Memories Are Made Of This

May 23, 2008

I was wandering along on my way to the bus this morning thinking about how quickly the year is passing; it will be June already in a week or so. That got me thinking about how time seems to speed up as we age, that the days seem more fleeting than they did when I was a kid, or even a young man. And that little reverie kick-started a theory of why the passage of time should seem different at different ages.

Let us first suppose that the neural mechanism for working out how long ago an event of a known date seems to have taken place involves flipping through a catalogue of our memories and making a calculation based somehow on the amount — or “bulkiness” — of the memory pile.

Let us next suppose that one suffers from the occasional short term memory loss — a standard condition of getting older it seems — such that a wide range of time is simply not memorialized.

Thus, when the mind flips through the memory for a particular period, the file seems less “bulky” (because of the missing memories) and the time between then and now will appear to have gone past quicker.

That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it!


Kotooshu Powers On

May 22, 2008

As an update to my previous post on the subject, I am pleased to report that Kotooshu has beaten Asashoryu and Hakuho on successive nights to sit at 12 wins and 0 losses, with 3 bouts to go.  Asashoryu has three losses and Hakuho now has two in this basho.  Both the yokozuna looked shocked at their defeats, while Kotooshu could not resist a huge beaming smile on each night (against protocol, of course).

If Kotooshu were to lose all of the final three contests (unlikely against lesser opponents), it is still possible for either of the yokozuna to take the Emperor’s Cup.  But in all practical terms, my man is now a certainty for the title.

He will be the first European to hold the Cup, and another in the long run of non-Japanese winners.  The press is already full of “blame-the-foreigners-for-the-sorry-state-of-sumo-in-Japan” stories.  Kotooshu’s win, and the failure of many prominent Japanese rikishi this time, will no doubt add to the pressures on the sport.  But I sure hope they don’t go the route of restrictive xenophobia.

Most sports have learned that the public, given the chance, will usually prefer to see the best in the world play each other at the club level, rather than to be restricted to the smaller, and perhaps less talented, national pool.  The NBA, the NHL, soccer everywhere, and cricket are prime examples of where the use of globally available talent has led to huge successes for local clubs.  Sumo should maintain its current entry policies for non-Japanese rikishi.  And the Sumo Association should turn its considerable energies to marketing the sport in Japan as the best in the world rather than as a national relic deserving of patronage.

Peaceful Morning

May 20, 2008


May 20, 2008

Regular readers will probably know that my wife and I are avid fans of sumo. We have paid extra fees to the cable company for many many years so that we can watch the 6-times yearly tournaments (basho) for the Emperor’s Cup direct and live from Japan TV. We are currently 10 days into the May basho, with 5 more days of bouts to come.

My chief rikishi (wrestler) is a young Bulgarian named Kotooshu who broke into the top ranks of the sport a couple of years ago and raced up to the second highest rank of ozeki. Unfortunately, he then spent a long time with knee injuries and a kind of bored attitude that didn’t do well in basho. He was lucky to survive with his rank intact. At this basho, however, he has come out storming, winning all 10 of his contests so far, many of them with the strength and ease with which he entranced us in his earlier days.

The two yokozuna (grand champions) Asashoryu (probably the greatest rikishi of our generation) and Hakuho (my wife’s favourite) sit at 9 wins and 1 loss each. Kotooshu fights Asashoryu tonight and Hakuho tomorrow night. If Kotooshu can beat the great Mongolian tonight, then tomorrow’s fight against Hakuho will effectively be for all the marbles and Kotooshu’s first shot at an Emperor’s Cup and a million dollar payday.

Another one of our joint favourites, another Mongolian called Ama, is the smallest rikishi at the heighest levels of the sport. He is often outweighed by 100 pounds and more. Two nights ago he pulled off the greatest sumo move I have ever seen. He was fighting a much bigger opponent who threw him over. However, in mid air, he managed to pull and twist the bigger fellow under him so that the other guy hit the mat with Ama on top. A brilliant victory. To top that off, he defeated Hakuho last night to give the yokozuna his only loss of the basho so far.

It has been a great tournament.

Rich Food Can Be Bad For Your Wallet

May 20, 2008

I guess if you can shell out $11 million for a car, you won’t mind paying $175 for a hamburger.

The burger can be enjoyed in New York at the Wall Street Burger Shoppe on Water Street between Broad Street and Coenties Slip … The burger is made with Kobe beef and topped with seared fresh foie gras, an assortment of exotic mushrooms, shaved black truffle, and golden truffle mayonnaise – another of [the chef’s] creations made from chopped black truffles, truffle oil, and gold flakes … Other expensive menu items found in or just outside of New York City include Nino Selimaj’s $1,000 pizza; the Westin’s $1,000 bagel; Serendipity 3’s $25,000 sundae; Old Homestead Steak House’s $81 burger; and Chappaqua’s $55 bottle of water.

I doubt in the end that this is any better than the $10 burgers at Fets (unless you really like truffles).

Art Is OK, A Ferrari Is Bizarre

May 19, 2008

I have written a lot about the high price of art these days — $33 million here, $50 million there, another $86 million some place else. And I can just about understand it all. But $11 million for a car? That is very strange to me.

It is true that I have a negative relationship with cars, and haven’t owned one for more than 16 years. But even so. Doesn’t it seem truly bizarre to you that someone would put down $10,894,900 for a 1961 Ferrari California Spyder. Other than having been owned previously by actor James Coburn, the car isn’t even unique; fifty-five others were also built.

A $50 million painting can do exactly what it was designed to do — hang on a wall and give aesthetic enjoyment. But an $11 million car cannot be driven the way it was engineered to perform; it can just sit in a multi-car garage and look pretty (if you like that sort of thing).

OK, OK, I accept that some folks would consider the Spyder a form of art. Fair enough. I still think it is damned odd, though.

Who’s Got The Big Money

May 18, 2008

Last week, I spent some time following the big Sothebys and Christies Post War Art auctions. As you may recall, the big items of interest were the Francis Bacon triptych that sold for $86million and Lucian Freud’s “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping” that fetched $33.6 million. Now, we know the buyer of both.

Listed as the 15th richest man in the world, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich (who also owns Chelsea Football Club) purchased both lots, shelling out more than $140m (including buyers’ premiums). Abramovich isn’t known as a major art collector. It is assumed these pieces are for display in his not-yet-completed $300 million home in one of London’s prime squares.

His money has done a power of good for Chelsea football; perhaps he’ll now do the same for the art market.