Ed Cooke – Emotions of Memory


Interesting that when he combines his memory number system with images, he says his brain remember the emotions.

From Joshua Foer’s book, the ‘poetry’ winner, Corinna Draschl, also spoke of emotions and how she had to understand the poetry on an emotional level.

…she can’t memorize a text unless she understands what it means. Even more than that, she has to understand how it feels. She breaks the poem into small chunks and then assigns a series of emotions to each short segment. Rather than associate the words with images, she associates them with feelings.

Foer, Joshua (2011-03-03). Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (p. 133). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Rick Russo’s Risk Pool is all emotion in my brain. The book is vivid in my mind– even though I haven’t read it since my father’s death on August 8th, 2007.

Maybe the emotion bit is the part I’m missing when trying to figure out how to memorize text.

More on text memorization from Ed’s Reddit AMA:

[Ill_eat_it] My question: I find it more difficult to learn poetry because it’s more abstract (I’ve been using the method of loci btw). Any tips?

[Ted Cooke] Cool! Glad to hear that you’re getting into memory techniques.

Poetry is very difficult. I use loci to map the lines, not the words. So I’ll have an image for each line, sometimes two or three if it’s very elaborate, and then I will recite the poetry with as much emotion as possible as I go through the memory palace in my imagination.

It takes repetition, but as you do it, you get to know the poetry to a depth quite impossible through casual reading.

When especially deep in my long-term project of trying to learn Paradise Lost (a project I’m still working on) I find myself able to speak Miltonically fairly effortlessly. One of the sweetest (and most pointless) pleasures I’ve encountered that life has to offer.

On memory palaces and vocabulary:

No, I wouldn’t recommend vocab in memory palaces: they’re best for structured info. You want to be able to recall vocab out of context.

On Memrise we’ve built what we think is the optimal way of learning vocab, and omission of memory palaces was deliberate.

Good book reference from the AMA: From Dawn to Decadence.

Ed Cooke – Emotions of Memory

My Prof


“In America, we love stories of self-made men who pull themselves up by their boot straps and no doubt there are such men, but I’m not one of them,” Russo said at that time. He talked of his father paying his union dues, his mother constantly pushing him toward college, and, “just as important, I am a product of public education, government-backed student loans and publicly funded institutions like the Gloversville Free Library.”

“Do I have myself to thank for my success?” he said. “Don’t make me laugh. I don’t even know where my boot straps are.”



My Prof

Kent Haruf’s Watch Cap

The late novelist Kent Haruf was said to write with a watch cap pulled down over his eyes. I’ve also heard of writers that only allow one line to be displayed as they write. Just tricks to quiet the monkey brain down a little as the writer writes their shitty first draft as fast as possible (h/t Anne Lamott).

After reading Joshua Foer’s ‘Moonwalking with Einstein,’ it occurs to me that Haruf wasn’t only blocking out what he has written, but blocking out his space. Foer reports that many memory athletes wore sound suppressing headphone or earmuffs, and glasses that blocked everything but the tiniest hole for viewing through. Foer used these techniques to prep for his upcoming memory competition. Forced focus. Because the memorizers used images to associate cards (King of Hearts = Barack Obama), they would close their eyes to help with memorizing.

It also sounds a little like meditation, only I should never force stray thoughts out — Tara Brach always says to be gentle. When she says to imagine the space between your eyes, my eyes are closed and I’m attempting to conjure up what that looks like.

Lately, I’ve been trying to clear distractions from my mind and my virtual space as I read. When stray thoughts come up, I let them exit, and then continue reading. I throw in a little Pomodoro 25 minute thinking sessions — also the most amount of time I can meditate.

The obvious progression is to go Haruf, but with headphones and goggles modified so I can only see the text in front of me. My new look will make a lovely avatar.

Kent Haruf’s Watch Cap