70 things to do when you turn 70

Yes, I am the 27th essay: Never too late.

I got two complimentary copies, and ordered two more (9 £ each): there is so much wisdom from so many different seniors in it!

Here are first some citations from the past some used:

George Bernard Show:
"We do not stop playing because we grow old,
We grow old because we stop playing."

And some others advice: begin to play again! Fool around.


At his 70th year birthday, Mark Twain:
"At 70 you may through aside the decent reserved you which has oppressed you, and outspoken stand unafraid..."
So many good metaphors too. Here is one from Nikki Giovanni.
"I am saying. This is your car. You drive it. If you got a passages for part of it, good for you. If not, let the top down and hit the road. Now. Go and be happy."
This resonates to me so much also, as to celebrate my 70th birthday, I did hit the road, literally and for the first time in years drove a car long distance again: from Washington DC to the outer banks of North Carolina. I was drunk with the pleasure: I can do it still. Then, back, I had for a short while, a passager. Before, I had to let the top down and go my way again. Discovering new path, new roads, new joys. In Paris then in London.


Most interesting from 50 000 ? 5 million visitors?

2,672 so far today, yesterday  7,422 in all 5,011,044

I have passed the cap of 5 million visitors in Flickr .

Julie70 - View my most interesting photos on Flickriver


Colourfully illuminated, Finsbury Square

Many joys yesterday, even if the gig near Morgate was not between them.

It did bring some great laughter, even if the mood was far from what I expected.

In the small old truc, at new cross? the red bus gig brought me a joy, with less audience then this one. And also better comedians.

I should have stayed, to see the others after pause, but tired, I went out and took this image, enchanted.

One never knows where we go someplace and what we will find there!

Coming home, with not the right bus either, but having to walk longer: good for my legs!


Free London Comedy Meetup, organiser Chris Douce

I will be performing there too, it will be my 74th gig! Did it... Chris douce goes with his Meetup group, in many interesting places bringing each time eager audience with him.
Julie, at The Cult Of Comedy

Pegasus Comedy, Moorgate

  • Thursday, September 26, 2013
    8:00 PM to 
    Here is his text about Pegasus Comedy at the Flying Horse, 52 Wilson street EC2A 2ER London, the 26 September.
  • 52 Wilson Street, London, EC2A 2ER (map)
    Travel to Moorgate (national rail or underground), and the Flying Horse is a short walk away, just off one of the squares in the area. Any problems, give me a ring.
  • The last visit to Pegasus comedy was a blast and the promoter (and acts) loved us so much, we were asked back.
    Situated in the heart of the city, Pegasus comedy is a real gem of the London open-mic circuit.  It's a place where new and experienced comics come along to try out their new material, on their journey towards getting paid gigs.
    The night is run by comic Bill Bedford and the MC for the night is going to be Glen Lenny Sherman, a cheeky chappie cockney type geezer who we saw do a set in Deptford back in August.  With Bill booking the acts and Glen being the charming host for the night, it's bound to be a cracking night. Well, he was friendly, a bit strange humour.
    Just like last time, Pegasus runs in quite a small room, so I've put a limit on the registrations.  Please register if you're only able to come (so other members don't miss out).  There isn't any formal register or anything - all you need to bring is yourself.
    Looking forward to seeing you on the 26th!  It's going to be a cracking night!


We remember, when... Ted Speech by Joshua Foer

Transcript of his speech. The italic and bold is from me.
I'd like to invite you to close your eyes.

Imagine yourself standing outside the front door of your home. I'd like you to notice the color of the door, the material that it's made out of. Now visualize a pack of overweight nudists on bicycles. They are competing in a naked bicycle race, and they are headed straight for your front door. I need you to actually see this. They are pedaling really hard, they're sweaty, they're bouncing around a lot. And they crash straight into the front door of your home. Bicycles fly everywhere, wheels roll past you, spokes end up in awkward places. Step over the threshold of your door into your foyer, your hallway, whatever's on the other side, and appreciate the quality of the light. The light is shining down on Cookie Monster. Cookie Monster is waving at you from his perch on top of a tan horse. It's a talking horse. You can practically feel his blue fur tickling your nose. You can smell the oatmeal raisin cookie that he's about to shovel into his mouth. Walk past him. Walk past him into your living room. In your living room, in full imaginative broadband, picture Britney Spears. She is scantily clad, she's dancing on your coffee table, and she's singing "Hit Me Baby One More Time." And then follow me into your kitchen. In your kitchen, the floor has been paved over with a yellow brick road and out of your oven are coming towards you Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Lion from "The Wizard of Oz," hand-in-hand skipping straight towards you.

Okay. Open your eyes.

I want to tell you about a very bizarre contest that is held every spring in New York City. It's called the United States Memory Championship. And I had gone to cover this contest a few years back as a science journalist expecting, I guess, that this was going to be like the Superbowl of savants. This was a bunch of guys and a few ladies, widely varying in both age and hygienic upkeep.


They were memorizing hundreds of random numbers, looking at them just once. They were memorizing the names of dozens and dozens and dozens of strangers. They were memorizing entire poems in just a few minutes. They were competing to see who could memorize the order of a shuffled pack of playing cards the fastest. I was like, this is unbelievable. These people must be freaks of nature.

And I started talking to a few of the competitors. This is a guy called Ed Cook who had come over from England where he had one of the best trained memories. And I said to him, "Ed, when did you realize that you were a savant?" And Ed was like, "I'm not a savant. In fact, I have just an average memory. Everybody who competes in this contest will tell you that they have just an average memory. We've all trained ourselves to perform these utterly miraculous feats of memory using a set of ancient techniques, techniques invented 2,500 years ago in Greece, the same techniques that Cicero had used to memorize his speeches, that medieval scholars had used to memorize entire books." And I was like, "Whoa. How come I never heard of this before?"

And we were standing outside the competition hall, and Ed, who is a wonderful, brilliant, but somewhat eccentric English guy, says to me, "Josh, you're an American journalist. Do you know Britney Spears?" I'm like, "What? No. Why?" "Because I really want to teach Britney Spears how to memorize the order of a shuffled pack of playing cards on U.S. national television. It will prove to the world that anybody can do this."


I was like, "Well I'm not Britney Spears, but maybe you could teach me. I mean, you've got to start somewhere, right?" And that was the beginning of a very strange journey for me.

I ended up spending the better part of the next year not only training my memory, but also investigating it, trying to understand how it works, why it sometimes doesn't work and what its potential might be.

I met a host of really interesting people. This is a guy called E.P. He's an amnesic who had, very possibly, the very worst memory in the world. His memory was so bad that he didn't even remember he had a memory problem, which is amazing. And he was this incredibly tragic figure, but he was a window into the extent to which our memories make us who we are.

The other end of the spectrum: I met this guy. This is Kim Peek. He was the basis for Dustin Hoffman's character in the movie "Rain Man." We spent an afternoon together in the Salt Lake City Public Library memorizing phone books, which was scintillating.


And I went back and I read a whole host of memory treatises, treatises written 2,000-plus years ago in Latin in Antiquity and then later in the Middle Ages. And I learned a whole bunch of really interesting stuff. One of the really interesting things that I learned is that once upon a time, this idea of having a trained, disciplined, cultivated memory was not nearly so alien as it would seem to us to be today. Once upon a time, people invested in their memories, in laboriously furnishing their minds.

Over the last few millenia we've invented a series of technologies -- from the alphabet to the scroll to the codex, the printing press, photography, the computer, the smartphone -- that have made it progressively easier and easier for us to externalize our memories, for us to essentially outsource this fundamental human capacity. These technologies have made our modern world possible, but they've also changed us. They've changed us culturally, and I would argue that they've changed us cognitively. Having little need to remember anymore, it sometimes seems like we've forgotten how.

One of the last places on Earth where you still find people passionate about this idea of a trained, disciplined, cultivated memory is at this totally singular memory contest. It's actually not that singular, there are contests held all over the world. And I was fascinated, I wanted to know how do these guys do it.

A few years back a group of researchers at University College London brought a bunch of memory champions into the lab. They wanted to know: Do these guys have brains that are somehow structurally, anatomically different from the rest of ours? The answer was no. Are they smarter than the rest of us? They gave them a bunch of cognitive tests, and the answer was not really.

There was however one really interesting and telling difference between the brains of the memory champions and the control subjects that they were comparing them to. When they put these guys in an fMRI machine, scanned their brains while they were memorizing numbers and people's faces and pictures of snowflakes, they found that the memory champions were lighting up different parts of the brain than everyone else. Of note, they were using, or they seemed to be using, a part of the brain that's involved in spatial memory and navigation. Why? And is there something the rest of us can learn from this?

The sport of competitive memorizing is driven by a kind of arms race where every year somebody comes up with a new way to remember more stuff more quickly, and then the rest of the field has to play catchup.

This is my friend Ben Pridmore, three-time world memory champion. On his desk in front of him are 36 shuffled packs of playing cards that he is about to try to memorize in one hour, using a technique that he invented and he alone has mastered. He used a similar technique to memorize the precise order of 4,140 random binary digits in half an hour. Yeah.

And while there are a whole host of ways of remembering stuff in these competitions, everything, all of the techniques that are being used, ultimately come down to a concept that psychologists refer to as elaborative encoding.

And it's well illustrated by a nifty paradox known as the Baker/baker paradox, which goes like this: If I tell two people to remember the same word, if I say to you, "Remember that there is a guy named Baker." That's his name. And I say to you, "Remember that there is a guy who is a baker." And I come back to you at some point later on, and I say, "Do you remember that word that I told you a while back? Do you remember what it was?" The person who was told his name is Baker is less likely to remember the same word than the person was told his job is that he is a baker. Same word, different amount of remembering; that's weird. What's going on here?

Well the name Baker doesn't actually mean anything to you. It is entirely untethered from all of the other memories floating around in your skull. But the common noun baker, we know bakers. Bakers wear funny white hats. Bakers have flour on their hands. Bakers smell good when they come home from work. Maybe we even know a baker. And when we first hear that word, we start putting these associational hooks into it that make it easier to fish it back out at some later date. The entire art of what is going on in these memory contests and the entire art of remembering stuff better in everyday life is figuring out ways to transform capital B Bakers into lower-case B bakers -- to take information that is lacking in context, in significance, in meaning and transform it in some way so that it becomes meaningful in the light of all the other things that you have in your mind.

One of the more elaborate techniques for doing this dates back 2,500 years to Ancient Greece. It came to be known as the memory palace. The story behind its creation goes like this: There was a poet called Simonides who was attending a banquet. He was actually the hired entertainment, because back then if you wanted to throw a really slamming party, you didn't hire a D.J., you hired a poet. And he stands up, delivers his poem from memory, walks out the door, and at the moment he does, the banquet hall collapses, kills everybody inside. It doesn't just kill everybody, it mangles the bodies beyond all recognition. Nobody can say who was inside, nobody can say where they were sitting. The bodies can't be properly buried. It's one tragedy compounding another. Simonides, standing outside, the sole survivor amid the wreckage, closes his eyes and has this realization, which is that in his mind's eye, he can see where each of the guests at the banquet had been sitting. And he takes the relatives by the hand and guides them each to their loved ones amid the wreckage.

What Simonides figured out at that moment is something that I think we all kind of intuitively know, which is that, as bad as we are at remembering names and phone numbers and word-for-word instructions from our colleagues, we have really exceptional visual and spatial memories. If I asked you to recount the first 10 words of the story that I just told you about Simonides, chances are you would have a tough time with it. But I would wager that if I asked you to recall who is sitting on top of a talking tan horse in your foyer right now, you would be able to see that.

The idea behind the memory palace is to create this imagined edifice in your mind's eye and populate it with images of the things that you want to remember -- the crazier, weirder, more bizarre, funnier, raunchier, stinkier the image is, the more unforgettable it's likely to be. This is advice that goes back 2,000-plus years to the earliest Latin memory treatises.

So how does this work? Let's say that you've been invited to TED center stage to give a speech and you want to do it from memory, and you want to do it the way that Cicero would have done it if he had been invited to TEDxRome 2,000 years ago. What you might do is picture yourself at the front door of your house. And you'd come up with some sort of an absolutely crazy, ridiculous, unforgettable image to remind you that the first thing you want to talk about is this totally bizarre contest. And then you'd go inside your house, and you would see an image of Cookie Monster on top of Mister Ed. And that would remind you that you would want to then introduce your friend Ed Cook. And then you'd see an image of Britney Spears to remind you of this funny anecdote you want to tell. And you go into your kitchen, and the fourth topic you were going to talk about was this strange journey that you went on for a year, and you have some friends to help you remember that.

This is how Roman orators memorized their speeches -- not word-for-word, which is just going to screw you up, but topic-for-topic. In fact, the phrase "topic sentence," that comes from the Greek word "topos," which means "place." That's a vestige of when people used to think about oratory and rhetoric in these sorts of spatial terms. The phrase "in the first place," that's like in the first place of your memory palace.

I thought this was just fascinating, and I got really into it. And I went to a few more of these memory contests. And I had this notion that I might write something longer about this subculture of competitive memorizers. But there was a problem. The problem was that a memory contest is a pathologically boring event. (Laughter) Truly, it is like a bunch of people sitting around taking the SATs. I mean, the most dramatic it gets is when somebody starts massaging their temples. And I'm a journalist, I need something to write about. I know that there's this incredible stuff happening in these people's minds, but I don't have access to it.

And I realized, if I was going to tell this story, I needed to walk in their shoes a little bit. And so I started trying to spend 15 or 20 minutes every morning before I sat down with my New York Times just trying to remember something. Maybe it was a poem. Maybe it was names from an old yearbook that I bought at a flea market. And I found that this was shockingly fun. I never would have expected that. It was fun because this is actually not about training your memory. What you're doing is you're trying to get better and better and better at creating, at dreaming up, these utterly ludicrous, raunchy, hilarious and hopefully unforgettable images in your mind's eye. And I got pretty into it.

This is me wearing my standard competitive memorizer's training kit. It's a pair of earmuffs and a set of safety goggles that have been masked over except for two small pinholes, because distraction is the competitive memorizer's greatest enemy.

I ended up coming back to that same contest that I had covered a year earlier. And I had this notion that I might enter it, sort of as an experiment in participatory journalism. It'd make, I thought, maybe a nice epilogue to all my research. Problem was the experiment went haywire. I won the contest, which really wasn't supposed to happen.


Now it is nice to be able to memorize speeches and phone numbers and shopping lists, but it's actually kind of beside the point. These are just tricks. They are tricks that work because they're based on some pretty basic principles about how our brains work. And you don't have to be building memory palaces or memorizing packs of playing cards to benefit from a little bit of insight about how your mind works.

We often talk about people with great memories as though it were some sort of an innate gift, but that is not the case. Great memories are learned. At the most basic level, we remember when we pay attention. We remember when we are deeply engaged. We remember when we are able to take a piece of information and experience and figure out why it is meaningful to us, why it is significant, why it's colorful, when we're able to transform it in some way that it makes sense in the light of all of the other things floating around in our minds, when we're able to transform Bakers into bakers.

The memory palace, these memory techniques, they're just shortcuts. In fact, they're not even really shortcuts. They work because they make you work. They force a kind of depth of processing, a kind of mindfulness, that most of us don't normally walk around exercising. But there actually are no shortcuts. This is how stuff is made memorable.

And I think if there's one thing that I want to leave you with, it's what E.P., the amnesic who couldn't even remember that he had a memory problem, left me with, which is the notion that our lives are the sum of our memories. How much are we willing to lose from our already short lives by losing ourselves in our Blackberries, our iPhones, by not paying attention to the human being across from us who is talking with us, by being so lazy that we're not willing to process deeply?

I learned firsthand that there are incredible memory capacities latent in all of us. But if you want to live a memorable life, you have to be the kind of person who remembers to remember.

Thank you.



Judy thanking Judy

Yesterday, one hour consultation over the web and Skype. Me, through my IPad.

Before, Judy Carter, has studied three of my videos and prepared her advices. Other suggestions came through our discussions.

When the time passed, and even exceeded, she sent me the text written during our discussion and also all the recorded conversation as voice.

It's fascinating, listening at it again and realising how she is creating. Listening, hear her thinking laud, and coming up with ideas one after the other. Jokes and the suggestions of my message.

This morning, feeling a little exhausted, I did nothing, I give myself a little rest before plunging, studying it and trying it out. She opened doors, now it is up to me to go through them and reach many others.

It was a very meaningful consultation!


Tonight a new Humorous speech: 'clean'

 Tonight, I will try at the French Toastmasters Club called French Connection, near the Holborn Viaduct, a 'clean' humorous motivational speech. Hope, will be able to have a video to add it here.

Of course, I do not feel that using playfully a few times 'shit' or 'fuck' is dirty, but some old fashioned still do. Even for the stage only. I am old, yes, soon 80, but not old fashioned, stuffy, hypocrite.

My great great mother told me a story when she was 92 ending it with 'and then I decided never to be hypocrite.' I do remember it as if it happened to me, not 100 years ago.

Anyway, I have to have different repertoire for different audiences. So this one is great to build on later, expend from seven minutes to a lot more. I even found some new transitions!

The problem loose its teeth... Ah, yes, about teeth, later I lost three.

Well, 'clean' did not give me any point. Neither did the great laugh of the audience, many times.

So what? It is not the first time I ask myself how they judge. I got from it good pals, who liked it a lot. I got also good new lines I wrote specially for it and will reuse from now on in my gig and texts. It was well worth doing it. I got one step farther then I was last week.


Holiday disasters, live from Upstairs at Ritzy, Brixton

Spark London organised Open Mic event, theme was "Holiday Disasters"
Here my story of my first and last camping in family (near the Lague di Garda, Italy)


Photos I took in the Photographers Gallery

I went to see my photos in the Gallery centre London: so far only this one goes on, but soon at least one more. Then, who knows.

This one is mine!

And I found nice people at the gallery, interesting around the Oxford circles, so many uses mobile devices these days!

Yes, I should not forget, I am also a passionate photographer.

This days, the others photographers visiting my images on the Flickr site jumped from 1000 by day to up more 6000 daily visits who do come to look at some of my photos. Even if does not last: it seems impressive.

Of course, it does not beat the 200 faithful readers returning  for almost ten years by now, day after day to read my French blog Il y a de la vie après 70 ans (there is life after 70 - which I proved day after day), nor the rush of joy I feel telling, being with live audience or the energy they give me.


Now or never : seize when yet another chance arrives

Now or Never was the theme of that night at Spark London true storytelling event.


My first ever story told at Canal Café Theatre with Spark London, 
this soundtrack is published recently on Mixcloud by Spark London, yesterday twittered.

I listened at it, again this morning.

Created fall 2009, told on scene in October 2009 : it begins and ends telling how important role Toastmasters clubs played in my life when I was 45 and at 75 again. Also my move from Paris to London, which was then recent in my mind. How I found my home, then my community. And fall in love. With the audience.

Today, I would tell it differently, probably more humour added with some of opening up for some of my initial motives for example. But without me realising then, I was already funny, and the audience laughed already a few times.

Most important, I am stunned that what I want to fight for now and tomorrow, what I believe in, come out clear and did not essentially change. My attachment to the public speaking clubs in London "Toastmasters" and my believe in the importance of personal stories. And also, to prove by example that it is Never to late, but we do have to seize the chance when it arrives.

the second time, the third time, there is always yet another. Now or never? Take it now!


Bill Cosby Keynote at Commencement Carnegie Mellon

From minute 5 till end a very personal story and very strong point given by the story.

Fish out of water, Spark London is back

We're back at the Canal Cafe Theatre on Monday. 

Joanna Yates will be hosting a curated night of stories themed around "Fish Out of Water". Come and join us at 7.30pm. 2nd September. Will tell also a tale about how our life changed and my father decided... 
2nd Septembre at 7:30pm Canal Cafe Theatre in London, United Kingdom

Joanna Yates at Canal Café Theatre entrance
Joanna Yates, producer of Spark London shows, before the repetition.