Outtakes 10.26.12

• Even on a blog dedicated to sharing items of interest and quirky reflections on culture, politics, and religion, some thoughts are just too random or half-baked to warrant their own posts. So I thought I’d experiment with compiling that ephemera into a daily post of outtakes. (In case the headline didn’t make that clear, this is going to be that type of post.)

• Tweet of the Day: Sci-fi writer John Scalzi, on the news that Penguin Books and Random House are contemplating a merger: “If the (possible) merger of Penguin and Random House isn’t called Random Penguin, they’ll have failed.” (Via: Boing Boing)

• Lena Dunham has been called the “voice of her generation.” On the scale of insults that ranks fairly high. It’s essentially saying that, like Dunham, America’s youth are spoiled, overrated, and don’t have an original thought in their heads. Personally, I don’t believe that’s the case which is why I think the young will join me in mercilessly mocking the creepy new ad Dunham made in which she compare voting for Obama with losing one’s virginity.

• Apropos of Nothing: Do people still watch AMC’s Mad Men? You do know that it’s a simulacrum of “quality TV” and not actually a good show, right?

• Speaking of AMC, if you enjoy the Emmy-winning series The Walking Dead you’ll like the comic book even better. I recommend picking up a copy of The Walking Dead: Compendium One, which collects issues 1-48. It’s a bit pricey but well worth the cost.

Note to Ta-Nehisi: When you support the wanton slaughter of unborn children, you’ve lost the moral authority to preach to people about being a “bystander to immorality.”

• If Tower of Power and Morris Day & The Time had a baby it’d look like this awesome performance.

• My Latest Obsession: Last week Alan Jacobs had an interesting post about his ideal school, Cassiodorus College. One of the foundational courses included:

Memorization and Recitation. An introduction to mnemonics, both through modern techniques and history. Books assigned will include The Art of Memory by Frances Yates and The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci by Jonathan Spence. Attention will be given to memorizing long poems, long speeches, meaningful numerical sequences, and nonsense.

When I first heard about the memory palace technique (from, oddly enough, Hannibal Lecter), I was intrigued and immediately wanted to try it out. But after learning more about how it the process sounded both complicated and silly. I set the idea aside and figured I’d get to it someday (naturally I forgot about it). After Alan mentioned it again, though, I decided to buy Lewis Smile’s The Memory Palace ($2.99 on Kindle). As I had expected the technique was silly, though not as complicated as I had feared. I also discovered that it was amazingly effective.

Within 40 minutes I had not only memorized every Shakespeare play but could recite the order they were written, forward and backward. You can name any play and I can tell you which was written before it and which was written after. Intrigued by the results I applied the technique to learning the right order of all the books of the Bible (I admit I didn’t know whether Obadiah came before Habakkuk).

Because Smiles is British he includes all the rulers of Great Britain—from King Offa of Mercia (AD 775) to Queen Elizabeth—so I’m learning those also. Despite being completely unfamiliar with most of the kings and queens (Did you know there were more than one Æthelred?) I’ve almost memorized that list too.

Now I’m like a kid without a new computer (my own brain, which is admittedly more like a Tandy 1000) and eager to find new programs to install. But I’m not sure what to memorize next (I’m sticking with non-numerical lists for now). Any suggestions?

  • http://www.remnantculture.com Joseph Sunde

    Nice shout-out to the Time. In case you hadn’t heard, certain members of The Time and The Family have since recently reincarnated as Fdeluxe. They’re new album is funkalicious, Minnesota-style: http://open.spotify.com/album/11R0VEc1QM6OzvE6ITKTm4

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

      Thanks, Joe. I hadn’t hear of that band before.

  • http://messianicjudaism.me/agenda Stuart Dauermann

    I join you in your obsession about memory techniques. As an educational means it has fallen out of favor, wrongly in my view. There should not be a polarity between memorized data and creativity, any more than there is a polarity between bricks and architecture. I have about twenty books on the subject, and greatly value the techniques. Just from a communications standpoint, when one speaks from memory, when one quotes data from memory, it greatly enhances one’s credibility in the communications event. And when one speaks to a group, whether as a teacher, business person, educator or clergy person, speaking without notes and quoting without notes not only establishes credibility, it also enables unbroken eye contact, the Holy Grail of communications.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

      I have about twenty books on the subject, and greatly value the techniques.
      Are there any books on the subject you’d recommend?

  • Eric E

    I started doing using the memory palace technique after I read Foer’s “Moonwalking with Einstein.” I was both surprised how easy it is to use and appalled that I hadn’t learned it in grade school. Some ideas:

    US Presidents, or if you know them already you could do the vice-presidents
    Bones of the body
    streets in the city you live in
    counties in the state you live in
    US senators/representatives
    Cletus the slack-jawed yokel’s children: http://simpsons.wikia.com/wiki/Cletus_Spuckler

    Once you get to numbers (I would highly recommend learning the major system for numbers):
    the Dewey Decimal System
    the periodic table
    various unit conversions

    Note: I haven’t memorized all these, these are just suggestions.