Big Mac vs. 10 Commandments

Published on Tuesday, October 30, 2007 in , , ,

Big MacThere's some interesting news coming across the wires about the modern American memory. According to a Kelton Research survey, more Americans can name the ingredients of a McDonald's Big Mac than can name the 10 commandments.

What makes this finding especially interesting is the famous two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce. cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun promotion only ran on TV from 1975 to 1976, and outside of online video sites and TV Land's Retromercials, hasn't really been seen since.

I think it's humorous, and ingenious, that McDonald's most memorable ad campaign features people forgetting their ad campaign.

Part of what makes the 10 commandments so tricky to remember is that different Judeo-Christian religions have different versions. The Protestant, Hebrew and Catholic commandments are actually worded and ordered differently, even though they contain the same basic ideas (the survey did take this into account). Interestingly, the list most refer to as the commandments are spoken in Exodus 20, but never referred to as being on tablets or even as being called the 10 commandments. In Exodus 34, there is a vastly different list than the one with which most people are familiar, yet it is this list that is specifically mentioned as being the same as the first set of tablets, and is the only list in the Bible passages that is specifically referred to as the 10 commandments.

If you do want to learn the list classically referred to as the 10 commandments, spend the next 3 minutes watching the following video, and you'll have them down in no time!


Ask Alexander...Free!

Published on Sunday, October 28, 2007 in , , ,

Ask AlexanderThis time last year, I discussed the Genii Archives, an online archive of every Genii Magazine from 1936 up to 1998.

This valuable resource is made possible thanks to the Conjuring Arts Research Center (CARC). Normally, you would either need to buy access to the Genii archives for $45-$200, or become a CARC member for $95-$100,000/year, giving you access to more magic magazines and books than just Genii. Wouldn't it be nice to try out the CARC archives for free?

Thanks to Paul Harris' Astonishment Project (it's MySpace for magicians), now you can sample the CARC archives free! From that site, click on the Library tab, and then the Ask Alexander link. Ask Alexander is the CARC's formal name for their online library archive, named for the magician of the same name and whose likeness is used in the logo.

There are two main limitations to this access. First, you don't have full access to the complete library. Instead, you only have access selected magazine and book archives. Second, you must start by searching, as opposed to just browsing works. Once you've accessed a work (such as a book, or a yearly volume of a magazine) via a search, however, you can easily move back and forth in it, via the browser-style arrows or by entering a page number (very handy for articles that are continued 5 pages later).

Even with these limitations, this is still a valuable resource. Among the books available online are Erdnase's Artifice, Ruse and Subterfuge at the Card Table, Elliott's Last Legacy and Expert Card Technique. There are also numerous complete magazine archives, such as The Jinx (complete CD-ROM archive: $20), Stanyon's Magic (complete print archive: $90-$250) and Hugard's Magic Monthly (complete print archive: $350).

Above and beyond the monetary value of these works, the magic routines and tips they provided are priceless. Have you ever wanted to do a routine in which you reveal a card that is merely thought of by the spectator, but couldn't find just the right method? Fred Braue filled 11 monthly columns in Hugard's Magic Monthly with variations on this one idea!

Magicians often joke that the best way to hide an idea is to put it in print. It is true that ideas in print can be quickly forgotten. That's why I find it amazing that a resource such as this is available for free. There are many ideas that have been lost, but can now be easily re-discovered. Regardless of your specific interest in magic, you'll find a seemingly endless variety of tricks to suit you, and many are so old and underused, they'll be completely new to your audiences!


Review: Remember It: The Art of a Trained Memory

Published on Thursday, October 25, 2007 in , , , , , , , , ,

Remember It: The Art of a Trained MemoryMany of you may know Greg Gleason from his Theater Close-Up DVDs, which I reviewed last year. What you may not know is that he also teaches classes in memory training. Recently Greg Gleason released a new 2-DVD set called Remember It: The Art of a Trained Memory.

Volume 1 of Remember It starts off by demonstrating the power of a trained memory, with Greg performing the classic magazine memory feat for a live audience.

The actual lessons begin with the link system. First, Greg talks directly to the viewer about the basic principles of the link system. and then teaches how to use the system to remember the order of the alphabet backwards. On this DVD, the basics are usually discussed with Greg talking directly into the camera, while applications and demonstrations of each system are usually done in front if a live audience. This is very effective, as it gives a sense of personal instruction during the basics, while still offering encouragement by seeing others who are learning the ideas along with you.

Next, two version of the peg system are taught. First, the rhyming peg system is taught, followed by the more versatile and widely used phonetic alphabet. Key words that help visualize the numbers 1-10 are taught on the DVD, along with an explanation of how to expand the system. The included booklet also lists the phonetic sounds for each letter, as well as keywords for the number 1 through 100.

After this, use of the peg system for remember numbers and playing cards is discussed. When discussing how to remember playing cards, Greg really only discusses keywords for the clubs, but by the time he is finished, you understand enough to make your own keywords for the other suits. During the playing card section, a live audience is not only shown learning the technique for the first time, but using it, too! They are shown some of the cards, and they correctly determine which cards they weren't shown!

The first DVD winds up with an excellent section on names and faces, the importance of which I discussed in my previous post. If you've ever had problems with remembering names and faces, this section will quickly build confidence.

The second DVD focuses on further applications of the systems taught on the first DVD. The order of the 50 U.S. states in alphabetical order is taught using the link system. Greg then uses the peg system to teach the order of the 43 U.S. presidents in and out of order.

The next section is my personal favorite, as he teaches how to remember 400 digits of Pi! Yes, of course you can learn the Pi feat on this site. As a matter of fact, it's my approach he's using on the DVD and, yes, he credits me and included it with my permission. If you're thinking that this fact makes this a biased review, rest assured that you are correct!

To wind up the DVD, Greg teaches the classic age cards routine, along with some tips for using it to help potential customers remember you! Everything taught on the second DVD is also detailed in the booklet, so you can learn at your own pace.

Although I admit to a strong bias in this review, I still think it's a great DVD. This DVD is worth it not just for the instruction you get, but for the encouragement and personal touch that it adds to the learning experience. I definitely recommend Remember It: The Art of a Trained Memory.


How To Remember Names and Faces

Published on Sunday, October 21, 2007 in , , , , ,

How To Remember Names and FacesThere's an ad for Brain Age2 that begins with a man forgetting the name of a high school buddy. We can all relate to the experience. Unfortunately, Brain Age2 doesn't have an actual section for improving your memory for names. That being the case, how exactly do you go about learning to remember names and faces?

One of the best resources I've ever found for just this task is a book called How To Remember Names and Faces: How To Develop A Good Memory by Robert H. Nutt. First released in 1941, and now in the public domain (according to the U.S. Copyright Office), I've made the book available in the Memory & Menmonics section of the Grey Matters Store.

This book is split into two parts. The first part is called The Mental Filing System, and discusses a different method of mnemonics than is found in many modern memory books. It is, nonetheless, very effective. This section of the book also goes into great detail about what can make this method effective and ineffective. Although you might be tempted to skip this section and jump right to the names and faces section, that won't work, as this section is the basis for the names and faces section. Also, if you skip this section you'll miss many valuable lessons and stories about how the system's great advantages.

While I call the second section, How To Remember Names and Faces the second half, it actually takes up more than half the book. First, you're introduced to the four steps that you must apply if you're going to remember the name, along with several various methods for locking in the name itself. Most of this section involves actually applying the system by helping you learn the names and faces of more than 30 people! For a majority of them, the author walks you through the application of the system. For the last few people, though, the author forces you to use what you've learned by applying the system via your own creativity. When you're able to recall all these people at the end of this section, you will truly amaze yourself!

Part of the charm of this book is the amount of stories throughout. Some are inspirational, and some are warnings. It's inspiring to hear how the author taught his son how to remember the original 13 U.S. colonies in order of admission between the time he came from school and the time he went fishing, and how he retained it for far longer than would most students. You'll also read about how a bad memory has resulted in embarrassment, loss of business and, in one particular case, how a poor memory for faces resulted in 7 years of jail time for an innocent man.

How To Remember Names and Faces: How To Develop A Good Memory is available for only $19.95. For all the memory techniques I discuss on this site, you'll find that learning to remember names and faces is the one technique that is more useful and valuable than all the other techniques combined.


UPDATED NEWS: David Copperfield's warehouse raided by FBI!

Published on Friday, October 19, 2007 in ,

This just in: FBI agents have raided David Copperfield's warehouse! Updates and news can be found at Google News and KLAS Channel 8 Las Vegas.

UPDATE (10/19/07): It is now being reported that there are allegations of rape. According to this report:

Copperfield's Las Vegas attorney, David Chesnoff, refused to give specifics about the charge. "If in fact those are the allegations, unfortunately false allegations are all too often made against famous individuals," Chesnoff said. "But we are confident the investigation will conclude favorably."
I hope that this is indeed the case.


Unusual Lists to Memorize

Published on Friday, October 19, 2007 in , , , , ,

BrainOnce people start training their memories, they often try the techniques out by remembering standard things, like memorizing the U.S. States and their capitals, a new language or the U.S. Presidents. But what are some of the more unusual things that are fun and/or useful to remember?

You've probably heard about Scrabble players who memorize word lists, but there is another way to use memory in Scrabble. Imagine you have the letters for TSUNAMI on your rack, and there's a spot with room for all 7 letters, but it would force you to use the letter H. Could it be done? If you knew your Anamonics (a combination of the word anagram and mnemonics) you could tell instantly. If you remembered the word TSUNAMI in connection with the phrase COASTAL HARM, you could instantly see that you could use the H, because it's among the letters in COASTAL HARM. Armed with your knowledge of words, you could figure out that you could make the word HUMANIST from those letters, and maximize your score. You would also know that, given the letters of TSUNAMI and the letter B, you shouldn't waste your time trying to use all the letters on your board. John Chew maintains a thorough list of anamonics that is popular with Scrabble players.

All this talk of word lists brings to mind an anecdote from chapter 16 of The Memory Book, by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas. Harry says the word ARTERIOSCLEROSIS and Jerry immediately replies, “ACEEIILOORRRSSST!” In other words, Jerry Lucas is able to instantly alphabetize the letters of any word. He uses a simple adaption of the Link System. For example, if you're trying to remember that the alphabetical order of letters in TELEPHONE is EEEHLNOPT, you would simply picture an eel that napped on telephone. Eel napped sounds enough like EEEHLNOPT that the letter should come to mind quickly.

Memorizing a word list such as this would seem to be quite intimidating, and it would be over just a few sittings. If you wanted to actually try your hand at this memory feat, you should first realize that this is a skill you would develop over the long term. As a matter of fact, Jerry Lucas started doing this when he was 8! The best way to start is to work with lists of common words. First, learn and link the alphabetical spellings of the 100 most common words in the English language (or whichever language you speak). Once you've memorized them, go on to the second most common 100 words, then the third, and so on. By the time you get the most common 300 words down, you've already got roughly a 65% chance of being able to alphabetize a word randomly chosen out of a non-technical book or magazine!

An unusual. but more personable. list to learn would be one or more historical event or famous person's birthday for each day of the year. You would remember each date as a 3- or 4-digit number (January 5th would be 105, while November 21st would be 1121). First, look up the event or birthday, and find a well-known person or event (the more famous the better). There were many famous people born on January 1st, but more people will be familiar with Frank Langella or Betsy Ross than, say, Huldrych Zwingli or Charles Melvin Price.

Once you'ce decided that you're going to remember that January 1st is the birthday of Frank Langella, use the peg system to convert 101 (January 1st) into a word, such as dust or taste. Since Frank Langella is best known for his role as Dracula, taste would probably be a good choice. Picture Frank Langella's Dracula tasting his victims, and you've got the image!

The best thing about this last feat is that it can really help you connect with people, and shows that you're listening. If someone says they were born on January 12th, you can instantly say, “Oh! You have the same birthday as Jack London!” It would also work during the Day of the Week for any Date feat.

To wrap this up, I'll leave you with the case of David Rosdeitcher, who has actually made a living based largely on his particular brand of unusual knowledge.


Cards: Memory and Magic

Published on Sunday, October 14, 2007 in , , , , , , , ,

MnemonicaThe memorized deck is a great tool for use in magic, but what is really required to learn a memorized stack? Since it's been quite a while since I last discussed memorized decks, I figured it was time.

If you're interested in learning a memorized stack, don't start by picking up a deck of cards. Instead, get a good foundation before you even get near the cards. Over at Simon Aronson's site, go to the Magicians Only section and enter the proper password. Once you're inside the Magicians Only section, click Memorized Deck Magic and then download and read Memories Are Made of This PDF file. I can't think of a better introduction to memorized deck work.

At Dennis Loomis' store, in the Memorized Deck Area, you should also read Article 14: Memorized Deck Mastery. This will help you gauge whether you've truly mastered your particular stack.

If you're seriously thinking about memorizing a deck, you probably have a particular stack in mind. The most common one in the U.S. is the Aronson stack, which is detailed in Memories Are Made of This. Over in Europe, the Tamariz stack, as taught in Mnemonica, is the most popular choice.

These aren't the only choices, either. Other popular stacks include the Joyal Stack, the Nikola Stack, the Memorized BCS (the original version is here) and many more.

Now, each reference discusses their particular ways to memorize them. Most of them use variations on the classic peg/major system. You can quiz yourself regularly with just a deck of cards marked with their respective stack numbers on their backs.

There are numerous computer tools to help you memorize, too. Windows users can use StackView and Mac OS X users can use Ebbinghaus to memorize any memorized stacks.

You can also learn the stacks online. Over at Card Shark, click on Free Bonus (on the 9 in the menu), and you'll be able to quiz yourself on the Tamariz Stack (Flash required). If you want to learn the Aronson stack, you can head over to the Aronson Stack Quizzer.

You can also use any of the numerous onine flashcard programs I've discussed here, here and here. When using an online flashcard program for stack memorizing, I suggest using one that allows you to use playing card graphics, such as Memorize In A Flash.

Of course, once you've properly mastered your memorized deck, you'll want to use it for magic routines. In Simon Aronson's Memorized Deck Magic section, he includes several great tips and routines you can use with any memorized deck. If you're using his stack in particular, the Aronson Stack Page includes more routines for that particular stack. As mentioned before, Dennis Loomis' Memorized Deck Page is also a great source of ideas.

Also, just 3 days ago, I updated my MemoryEffects.pdf file, which includes plenty of resources for memory-related effects. I've also posted a scribd.com version of MemoryEffects.pdf. References to routines that use a memorized deck can be found under Covert Use of Memory Technique section.

If you take the time to practice, master and use a memorized deck properly, you will find that this tool will more than reward the effort.


Free: TYBE Lite

Published on Thursday, October 11, 2007 in , , , , , ,

Train Your Brain and EntertainBy far, the most popular item in the Grey Matters Store is the Train Your Brain and Entertain memory training software. If you've wanted to improve your memory, but you're not sure whether you want to buy it, I have the answer for you!

Train Your Brain and Entertain is now available in a free version, called TYBE Lite! As with the original, it is available in both a Mac OS X version and a Windows version. These downloadable links will always available in the Downloads section in the rightmost column, between the Blog Archives and Video sections.

With the free version, you can learn how to memorize lists in order, including words that are hard to remember, learn the phonetic alphabet (a method for visualizing numbers), and learn to memorize long numbers. The preferences pane for the phonetic alphabet are also included, so if you learned a different version of the phonetic alphabet, you can customize the software to use that version. Each section also includes full help documentation that will teach both the corresponding memory technique and the use of the interface.

Another free way to get an idea of the full version is to watch the Mac OS X slideshow or the Windows slideshow (Flash required). The full version includes additional sections, such as:

* Memorizing lists of up to 100 objects
* Memorizing lists in and out of order
* Learn the classic Knight's Tour
* Memorizing 400 digits of Pi
* Learn to give the day of the week for any date
* Memorizing playing cards, including an entire stack!

The full version also includes several free bonuses:

* A 400-digit printable "Pi Chart"
* A printable 8400-year perpetual calendar, useful for the Calendar Memory feat
* A detailed 43-page list of resources where you can find out more about memory feats and tips

The full version is available both as a CD-ROM and a downloadable version, and is available for only $29.95. Both full versions include all the features and bonuses.

Try out TYBE Lite today. The only thing you have to lose is a poor memory!


Memory Games

Published on Sunday, October 07, 2007 in , , , , ,

LinksIt's time to challenge your memory again!

Did you practice naming all 50 states in 10 minutes, as mentioned in my post on memorizing the states? Here's a more visual version of the same game. In this version, once you name a state, it's labeled on a visual map. If you get stuck, you can look at the unlabeled states for help.

Sporcle, which hosts this game, also has a state capital quiz and many other games, too! I never got into sports, so until I put the time in and apply the Major System to the Super Bowl winners, I probably won't be doing too well at this game.

Perhaps these are too simple, as there are only 50 states and 41 Super Bowl winners. Moving up the challenge, how about naming all 192 countries that are members of the UN? Oh, and there's no map to give you a hint.

Of course, over time, you could conceivably apply the various memory techniques you've learned here to master these games. All the previous ones require mastery of lists that can done over time. How about memory games in which you have a limited time to remember and recall?

First, there's Zyrx. It's a strange name, but a simple and addicting game. You're briefly shown a pattern of white dots on a small board. Once the small pattern disappears, you have to re-create the pattern on the bigger board. It's thanks to this game that today's post is so late.

I've mentioned it before, but it bears mentioning again. The ultimate version of the memorize quickly and then recall quickly genre would be the World Memory Challenge. Here, you're not only playing to get a score, but playing against people from all over the world.

If you do well on this test, you may want to try competing in the World Memory Championships!


Even More Quick Snippets

Published on Thursday, October 04, 2007 in , , , ,

LinksHere's today's quick snippets:

* It's here! Back on April 1st of this year, ThinkGeek.com created the 8-bit Tie as a joke. It resulted in such a large volume of e-mail that they promised to make it real. It took until Oct. 3rd, but the ultimate geeky fashion accessory is finally available.

* Mind Medley is a brain training-style program that has 16 different games, some of which can only be accessed by completing other games. You can try out some of the games for free with both Mac OS X and Windows versions.

* The scientists over at DribbleGlass.com have used their research to create an original and effective approach to memory technique that takes advantage of the differences between men's and women's brains. You can check out their memory breakthrough here (PG-13).

* Tired of the standard memory/concentration games? Try the perfect pitch memory version! Matching pictures is one thing, but matching tones is quite another.