Recent Press and Recognition

February 21st, 2008 Staten Island Live
GET OUT: Don't fuhgettaboutit

By Jodi Lee Reifer

Wanted: Staten Islanders to play mind games with America's top brainiacs

Next month, Homer Simpson might whack a golf club into Dali's iconic "melting watch" painting. Hulk Hogan may hammer a snowball with Charlie Chaplin's cane. These aren't scenes from pirated new episodes of "The Simpsons" or "American Gladiators." They're not even scripted. But these surreal visions are just as likely to pop into James Jorasch's head when he competes in the 10th annual USA National Memory Championships. The March 8 contest in Manhattan dares anyone to memorize 200 random digits, the order of shuffled playing cards, 99 names and faces, 100 spoken words, and 50 lines of unpublished poetry. Jorasch, 42, who's prepping for his fourth pageant, associates each playing card with a character, action and object. For instance, the eight of hearts symbolizes Homer Simpson, while the six of diamonds represents Dali or his signature "Absence of Memory" painting. "It sounds like a whole lot of mental gyrations to go through just to memorize a couple of cards," admits Jorasch, who played chess as a kid and has competed in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. "But once you get the translations down, you can start." The point? There are many, says Memory Championships founder, Tony Dottino, a former IBM finance exec, who now runs a consulting firm. "The purpose is to get people to realize there is so much more we can do to develop our brain than we ever thought was possible -- throughout life," says Dottino, 60, a grandfather of three. Sure, the ability to recall names is handy at parties and in business meetings, he says. But honing the memory also helps people retain procedures for the office and in every day situations. Think car repairs and medication schedules. By trade, Jorasch is an inventor who "makes dumb machines work smarter." His refined memory skills help while he's tooling with medical or telecommunications equipment. "To be an inventor, you really have to know the 100 other ways that people have solved the problem," says Jorasch, of West Port, Conn., who trains for the memory pageant an hour or so a day for two or three months. It's not as difficult to master recollection techniques as one might suspect, says Dottino, the co-author of two books, "The Grass Roots Leaders: The Brainsmart Revolution in Business" (Ashgate Publishing Company, $25) and "The Brainsmart Leader" (Gower Publishing Company, $35). One of the most popular techniques is called the Roman Room. It links random words to familiar objects in a room. "The objects create anchors in the brain to now associate and link new information to," says Dottino. Memorizing random strings of digits works similarly. "The key is taking a number and make a story from it," he says. The number 762149 might contain an anniversary or the year a parent was born. Demographically, most "mental athletes" -- as Dottino calls them -- are high school students, but many are older. So far, a 31-year-old software engineer from San Francisco, a 53-year-old ordained minister from River Falls, Wis., and a 49-year-old "memory trainer" from Richmond, Va., have signed up. But the contest is still waiting for its first Staten Islander. Any takers? Contact AWE senior writer Jodi Lee Reifer at

USA National Memory Championships This elimination-style tournament challenges aspiring and legit brainiacs to memorize 200 random digits, the order of shuffled playing cards, 99 names and faces, 200 spoken words and 50 lines of unpublished poetry. The person who makes the fewest mistakes wins two round-trip business-class tickets to Bahrain for the international competition. (Yes, the wealthy Middle Eastern island nation where Michael Jackson hid from the paparazzi in 2005.) When March 8 Preliminary round: 9 a.m. Finals: 1:30 p.m. Where Con Edison's headquarters 4 Irving Pl., Manhattan More information Visit or call 201-573-0300 The application deadline is Feb. 29. Registration is $25. Download an entrance application. The finals will be broadcast on direct satellite, HDNet. Watch the live competition for free.