- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Here’s a look at some hardware and software that’s available:

Test and Improve Your Memory, by Scientific Brain Training, requires Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000 or XP operating system, rated E: content suitable for everyone, $29.99. This set of challenges developed by a bunch of French scientists could fall into the category of a late-night infomercial, or it could be a great way to hone cognitive efficiency, or maybe an evil plot by Batman’s archenemy the Riddler to steal memories. At any rate, it can help players take better advantage of their gray matter.

The CD-ROM-based program consists of 12 interactive mind games that can be set at various difficulty levels and played in various permutations to enhance memorization and related attention, reasoning, visual and spatial skills.

I can’t argue with the theory that brains need to be exercised as regularly as the rest of the body. But do keep the rest of the body in mind instead of spending all day staring at a computer screen.

The strangely designed menu to access the games has the user pick from points on a map of the world to get to a particular challenge.

Starting in New York leads to a particularly difficult puzzle requiring the user to compute the number of moves required to rearrange five colored basketballs in a net. Visiting Kronos in Greece, the player must view a series of patterns drawn on squares and determine if the squares will fit into a specified design.

Each exercise can be quite exhausting and requires a decent amount of concentration to complete.

Successful brain trainers are rewarded with a spinning globe made of diamonds, bronze or mahogany as a pipe organ plays in the background.

The program also includes a feedback tool that compares the player’s performance to norms adjusted for age, gender and educational level and generates a graphed performance profile that recalculates the player’s overall strengths and weaknesses after each session to monitor progress.

Overall, my brain did feel trained and drained after exploring this title, which promotes intellectual fun as much as noggin stimulation.

Here’s Lucy, from Shout Factory, for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, $34.99. Speaking of memories, a company becoming known for bringing back some classic television memories via the digital video disc has released a dandy of a title paying tribute to the queen of comedy.

Lucille Ball’s third hit show ran on CBS from 1968 through 1974 and through 144 episodes gave viewers a cornucopia of television moments as legendary actors of stage and screen guest-starred on various episodes.

Twenty-four of those classic shows, picked by Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr., who co-starred with their mother on “Here’s Lucy,” have been placed onto four discs. The set provides not only great-looking versions of the programs (remastered digitally from the original 35mm film prints), but also a historical archive surrounding Lucy and her life during the late 1960s.

Viewers are privy to such moments as Jack Benny rehearsing with Miss Ball during an amusing vaudevillian number for his “Carnival Knights” special from 1968, Lucy introducing her cast mates to a live studio audience back in 1970, and a married Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor on the set making fun of themselves.

These shows and extras compete as part of information overload when combined with optional commentary tracks from Lucie and Desi Jr. Carol Burnett also offers some remarks about her March 2, 1970, appearance on the show.

I was most impressed with the amount of extra footage preserved, including a directorial Lucy walking Sammy Davis Jr. through his lines and camera marks. Also included are blooper reels and amazing obscurities such as a TV syndication sales pitch from Miss Ball and an early CBS promotional spot for “Here’s Lucy” purchased from an EBay seller.

Overall, “Here’s Lucy” will not be remembered as groundbreaking compared with “I Love Lucy,” but the Shout Factory definitely has broken ground with its phenomenal diligence to digital preservation of television history.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail ([email protected]washington times.com).

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