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Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2014

Paradise Recalled

Posted Thursday, July 22, 2010, at 8:39 AM

(Photo)
"Oh geez, what's the next line?"
Speaking as a guy who has trouble remembering the beginning of this sentence, which I only started typing a few seconds ago, I tremble in awe of Mr. John Basinger. When he was 58 years old he decided he wanted to test his memory, so he took a shot at memorizing the poem, "Paradise Lost," by John Milton. I'll tell you in case you've never bothered to count them: "Paradise Lost" is over 10,500 lines long.

He did it. And it only took him nine years.

Now he's 74 and he recites the poem from time to time for jollies. Reciting the whole thing takes three days.

Researchers at Wesleyan University did a study to try to determine how he did it. (They skipped right over the more thorny question of "why.") Turns out he did it by working at it pretty steadily for nine years. I guess there should be no surprise there. After all, a guy could probably eat a pick-up truck if he worked at it steadily for nine years.

The key phrase in the researchers' abstract, however, is this: "Our findings suggest that exceptional memorisers such as JB are made, not born, and that cognitive expertise can be demonstrated even in later adulthood." I like the sound of that. I had personally pretty much given up on any hope of cognitive competence, much less expertise. So I am going to launch my own project with full confidence, thanks to the shining example of Mr. Basinger. But I think I'll start out a little more conservatively.

"There once was a man from Nantucket..."


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I wonder if students still have to memorize things like we did in the 50's and 60's. "Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner", "The Cremation Of Sam Magee", etc.. And by the way...anyone seen the big black "ditchdog" lately?

-- Posted by Panther62 on Thu, Dec 2, 2010, at 5:34 PM

KT........... you do a pretty good job of memorizing.......... have seen and admired your young Twain show............... Back in the fifties we had to do a lot of memory work in school ........ I can still recite most of the Gettysburg Address........ started my memory work on "Hey diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle"

-- Posted by Johnny Yuma on Mon, Aug 2, 2010, at 9:05 PM

Well, a smaller pickup truck like a Ranger or an old S-10. Maybe not a full-sized Silverado.

-- Posted by kenteutsch on Mon, Aug 2, 2010, at 4:29 PM


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