claim a 32-32 draw in the end. Which (and never let me mock Roy's insistence on having a rule for every unlikely eventuality again) meant that Imre, having won the round-robin, becomes the British Othello Champion, for I think the 14th time. 34 years after the first time, and 24 years after the last time there was a draw in the final. Historic!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Area 51

I'm currently in room 53 of the Red Lion hotel, in Salisbury. It's one of those strange hotels where the corridors are like a winding maze, with a door to a room here and there, but no apparent pattern or sense to the building layout. MC Escher would like it. The strange thing about this particular stretch of twisty-turny corridor is that the rooms go 49, 50, 52, 53... and I'm confused by the seeming total lack of a room 51. Is it hidden in some alternate alien dimension?

Anyway, the reason I'm so far away from my normal stamping-ground is that the Red Lion is also the venue of this year's British Othello Championship, and despite my having only played six games of othello, all of which I lost, in 2017 so far, I decided to come along and see how I got on. Which turned out surprisingly well.

We've got eight competitors, and since the nationals are supposed to be a nine-round tournament followed by a one-game final between the top two, it took a bit of debate and an Official Committee Vote (Roy's here) to agree that the format this year would be a seven-round all-play-all, followed by semi-finals and then a final.

So random pairings, no need for complicated Swiss-system calculations, and my first game was against Roy, who beat me twice at Cambridge the last time I ventured to an othello tournament. This time, though, it all went very well for me and I ended up with a comfortable win. Then I was up against David Hand, and somehow or other, after a really fascinating and exciting game, I came out the 33-31 winner. I think that's the first time I've beaten him.

I then beat Ken Stephenson without much difficulty, and then Bruce Kyte with a fair bit of difficulty and quite possibly coming very close to messing it up in the end. But they all count, and so now I'm on four wins out of four after day one!

Full scores go like this:
  1:   4 pts [171]   LEADER Imre (79) {GBR}
             [169]   PRIDMORE Ben (4019) {GBR}
  3:   3 pts [152]   BARRASS Iain (2047) {GBR}
             [151]   ARNOLD Roy (2006) {GBR}
  5:   2 pts [165]   HAND David (2357) {GBR}
  6:   0 pt   [87]   KYTE Bruce (2078) {GBR}
              [68]   DEXTER Helen (100002) {GBR}
              [61]   STEPHENSON Ken (2001) {GBR}


So, tomorrow I've got to play Imre, Iain and Helen, but even if I lose all three I think I'm safely in the semi-finals and achieving my top-half-of-the-table aim that I always set myself at these things. It's unexpected.

Bruce, incidentally, is an old-timer in the othello world, but not somebody I've ever met before. I met Imre outside the hotel and we came in together, which led Bruce to assume I'm Imre's brother. There's a resemblance, apparently, though I don't really see it myself. I do hope he was thinking 'younger brother', because I forget what the age gap between the two of us is, exactly, but it's quite significant.

After the tournament we went to the Haunch of Venison, one of the coolest pub-names I've ever heard, and then to Nando's, with the usual wide-ranging and weird subjects of conversation. Othello is great, I'm definitely going to play more in future!

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Supplements

It's really very hard to refrain from drinking cherry coke, you know. It's just so tempting. Maybe I should change tack and just try to persuade some reputable-sounding scientist to tell the newspapers that it's good for memory. I mean, I already know it is, but nobody believes me when I say so.

It's definitely better for you than omega 3, and to prove it, here's documentary evidence that Omega Three Planet was blown to smithereens ages ago, while Coca Cola Planet, to the best of my knowledge, is still fine and dandy.



Sunday, May 28, 2017

Birmingham gets Friendly

The Friendly Memory Championship happened in the scenic surroundings of the William Penn room in the Priory Rooms, Birmingham city centre. All the conference/meeting rooms in the very nice building are named after prominent Quakers, in honour of the place's original purpose. It turns out (from the plaque on the wall outside) that William Penn shared my birthday, so the whole thing could have been seen as some sort of gathering in tribute of our fellow October-14th twin, the late Roger Moore. If we'd thought of it at the time, anyway.

The room was the perfect size for a memory competition, and equipped with a big screen and projector for my snappy powerpoint displays. The George Fox room next door was hosting a gathering of Mensa members (always trouble, those lot), who were occasionally noisy, but apart from that it was an ideal venue! It's sort of tucked away out of sight of the main road, so we hung around outside to grab lost-looking memory people as they walked by.

We were a little short of competitors - two last-minute drop-outs on the grounds of having a cold and getting on the wrong train, because clearly it doesn't take much to put a memory competitor out of action - and might have had a championship with four entrants and three arbiters, but the imbalance was enough to convince Ian Fennell, quiz enthusiast who'd come along to help out, see how memory competitions and techniques work and maybe try his hand at a numbers discipline, to take part instead. So with myself and the ever-awesome Nick Papadopoulos running the show, we had a lineup of five - Ian and Marlo Knight from England, Gordon Cowell representing Scotland, Lars Christiansen all the way from Denmark and Silvio di Fabio all the way from Italy. International!

It all ran more or less smoothly - in the first discipline I somehow forgot the way I've always timed things (using my trusty stopwatch, starting it running at the start of the one minute preparation time and stopping it after the five-minute memory time when the stopwatch shows 6:00) and announced "ten seconds remaining" a minute too early. Marlo waved at me, I remembered, and added "And one minute." Hey, there have been worse timing blunders in bigger memory championships in the past. Everything else was clean and efficient, and we were able to stick to the tight schedule and finish on time at 5pm.











A good time was had by all - Marlo won in great style, Silvio beat his best overall score, Gordon demolished his best speed cards time, and there was the usual constant flow of memory-chatter that's always such a delight to host. Afterwards we went for a celebration drink in the Square Peg pub down the road (which is a weird TARDIS-like pub that goes on forever) and toasted the continual success of the Friendly Championship. I can see I'll have to keep on hosting it forever now, it was silly of me to suggest ever stopping it...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

I admit it

I didn't get round to describing what happened at the Cambridge regional othello tournament the other week, and I really should say something, because otherwise people will look it up on the internet and realise that I lost all my games and came last, and assume I'm deeply ashamed of the fact and trying to conceal it.

Actually, it was still fun - the competition was very nearly cancelled because nobody was going to attend, but I'd been umming and ahhing about whether or not to go, and finally had my mind tilted in the right direction when it turned out that Singaporean memory man Wellon Chou was in Cambridge that day as well, so we could have a drink and a chat in the evening if I went along to the othello. So I did, despite not having played a game for so long I could barely remember the basic rules of the game.

In the end, there were four of us there - Imre, Iain, Roy and me. And I didn't really play terribly badly, just not well enough to win any of the six games in the double round-robin. Adelaide joined us for the traditional pub lunch too, and a good time was had by all! I resolved to go along to the next regional as well, down south in Salisbury, but then forgot about it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Friendliness

This coming Saturday sees the twelfth (!!!) annual Friendly Memory Championship. I've been saying for years that I might stop doing them, because there are so many other memory championships around nowadays, but there's always a small minority of people out there who want the Friendly, and I hate to disappoint them. Even if only four or five people turn up, it's always a fun day for everyone, and always inspires at least someone to take up competitive memorising, so it can't be a waste of time and effort. I'll probably still be hosting the things fifty years from now...

Monday, May 22, 2017

Find your level

Here's the other memory thing I've been meaning to blog about for a while - Belts!

Or, to give it its official name, the New IAM Levels System. It looks like this:

What you can do is go to the site here and type in your best score in each memory discipline. For each one you get a number of points based on the highest level you've achieved, and your overall level is the average of the best ten of these - with at least one discipline having to come from each of the five groups (numbers/cards/names/words/miscellaneous).

The whole thing is just a proposal rather than an actual thing yet, but it's a very cool idea. It naturally leads (in my mind, at least) to coloured belts as in martial arts, with level 10 being the black belt and any levels above that being 'dan' rankings for the ultimate memorisers. There currently aren't any ultimate memorisers according to these tough standards - two black belts (Alex and Simon), and two brown (Johannes and Marwin), and a few people (like me, as above) on purple. It's genuinely very motivating to know that I could bump myself up to the next elite level by slightly improving my top scores in three disciplines!

The proposal also sticks with the "grandmaster" title, which I think is a mistake. It would be fine if not for the fact that there are HUNDREDS of people out there who have already qualified to call themselves a grand master of memory, by different rules, and so there's no way an "IAM Grandmaster" title could ever be meaningful to anybody. I think we should have actual physical coloured belts - imagine the photo opportunities! Local newspapers around the world would lap it up.

Admittedly, some people have said the Belt idea is "slightly corny", and admittedly the people who say this include the two black belts themselves, one of them being the current world champion and the other being the main person who decides things like this in the IAM, so it's just possible I won't get my actual purple belt... but come on, just imagine the coolness! They could be thin (inexpensive) coloured fabric belts with little metal clasps on each end, bearing the IAM logo. So desirable! I might have to make my own.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Cats cats cats

The German Memory League Championship is happening right now - you can watch the fun on the Memory League website! They've just had the surprise task of the quarter-finals - images, except all 30 images are cats! It's brilliant, you can see the memorisers struggled with remembering which cat came in which sequence (there are also a couple of people dressed as cats, one that's just the word "Katze", one picture of Cat Stevens, one of Katie Kermode...)

The whole Memory League thing is awesome, as I've mentioned before. We're also currently running frequent online competitions - there's a Swiss tournament going on at the moment between memory people of all levels and nationalities, and a "purge" competition where the aim is to get a certain score, increasing at each level, to avoid being eliminated. Coming up soon is a full-blown league structure, four divisions with all-play-all in a 'season', promotion and relegation, and a knockout competition in between each one. It's great!

There will also, we can only hope, be a second UK Memory League Championship, live and in person, later this year. This does depend on finding a location for it - I've insisted repeatedly that finding and talking to sponsors isn't something that's within my capabilities, but nobody else has come up with anything, so I suppose I'll just have to book a room somewhere and then see if the competitors are prepared to pay for it. It's more complicated than a pen-and-paper memory championship, because the whole thing falls down if the room doesn't have a rock-solid internet connection...

But in the pen-and-paper line, we have the Friendly Memory Championship next Saturday! It's at the Priory Rooms in Birmingham city centre, a nice building full of little meeting rooms (and a really cool big lecture-theatre style room too, which would be great for a more swanky kind of event) where the company I work for in my day job has its board meetings. Not that I go to board meetings, I'm not the director type, but I've been there once and really liked the look of the place. I'm currently printing out lots of papers and things - one day, you never know, memory competitions might move into the 21st century and be entirely on computer, just like the Memory League. It'll save a lot of trouble and expense, albeit at the cost of replacing it with a different, more up-to-date kind of trouble and expense. Progress!


Saturday, May 20, 2017

The state of British wrestling

You know, I really must write more on this blog. I'll try to keep up a daily ramble from now on - there's absolute tons of things happening in the memory world alone that I feel morally obliged to tell the world about.

But to start with, here's another subject in the "everybody who might plausibly be interested in what I say already knows all about it" category - TV wrestling, of the specifically British variety.

You may remember that at the new year, ITV put on a World of Sport wrestling special, of the family-friendly, Saturday-afternoon, mainstream type, immediately following which the WWE Network inaugurated a UK Championship title with a two-part special edition of the strictly-for-the-wrestling-fanatics type. Comparing the two was really quite fascinating. ITV, naturally, went for 'colourful and entertaining' to appeal to the mainstream audience of normal people, while the WWE emphasized 'technical skills' to excite the nerdy internet people who watch the WWE Network. [It's surprising how very, very nerdy wrestling fans on the internet are, incidentally - Star Trek forum contributors are ten times more macho and well-balanced]

Well, since then, both sides of the UK TV wrestling coin have been more or less in limbo. Tyler Bate has defended his newly-won title here and there - a couple of times on NXT, the WWE Network's 'development' show for wrestlers honing their craft before being introduced on the 'real' shows that appear on real TV; a couple more times at non-televised WWE events. Some more of the guys from the UK Championship special have shown up on NXT and the like once in a while, too. It's not been forgotten, but then it's not exactly been made a big deal of, either.

As for World of Sport, it's had problems. After announcing an alliance with Impact Wrestling, the distant-second-biggest US promotion, there was a special press conference on the internet, in which some of the wrestlers from the new year special stood on the stage and got rounds of applause, followed by a little bit of squabbling and chaos, which promised well for the future - a new 10-part series would be filmed in May, with a regular weekly show expected to follow.

There was a slight hint of not everything having been agreed - Dave Mastiff featured on the poster, but wasn't seen or mentioned in the YouTube video, with Sha Samuels being positioned as 'main baddie'. The awesome Grado, though, was still there as the main attraction, and he's really good. Give him a weekly series and he'll be Big Daddy levels of popularity, no problem. The others who showed up were Zack Gibson (placed with the goodies, though he was a bad guy on the new year special), Viper, Kenny Williams, El Ligero, Johnny Moss, Ashton Smith and Rampage Brown, plus new guy Magnus as the square-jawed-hero type I said at the time was strangely missing from the new year special. It looked like being a lot of fun!

And then it was abruptly cancelled, "as a result of contract negotiations". The internet seems to think that the problem is between ITV and Impact, rather than the wrestlers themselves, which makes you wonder why they need Impact in the first place - surely it's within ITV's budget to pay for a dozen or so wrestlers, a half-decent scriptwriter and a ring in a studio? Oh well.

But WWE, on the other hand, have just done another "UK Championship Special" on the network last night - smaller in scale than before, but as a build-up to a title match on tonight's big live "NXT Takeover" special. That's the most prominent the UK Championship title has been, maybe it'll lead to an ongoing series eventually...

It was pretty good, though some of the technical details didn't seem to be quite right - there was one cameraman just outside the ring who was really terrible, and for the first match the crowd was almost inaudible, so it didn't feel like a big event. Still, good fun all round - we started out with Wolfgang beating Joseph Conners in a doesn't-count-for-anything match; Wolfgang is still really, really good and deserves to be the main event, probably at some point when someone else is the reigning champion. Then, strangely, Dan Moloney joins up with three Americans from the WWE's cruiserweight division for a tag team match, Moloney and Rich Swann against TJP and The Brian Kendrick. He seemed out of place.

The main events were rather predictable, but well done - Pete Dunne beat Trent Seven in a match to determine who would be the challenger in the NXT Takeover title match, and the more I see Pete Dunne the more impressed I am with him. He's a great villain! Then there was a title match to finish it off, between Tyler Bate (rather unwisely having changed his cool and distinctive previous appearance to a beard and floppy fringe) and Mark Andrews (who already has a beard and floppy fringe). Not so much high-flying and agility from Mark Andrews this time round, it was a bit disappointing. There was never any doubt that Tyler would win, but that doesn't excuse putting on a match that looks like they know they're going through the motions...

Still, it's all entertaining, and now I'm cheering for Pete Dunne to win the title and go on to headline a new series. And fingers crossed, maybe we'll still get a World of Sport series too!

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Cambridge beckons

I haven't played othello for longer than I can remember (my memory isn't very good), but I'm going to Cambridge to play it this weekend. I really should get back in practice, at that and all kinds of other games, in preparation for the MSO...

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Mens sana in Men's Health

I'm just the perfect example of a healthy man, obviously - the American version of Men's Health magazine are writing an article about memory techniques, and I've just had a quick chat with the writer. Following fast on the heels of the bit about me in the British version of the franchise eight years ago, it's obvious that I'm the number one go-to guy for all men's health issues now.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Families are an expensive business

The excellent website findmypast.co.uk has made 1939 register details available, and even though you have to pay them a staggeringly huge amount of money to see them, it's very tempting to check up on the family. The Pridmores of Sheffield are somewhat reduced from the way they were in 1911 - within ten years of that census my great-grandmother and six of her ten children had died, and great-grandfather William had also passed away by 1939. But on the other hand, they'd all had hordes of children themselves, so there are plenty of relatives to check up on...

The family home of 34 Hunt Street was quite full in 1939, it seems:
Oswald, who'd never moved out of his parents' house, was now joined by his widowed sister Lilian, Lilian's daughter Florence, and James Palmer, the son of Oswald and Lilian's late sister Florence. And one other person who must have been born less than 100 years ago and hasn't yet been identified as deceased - living people aren't shown on the records. Since the 'officially closed' record comes in between the Mays and the oldest Palmer child, I'm guessing it must have been one of Lilian's two younger daughters.

Oswald and James are builders' labourers, Florence has that classic Sheffield occupation of spoon and fork glazer, Lilian has "unpaid domestic duties", which was the strangely fancy phrase for "housewife" used throughout the register. Just down the road at number 28 are a John and Florence Askham - Oswald married Annie Askham in 1944, I assume she was a relative.

See all the fascinating details you can find? I'm doing my best to resist the impulse to pay them £120 for full access to the records...

Monday, April 24, 2017

Cold turkey

Actually, I haven't got any cold turkey. I've got some cold pork if you want, it's really nice. I've got in the habit of cooking a Sunday roast and putting the leftovers in sandwiches for a packed lunch the next week - I'm very domesticated now, it must be because I'm getting old.

But the point is, I haven't drunk anything but water for the last two weeks - or maybe three weeks, I've lost count. Cherry-coke-withdrawal does strange things to my brain, but I think I've just about got over it now. I'm sure I'll get hooked again eventually, but it's nice to be able to look down on smoking or other vices without having to admit I'm drinking roughly three litres of the stuff every day.

And hey, have you seen that they're making a new full series of World Of Sport Wrestling? I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Memory World

Competitions continue to happen around the globe - since I last mentioned them, we've had the North German championship beziehungsweise* championships (a regional-format, seven-discipline thing with the other optional three disciplines the day before to make it into a national-standard open championship; there were also junior and kids' competitions, so really it was a whole lot of championships all merged into one). The winner of the one that counts was Simon, in another of those pitched battles between him and Hannes.

There was a fiercely-contested Mongolian championship, won by Lkhagvadulam Enkhtuya ahead of the two Narmandakhs - Germany and Mongolia have entirely dominated the year of memory competitions so far (Shijir-Erdene Bat-Enkh, now living in America, won a typically American non-standard competition as well), with the American, Swedish and British contingent presumably biding their time to burst onto the scene...

Next month, though after the excitement of the Tokyo Friendly Championship, we move away from the national-standard format and into the exciting realms of Memory League! There will (hopefully) be Scandinavian and German ML competitions, along the lines of the UK pilot episode last November, taking place in May, and I can't wait to see what happens!

Then at the end of May, I invite everyone to come and enjoy the twelfth (!) annual Friendly Memory Championship in its new home in Birmingham! It'll be great, I assure you!

We will also (very hopefully) have our own UK Memory League Championship again in November; with any luck, I'll be able to share details of it shortly, but this does rather depend on somebody (anybody) else arranging a venue and talking to people about it. We'll see what happens...


*It's a German word that means something along the lines of 'or as the case may be...'. There isn't really an English equivalent, but Germans say it all the time in sentences like that.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Mind Sports Olympiad 2017!

You can now register for the MSO - the timetable is here!

I really recommend going along to this, it's always a lot of fun. Take your pick from a week's worth of mind games, try something new or something you haven't played for years! Here's what I'm probably doing...

The first two days, Sunday and Monday, August 21-22, we have the European Memory Championship (open to everybody around the whole world, we already have confirmed competitors from Asia, North and South America and I bet we can complete the set by luring some Africans and Australians into the mix as well; the MSO traditionally likes everything to be a world championship, but it'd be a bit silly to keep the title "Memory World Cup" going when there's going to be two other world memory championships elsewhere in the world this year..).

This is an international-standard event, split into three "modules" that MSO all-rounders can pick and choose from as they please, but with the total scores added up in the usual way. So Sunday gives us our three half-hour marathons - numbers, cards and binary, 30 minutes to memorise, 60 minutes to recall. This starts at 10am and finishes safely before 6pm, so you can do one of the evening sessions in another sport if you like.

Day two, Monday, is split into two sections - the morning session (10:00am to 1:45pm) is "natural memory", with 15-minute names, 15-minute words, and 5-minute images. This is the kind of thing a newcomer could walk in off the street without knowing the first thing about memory techniques and still do well in.

The afternoon section is the miscellany of speed disciplines - 5-minute numbers, 5-minute dates, spoken numbers and speed cards. A little mini-championship in its own right of the fastest disciplines you can find in a big international competition like this!

Entry fee is £15 for the marathon memory, £10 for each of the others, making £35 in total for the "European Championship". Or you can pay £120 for a whole-week ticket and play in as many MSO events as you like. You should!


Okay, what shall I do for the rest of the week? In the evening session on Sunday there's the always-entertaining daily poker tournament, and this one is everybody's favourite, Texas hold'em. It's a great way to end the day! But we also have the othello championship that night - 15-minute games, an MSO tradition - so I think I'll do that.

Monday evening gives us London lowball, which I think I somehow won a medal in the last time I played, but there's also the mental calculation blitz, which might be a lot of fun. It's way too long since I did mental calculations!

Tuesday, with the memory out of the way, I can start playing games for the rest of the week. Let's see.. there's acquire, a very fun game, in the morning/afternoon double session, or else I could play the morning session at quoridor (I wasn't very good at that one the one time I've tried it before) or the big mental calculation championship, then in the afternoon session play continuo (always a good way to spend an afternoon). In the evening it's Omaha in the poker, or the really great new game blokus, or the really great old game backgammon (the no-doubling-die version,so outrageously lucky rolls of the dice can make all the difference), which is a tricky choice.

Wednesday there's that MSO favourite the decamentathlon in the morning, I think I'll have to do that. If you're new to the MSO experience, it consists of written puzzles in ten different mind sports events - brilliant stuff. The afternoon gives us mastermind, I've always liked that game. The evening gives us five-card draw poker, or else another MSO favourite, oware.

Thursday is all double-sessions in the daytime - I think I might do monopoly, I've always said I'd like to do that at the MSO but never actually played it there before! Pineapple hold'em in the evening is a must.

Friday I think the pick of the bunch is the double-session lines of action, a really cool game that stretches your brain in unusual ways. I'm no good at it, but I like to play anyway. Alternatively, there's cribbage singles in the morning and doubles in the afternoon if I can find a partner. No evening session on Fridays, or anything at all on Saturdays - the venue is a Jewish community centre and they're big on observing the shabbat.

So we resume on Sunday 28th, with maybe a day of rapidplay chess, or more likely (since I'm still hopeless at chess and need to maintain everyone's vague impression that it's something I'd obviously be good at) a morning session of kenken and sudoku puzzles! Followed by either Chinese chess (I do like that game, though I haven't played for a good few years now) or else the traditional brilliance of the creative thinking world championship. In the evening we have seven-card stud, or maybe twixt (it's a good game) or I could get all nostalgic about my schooldays and play exchange chess...

And the last day, bank holiday Monday, there's a new-to-the-MSO Countdown event that I think I'll have to enter. I always wanted to be on Countdown...


So that's the week-and-a-bit of the MSO! See you there!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Memory world news

I need to post a whole lot of important information on this blog. I'll do it over the Easter weekend. But I said I'd say this tonight - if you want to play a Memory League competition in a scenic location against the world's best, please consider joining the Scandinavian Memory League Open on May 13-14 in Gothenburg! In the same format as the wonderful event here in London last November, but they're struggling to fill the places with 12 Scandinavians, so have thrown it open to the world!

I'd really like to go, and I'm trying to resist the temptation, because I'm really trying not to spend all my money right now...

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Oh for crying out loud

I just spent absolutely ages, maybe as much as 20 minutes, searching around the internet trying to remember which student hall of residence I stayed in the last time I spent a week at the MSO in London - I didn't see fit to mention the name on my blog and searching the usual websites didn't come up with anything just down the road from JW3 as I knew this place was. I finally identified that I'd booked it in 2014, searched through my emails and found that it was Hampstead Residence, belonging to King's College - but it turns out they've sold it now and it's not available to rent a room in the summer any more. Now I'll have to book somewhere else.

Assuming I get round to it, I'll detail where I'm staying in another blog entry, along with the extensive preview of the MSO I'm going to write any day now. Promise.

Monday, March 13, 2017

French memories

That was a fun competition! The scores are online here and more-or-less accurate - it was an exciting battle all the way through between Simon and Johannes, with me a fairly distant third but still producing the kind of decent results I was entirely happy with, considering how very long it is since I even sat down with a real pack of cards or a piece of paper to memorise. And our gallant band of French memorisers all put in great performances, particularly Sylvain Estadieu - he's going to be a force to be reckoned with before long, I'm sure.

I'll see if I can get into some kind of regular training and start competing again - this one has achieved its aim of getting me in the memory mood, I think (old-fashioned memory, that is; I've been in the Memory League mood for months). The only problem is that the only memory championships in this country are run by me nowadays, and travelling to other places costs all that money I'm trying not to spend right now...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Other important things about the competition

The lift up to the competition room (on the first floor of the Espace Moncassin) doesn't go 'ding' like normal lifts, it plays a tone of exactly the same pitch and length of the first note of Sloop John B by the Beach Boys. So that's my mental soundtrack to the championship.

Also, I can confirm that there is such a thing as the Eiffel Tower - I saw it with my own eyes last night. It lights up after dark, too!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

D*ff

The most important thing I learned today - on the French dubbed version of the Simpsons, the Duff beer logo is blurred out, because it's an actual real beer now, and so contravenes product placement laws, even in episodes made when it was just a fictional thing. That's weird.

Anyway, there has also been the first day of the French Open Memory Championship! The one in 2008 attracted only two French competitors, a French-only competition in 2015 drew in eight, but this year's event breaks all the records - nineteen entrants in total, 13 of them French! That's enough for a national Memory League event!

It's the first old-fashioned memory championship I've competed in since the UK Championship in August 2015, and my complete and total lack of training shows, but it's still been fun! All the new French competitors have identical dark hair, glasses and beards, so I'm not at all to blame for not remembering who's who, but it's a two-day competition so I'm sure by the end of the day tomorrow I'll be familiar with them all.

I'll write a full report just as soon as I can get round to it - meanwhile, I've got a French dub of the Simpsons to distract me - most characters' voices are imitations of the American originals, but for some reason Krusty is totally different; he's got a sort of deep, booming voice. Foreign countries are strange and different.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

And the whole world loves it when you're in the news

News websites the world over are running memory-related stories today! It's fair to say that 99% of them have latched onto a soundbite that "scientists have said something about memory" and used it as an excuse to fill a column with the usual blurb about the subject (here's the BBC's typical example), but there is some genuine Science behind this one - Boris and his gang's investigation into the brains of memory competitors, including me. Here's the actual science-stuff. I don't understand a word of it, but it scores points for not being illustrated by a picture of Basil Rathbone. Or some other thicko.

Friday, February 24, 2017

And speaking of memory

When I booked my flights and hotel tonight, I booked them all for next weekend instead of the weekend after, had to cancel everything and start again, and thought "I'll write something witty about that on my blog when I write about going to this competition..." And then I forgot to mention it. They shouldn't let people with terrible memories go to memory championships, it's a disgrace.

I love Paris in the springtime!

I haven't really mentioned it before, but 2017 for me is dedicated to living economically and paying off the vast debt I accumulated over the course of my last "career break", as I call those times when I spend a year and a half not bothering to work for a living. Because it took me longer than I expected to get back into a proper job that pays me decent money, I've ended up with a lot to work off before I can get back to financial liberty and not need to work any more. But now I'm working for an undeservedly high salary and living in a perfectly nice cheap bedsit down the road from the office, I'm in a position of earning much more than I spend, allowing me to devote huge sums of money every month to paying off my credit cards and loans and things.

And because I really have been good about not spending money to excess just lately, I've decided to reward myself by spending money to excess, and going to Paris in a fortnight's time for the French Memory Open 2017! Blog-readers with good memories (I'm sure there must be some of you who fall into that category) may recall that the first ever memory competition in France happened in 2008, and I was there. Now, nine years later, there's another open championship in that much-neglected-memorywise country, and I'll be there again, along with the cream of European (and American) memory talent!

I've done no training, of course, except for a whole lot of Memory League rapid-fire stuff, but this is deliberate, in a way. Going to a competition, as I've said before, is the best way to get me in the mood to practice for the next competition!

I really must try to see the Eiffel Tower this time. I've been to Paris something like four times before, and never actually seen the thing. For all I know, it doesn't really exist, but since everybody asks me if I've seen it every time I come back home, I ought to make the effort this time round.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Memory sports 2017 is go!

Yes, this year's memory competition season is in full Korea (career), with the weekend's competition in Seoul now completed, and Johannes Mallow the champion - it was a thrilling event, he fought off not just his usual arch-rival Simon Reinhard, but the latest threat to emerge from Ulaanbataar, the sisters Munkhshur and Enkhshur Narmandakh. Six people did a pack of cards under 30 seconds!

I wrote a full account of it, or as full as can be done by reading the scores and everyone's Facebook and Twitter posts, which might appear on memory-sports.com at some point in the future. Check it out, I promise it won't contain any terrible puns like the one I started this blog entry with.

Monday, February 13, 2017

I could be the Middle-Aged Memory Master!

An update from the upcoming Korean Memory Championship made me giggle...

"Announcement about Awards and prize.
2017 KOMC have announced that the competition would have 6 categories of age groups.
But we revised a couple of days ago.
To sum up, we concluded that the competition will have 5 categories with binding two junior parts (middle school + high school juniors)
So we have
1. Kids (- 12)
2. Juniors (13-17)
3. Adults (18-39)
4. Adults (40-59)
5. Seniors (60- )
In fact, this action occurred due to the mistaken knowledge of the international age.
As a korean, People think of themselves as adults at the age of 19.
Therefore, a high school student, who is 18 years old, does not think that anyone is an adult in Korea.
However, some countries, not Korea, recognize it as adults from the age of 18.
And as we will have an open memory championships for international competitors, we have to apply age system according to global common sense.
As you know, in last memory competitions, we applied age system like below:
1. Kids (- 12)
2. Juniors (13-17)
3. Adults (18-59)
4. Seniors (60- )
We, organizers thought that it was very unfair to compete between 18 and 59.
So we split the division as young adults and middle ages adults.
Also, we wanted to split Juniors into 2 parts, middle school's and high school's.
When it happened, we concluded that the match just between the ages of 16 and 17 was not reasonable.
And it could be confusing for foreign competitors who have joined to other competitions before.
We have 5 age categories in this competition with dividing the adults category.
(The Junior section is still likely to need discussion forward)
It will be applied to events awards also.
(Gold, Silver, Bronze medals in every events in every age categories)
Your age will be counted as this year minus year of the birth like other memory competitions.
Sorry for confusion and thanks for your participation!
Thanks.
Gyewon Jeong,
Organizer of Korea Open Memory Championship."

I'm still as firmly opposed as ever to the silliness of awarding prizes in memory competitions based on age, gender, nationality and so forth - to my mind, the single biggest selling point of these championships is that everybody competes on equal terms! I think it makes the whole thing just laughable when there's a million different gold medals to be handed out at the end of the day.

But... I'm 40 now. The really good memory people at these competitions are, by and large, still under 40. This would be the perfect time to compete somewhere that gives prizes for these age groups, and then make myself a set of business cards proclaiming myself to be the Middle Aged Memory Champion! I need to do that, and fast, before all my 30-something rivals catch up with me.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Novel ideas

I woke up this morning from an excessively-detailed dream about reading a book with such an extremely cool final plot twist that I might just have to write it myself. It was a bit vague about details such as the basic plot or setting, so maybe I'll wait and see if I dream those as well before I get to work...

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Organised crime is looking for me

LinkedIn have jumped on the bandwagon of sending me stupid emails - today's has the subject line "Ben: National Crime Agency (NCA), UPS, and British Airways are looking for candidates like you.", and it lists jobs that LinkedIn thinks I'm suitable for, based entirely on the words 'finance' and 'analyst' being in the job description.

Second on the list (after an Executive Director of Finance in County Durham, which is the kind of job for rich people who know nothing about finance but have 'connections', so I don't think I'd qualify on any of the criteria) comes the intriguing-sounding Crime Analyst / Assistant Crime Analyst, with the National Crime Agency in Bristol.

Now, I've never heard of the National Crime Agency, and since I know they can't be the people who prevent or investigate crimes (because I've heard of the people who do that, and they're called 'the police'), I can only assume they're a national agency devoted to committing crimes. A Crime Analyst must be the person who analyses banks and jewellery stores to see how easy it would be to rob them (and an Assistant Crime Analyst must be the person who carries the Crime Analyst's briefcase so his arms don't get tired). I think I'll apply, it sounds like a good career move.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Baaaaaa!

Just to continue the sporty theme that this blog has developed lately, Federer beats Nadal in the final of the Australian Open? Just as if it was 2004 again? [Okay, technically he beat Marat Safin in the final that year, but I don't intend to let statistics stand in my way. Point is, Federer won in 2004 and again in 2017.] Clearly there's hope for me to come back and win the World Memory Championship in 2017! Assuming somebody organises a World Memory Championship in 2017, obviously, which doesn't seem exactly certain to happen at the moment...

But still, if Federer and Nadal are injury-free and match-fit, this is going to be a great year for tennis, isn't it! That pair, Djokovic and Murray, new bugs like Dimitrov... exciting prospect! And then there's the question of the greatest player of all time, of course. Or, as is trending on Twitter (because old-fashioned blogs that ramble on for pages and pages before they get to the punchline just aren't cool any more, you have to make your point in 140 characters or fewer, so you have to invent acronyms), the GOAT. Complete with emoji of a goat. The official consensus of the internet is that Federer is the goat, but all I can think when I see that is how reassuring this new term must be to good ol' Charlie Brown...

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Up For The Cup

Back in ancient times, when I was at primary school, you could get a special FA Cup poster magazine, that opened out into a giant poster where you could fill in the results of all the FA Cup games, from the third round all the way to the final. It came with little rectangular stickers with the badge and name of each club. Hey, there was no internet then, you had to find something to do with your time. The cool thing was that there were enough stickers for the top division clubs to get to the final, but only enough for the fourth division as it was then to get to round 4. And after the first year, they didn't do stickers for the non-league clubs at all, so if anybody got unusually far in the competition, you had to use a lot of the blank stickers that came with the chart for just that purpose.

This made it extra-special when Telford United got to the fifth round in 1985 - you can cheer especially hard for a blank-sticker team; it just emphasized how much they'd surpassed expectations! And now Lincoln City have done the same thing, so I think they deserve extra commendation, especially since a lot of the people I was at primary school with were Lincoln supporters. In those days they were the closest we had to a local team who were in the league. Come on you imps!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Good game, good game

It looked like Leicester were going to walk all over Derby at the start, when the Derby defenders somehow contrived to put the ball in their own net under no pressure at all, but then they came back strongly for a well-deserved 2-1 lead at half-time, only to concede an equaliser at the end when they'd got tired. Fair result, and great atmosphere in the stadium, despite the rain!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Football aggro

I've been feeling run down this week, and decided I needed a change of scene at the weekend, just to wake myself up a bit. So I had a look around the internet for a cheap hotel somewhere in the Nottingham kind of area for Friday and Saturday nights, and after considering the B&B right next to the place I used to live in Beeston (but rejecting it because it doesn't have wifi access, which is sort of indispensable in this day and age), I checked out the Travelodge website and found that their cheapest hotel in the east midlands was the one on Pride Park. Ooh, that's a good place to visit, I thought - next to the train station, I can see the sights of Derby and Nottingham and maybe Beeston too at the weekend! So I booked a room there for the two nights, nice and cheap too.

Then shortly afterwards I got an email from Derby County football club (who send me emails now and then, I'm never sure exactly why) with pre-match information for the big Friday night FA Cup game against Leicester! Wait, I thought, have I really just booked a hotel across the road from the Pride Park stadium on the night of a big local derby? How does the Travelodge still have rooms available? Are all the Leicester fans going home after the game? I know it's not far, but I would have expected a fair few of them to book rooms at the hotel and stick around after the game for a drink and a fight with the Derby fans.

Oh well, since I'm there now, what else could I do but buy a ticket for the match myself? My subconscious mind obviously remembered that the game was happening on Friday night, even if the rest of my brain didn't. So I'll be there, in the Derby section, if you want to watch out for me on the telly. And if there's a riot and the stadium or the Travelodge get demolished, well, it was nice knowing you.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Images images everywhere!

The IAM have come up with a new discipline to replace images - it's "images", only these ones are pictures of things!

5-minute Images

This will consist of colourful pictures and symbols.
We have decided to use a large, open database of images, which will be continually expanded. The most current version of the database (January 18, 2017; 2,315 images), split into two parts, is available for download on Facebook in the Files section of the IAM group (www.facebook.com/groups/1753538928199295/) and the World Memory Championships group (www.facebook.com/groups/123077091106550/). We will also soon provide further download sources.
In a competition, there will be 5 minutes to memorise the images, which are presented in rows of 5. For recall, which will be 15 min, each row will be shuffled and competitors will attempt to write down the correct sequence number (1–5) for each image. 5 points for each correct row, penalty of -1 for each wrong row.
Right now there are 10 training sets available on the IAM stats homepage at


for you to download, print and try out. There are also marking sets to allow you to get your score easier. More training sets will follow.
We have decided to offer two different rule sets and let you determine which you like best:
1. Sets 1–5 have 250 Images and time-based rules (250 = 1,000 pts / if and only if all 250 are correct, the time counts: if time is under 5 mins, score is then 1,000 * 300s / time in s). You will need a timer for this.
2. Sets 6-10 have 350 Images and amount-based rules (250 = 1,000 pts; score is 1,000 * raw score / 250).
We want to get an idea of which rule set works best and if the standard holds up to practice, so we would be very interested to get your feedback on this discipline on as many things as possible (regarding the standard, if the recall time is too short, in particular for the 350 sets, etc...) and would love to hear your training scores!



Certainly better than "abstract images" (where all you actually have to do is pre-memorise the very limited number of background patterns), in that it's not something that people can adapt a system to as easily, but logistically it's maybe got a few problems - can the united forces of memorisers around the world provide enough clipart-style images to use? The database needs to be at least ten times as big as it it now, really, just for starters...

Still, as long as there's always the knowledge that images in any given competition could be things you've never seen before, it works. I'll do some practice at the weekend and see how it goes - I decided to focus on Memory League in January and use that to transition into old-fashioned memory practice afterwards, and I'm still more or less on track there. We have competitions coming up in Korea in February, which I can't really justify the expense of going to, and France in March, which seems a lot more doable, then Germany in March-April (two-day tournament straddling the two months) which I really will make the effort to attend!

I can't even remember the last time I went to a memory competition in Germany. I used to be over there a couple of times a year...

Sunday, January 15, 2017

One last bit of wrestling

At the risk of having my wrestling-prediction skills proved to be rubbish, after the quarter finals, it's pretty obviously going to be Tyler Bate to win the tournament, beating Pete Dunne in the final. But it's nice to see my three favourites going through to the semis, and Pete Dunne deserves an honourable mention too, he's a good performer and a great villain!

I should probably wait till it ends before summarising it, but there's been enough action in the first three hours to keep anyone happy - give these guys a weekly show and I'll refrain from cancelling my WWE Network subscription!

Right, next week, this blog goes back to memory sports and comics and more nerdy things again...

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A quick rundown

Well, the first round tonight was quite fun. Eight similar matches in a row is probably too much, but they did save the best one till last, so it didn't drag that much.

Tyler Bate is the great character of the bunch, he plays to the crowd in a way that would be really annoying if you're the opponent who has to lose to him, except that he really performs well too and does come across as a really good wrestler. Very athletic, a lot of fun, and that moustache, I love it! He was up against Tucker, who's also very good - one of the couple of people it's a shame we won't be seeing again tomorrow.

The other was Saxon Huxley, who's got the best personality and would do well in the WWE kind of storylines (no stories here tonight, just wrestling), so I hope they get him onto that kind of show in the future. The crowd had great fun with him tonight, calling him Jesus. I laughed.

Wolfgang gets my prize for best wrestler of the night. He's a big man by the standards of this crew (no giants here, it's a pretty shrimpy cast for the most part), but wonderfully athletic and energetic. He talks well, too, he deserves to be a big star.

Mark Andrews might be the best talker of the bunch - some of them sounded horribly stilted and scripted, but Andrews comes across a lot more natural (though the proud Welshman thing would sound better from someone with a Welsh accent...). He also bounces around the ring amazingly well!

Those five are the ones I'd gladly transplant onto the main WWE shows if I was in charge of this kind of thing. Or else set up a regular British series built around them. But let's see what happens tomorrow...

This is now a full-blown wrestling blog

If I'm not careful, I'm going to turn into one of those people on the internet who tell you at every opportunity how great Daniel Bryan was in the indies and use obscure wrestling jargon that only they understand. I'll try not to. But it's the WWE United Kingdom Championship tonight! Another special edition featuring 16 of the UK's (and Ireland's) top wrestlers, hot on the heels of the World Of Sport new year special. It's on the WWE network, which I pay £9.99 a month for and very rarely watch - I really should get round to cancelling my subscription, but while I've still got it, let's have a look at all the fun!

I don't think it's really appropriate to compare the two as if they were rival promotions, because I think these guys are all friends and intermingle freely at live events. But it's probably fun anyway, so here we go. World of Sport was a mainstream ITV production, so the target audience is obviously people who don't routinely watch wrestling, but maybe remember or have heard of the old days when it was a regular feature of Saturday evening telly in the seventies. The WWE championship is on the WWE Network, the internet service for people who don't get enough wrestling from the weekly shows on satellite TV and need even more supporting material. It's a smaller but much more intense audience.

World of Sport had a really cool promotional poster and a colourful set of individual pictures, while the WWE's promotional video mainly featured the group gathering on stage in identical suits, and the individual pictures on the website are all a lot more uniform...



Quite a few of the WWE crowd put across a lot of personality in those headshots though - Tyler Bate's old-fashioned moustache is awesome, Tyson T-Bone wins the prize for most distinctive appearance, Pete Dunne's nervous grin is brilliant and Roy Johnson's friendly smile is a nice contrast to all the other grim faces.

While the WOS special tried to cover the whole spread of different types of bout (four singles matches, one ladder match, one tag match, one battle royale) with an interweaving storyline, the WWE event is a straight knockout tournament of singles fights - so 15 matches in total, spread across two live nights. Unless, of course, there are some surprises in store... I'm curious to see how it'll be scheduled, because if they do the first round on Saturday and the rest on Sunday, that'll mean the finalists have to fight three times on one night, which I don't think wrestlers really like to do (Grado did it on WOS, but one of them was the battle royale and he was able to spend most of it lying in the corner of the ring while other people battled around him). So we'll just have to see what they come up with. I'll write an in-depth review, or maybe even two!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Wrestling, it's like buses

I see the WWE are launching themselves into the UK wrestling market this weekend, just a fortnight after the World of Sport special, with an all-new UK Championship special featuring sixteen wrestlers from the UK or nearby (one of them's from Dublin, but hey, Americans don't know the difference). I've still got a WWE network subscription despite my "I don't watch live TV any more" nonsense, so I'll watch it and blog about it on Saturday or Sunday night, or both. This is turning into some kind of wrestling blog, so I'll try to swerve it back in the direction of memory or something after that...

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Easy come, easy go

I'll never make a professional gambler. I thought about cashing out that bet when Cambridge were 1-0 up at half-time, and spending the winnings on something else, but I decided not to bother in the end, and Leeds went on to win 2-1.

Monday, January 09, 2017

The road to ruin

I got an email from William Hill this afternoon, saying that since I haven't used my account for 13 months, they're going to start charging an inactive account fee on my balance. It was news to me that I've got a balance, but I checked it, and sure enough, there was £2.25 in there!

I can't remember where it would have come from - I'm not above occasionally betting on the football, but I normally use Coral. I do remember using the William Hill account once or twice, so I know it must be a real thing, but how did I not notice I'd left £2.25 on there?

Well, there's not much football tonight to bet it on, so I've put the lot on Cambridge to beat Leeds, at 10/3. Big money, here we come.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

The Grand Final

Here's some trivia for you - the world of social media thinks it's National Trivia Day today. The internet is full of these national days (I suppose they at least give people something to talk about in their blogs, unimaginative dolts that they all are), but never say what nation it is. I mean, I always assume it's America and so nothing to do with me, but you never know. Maybe it's that glorious nation that is the Internet.

Anyway, Simon Reinhard and Jan-Hendrik B├╝scher are contesting the grand final of the first Memory League Online Knockout tonight, and it's sure to be an exciting event! The technology doesn't yet exist to let people watch it at home (I can't think how they'd go about making that work without taking the competitors' word for it that they won't cheat...) but it's still been a lot of fun to watch the results. Jan knocked me out in the first round, so the further he gets in the competition, the less bad it makes me look, and consequently I'm cheering for him tonight. But Simon's the hot favourite as always, and having beaten the hot second-favourite, Katie, in the semis, he's looking unstoppable.

The point is, though, I'm still loving the Memory League, and keen to improve my own ranking (number 11 on the leaderboard right now), which can really only be done by fixing my longstanding black spot with names and faces - it's like I'm starting with a handicap of 20% of the available points if I don't learn how to do the things... it's really high time we found out whether an old dog like me can learn some new tricks.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Groggy groggy groggy

Getting up and going to work in the morning after eleven days of idleness is really bad for you. I'm just going to go to bed now. Tomorrow, wide awake again and refreshed, I'll talk some more about the Memory League!

Monday, January 02, 2017

It's finished, Jaga

Thirty years ago today, January 2nd, 1987, the BBC broadcast the first episode of Thundercats. Actually, they broadcast the first two episodes, edited together into one 40-minute story. And it was so good!

Britain lagged strangely behind America when it came to Thundercats - the other big toy ranges of the time, Transformers and He-Man came out more or less simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic, but at the start of 1987 the first Thundercats toys had only recently appeared on the toystore shelves, while America was almost getting bored with them by now. The second range of toys showed up over here a couple of months into 1987, and the third the following year.

The cartoon, though, was something else. Definitely a cut above the other toy-commercial cartoons we all loved back then (at the age of ten, they were pretty much the only things I watched on TV). He-Man used the Hanna-Barbera style of very limited animation, Transformers was also made on the cheap, but this time by taking the attitude of "it's only a kids' show, it doesn't matter if we draw the wrong robot now and then or colour them in wrong...". Thundercats is much more professional and well-made. And the scripts were fantastic, too, and the voice acting!

Couple that with the weather that winter - the heaviest snow I've ever seen combined with the layout of our back garden to give us six-foot snowdrifts to play in - and you've got the perfect childhood experience! Thundercats Hooooooooo!

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Big Daddy

It's a new year, and there's sure to be something to blog about every day, right? I haven't deluged the internet with my long-winded thoughts nearly enough these last couple of years.

So let's start by talking about World of Sport Wrestling, the one-off special from last night! As I've mentioned before, I quite like watching American wrestling now and then (although I've gone off WWE since they sacked Damien Sandow...), but the old British World of Sport was before my time - according to the internet it ended in 1985, when I was eight, but I don't recall ever really watching it. I knew Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks, because they were household names, but that was as far as it went.

This new series (because they obviously want to sell it as a regular series, which would be awesome) is entirely modern in tone (looking very much like the WWE but in a slightly smaller-scale way), just interspersed with a few old clips of the original series and reminiscences from minor wrestlers who are still alive and remember it. It was really really good! I was pleasantly surprised, and now I want to see more! It's available on ITV player for the next 30 days, I'd recommend that you check it out. With that in mind, I won't spoil the results (although if you've ever watched any wrestling before, or even heard of the concept, you can probably guess the plotline and winners), just a few thoughts about the wrestlers and the show...

Dave Mastiff is definitely the biggest star, in every way. Amazing physique (how do you pin the shoulders of someone who hasn't got any, the commentator wonders - he's basically a ball), great moves and agility for someone shaped like that, great personality. Everyone loves the bad guy, although the crowd were very obedient in cheering the goodies and booing the baddies. He's not that great an actor, but all he needs to do is look fierce, and he does that really well!

Grado, the plucky underdog hero, is a great actor as well as a great wrestler, so you can see why he got the main hero role. He's very loveable.

Johnny Moss and Sha Samuels are Mastiff's evil henchmen, and they play the part well, especially Samuels, who's got a brilliant costume and personality. We definitely need to see more of him.

The smaller guys - Kenny Williams, Sam Bailey, CJ Banks and Delicious Danny - had the misfortune to be put in a ladder match, something that really never works in wrestling (the winner is the first one to climb up a ladder and grab the prize dangling above the ring - in practice that means a lot of silly scenes of a wrestler very slowly climbing up, looking over his shoulder to make sure the opponent who's supposed to stop him is close enough) but they do a good job anyway. Delicious Danny has the most stylish appearance, CJ Banks is scowly and evil in a very cool way, Kenny Williams is the young hot newcomer and looks great - pink works well on wrestlers, I've never known why, Sam Bailey is sort of lost in the crowd. But they all perform really well, and I definitely want to see more of them all on a regular basis!

There's a women's match, which apparently they never did in the old days, between the really great Viper and the less impressive Alexis Rose, but it's treated like a bit of an afterthought. With that and the rest of the night's lineup consisting almost entirely of white guys, it's not what you'd call inclusive. I'm not sure what they'd do if it becomes a weekly thing; Viper looks like she'd be fine wrestling with the men, but maybe there's a load of female superstars in Britain who we just haven't seen yet...

Tag team action with Ashton Smith and Rampage Brown against Mark and Joe Coffey is a lot of fun too - Rampage is the real character of the foursome who gets all the best moments. To keep it interesting going forwards, I hope there's more tag team stuff, just because it helps develop the characters of the wrestlers.

Then there's Zack Gibson, who's perhaps a bit too similar in appearance and character to CJ Banks, but has the advantage of apparently having a degree in accountancy and finance from Liverpool John Moores University. I like that a lot - we need more wrestling accountants! He wrestles El Ligero, masked Mexican wrestler with a very cool mask, horns and everything, and they both show some cool moves.

The last wrestler to show up is Davey Boy Smith Junior, The British Bulldog, who looks like the traditional square-jawed hero that's otherwise lacking from the show, but since he doesn't do very much I assume he's just there for the olden-days nostalgia. But that's seventeen genuinely good wrestlers in a really really well-designed and written show. It could definitely make an ongoing series, and I'm all in favour!