Monday, February 11, 2008

Mind Games

#358 Mind Games

This is not the same as head games. Mind games. That's when you do stuff with your brain so it doesn't atrophy and make you into a prematurely demented codger.

There's been an awful lot written lately about how you can stave off stuff that's probably mostly genetic. And the boomers and the pre-boomers are all convinced that the key to life is to keep forever young. Those of us in a certain (undesirable) demographic have become totally obsessed with making sure our brains, such as there are of them, don't short out and shut down. It's a nice idea, if a bit obsessive.

But a whole industry has arisen over this, and there's an irony to it. We older folk are largely ignored by the world of commerce. Not entirely a bad thing. I like being invisible in an auto showroom, an appliance or furniture store or at a real estate open house. I don't like having become a target of the video game industry, which is over us like pigeons on a park bench these days, to get us to buy brain enhancing toys. You guys couldn't give us the time of day a couple of years ago. Now, you've learned to play on our fears and sell us expensive game consoles and even more expensive games that have us clicking away like a couple of 14 year old boys killing spacemen or aliens or "enemy" soldiers on video screens.

Crossword puzzles, writing thrice weekly blog entries, and just plain ole' thinking would do the trick. But no, you have to try to sell us fancy "scientifically proven" junk to "improve" our coordination and mental agility.

Well, I'm going to bust your bubble. Most of us already have an expensive video game that will do just fine in keeping the brain in shape. We don't have to buy it because it's already on the computer. Computer solitaire.

If you go after it like dog vs. bone, you can do as much mental calisthenics as you would by playing Senior Brainiac or any of the other expensive stuff.

You think it's simple? Just flip cards and take a chance? Not so. Computer solitaire is not just chance, though chance plays a part. It takes planning, strategy and thought. And it takes speed. The little numbers in the lower right hand corner show you elapsed time and actual score. Speed counts.

You have to figure things out. Like if you have a black king on the board and another black one comes up -- skip it in favor of a red king, if you have one. That sort of thing. You have to move face-up cards around a bit sometimes, and since the computer won't stop you from shifting the three of clubs from beneath the four of hearts to the four of diamonds, it's "legal." You have to be thinking.

And you have to be working a strategy. This is as good for you brain (and your increasingly arthritic fingers) as anything the Wii (is that pronounced "wee," or is it "why?") people or the Game Boy people can throw at you.

Another thing they tell you about keeping your brain fit is that you should play a musical instrument. If you have one, dust it off. If you have to buy one, here are a couple of suggestions.

If you want to annoy your family and neighbors, Wal-Mart sells a clarinet for under $200. That may seem a little expensive, but in the world of woodwinds, that's dirt cheap. Plus, a clarinet learning experience is sure to drive your neighbors nuts. Especially the ones who play hip hop music until three every morning. If your older, chances are you try to sleep early and you have to rise early. There's nothing like the squeak of beginning-clarinet at eight or nine in the morning to get those kids riled up. (Don't worry about the gang attack. These guys dress like cartoons and act tough so you won't notice they dress like cartoons, and the toughness is all surface.)

If you like your neighbors, get a solid body guitar and no amplifier. You can play at any hour of the day or night and no one can hear it but you.

And you can join the "Y" or some other health club to keep the blood flowing. That, too, is supposed to enhance brain function. Plus there's a lot of good scenery to view while you're on the treadmill or the stationary bike pretending to read back issues of "Better Homes and Gardens" or "Palates Quarterly."

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.® If you'd like a copy of my brief monograph on how to cheat at computer solitaire, please leave a request and a working e-mail address in the comment section.

1 comment:

pipskippy said...

The WalMart toy is a little pricier when you factor in the welfare and corporate subsidies. Plus, walking into a WalMart lowers your IQ by a few points, so it's a null sum game. Your local music shop will gladly sell you an instrument that doesn't promote exploitation and grossly unnecessary consumption.

4761 J-6

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