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Bullet Chess

Like just about everyone else in the world, I have turned (actually re-turned) to the game of chess this winter, partly in the wake of the popularity of The Queen's Gambit , but also just because it's winter, it's COVID, and it was bound to happen eventually. I go through a chess phase about every two years. I play on the Chess.com app, which allows you to play millions of players from around the world, and to play games in which you get anywhere from seven days to one minute to make moves. I used to favor the games in which you get 24-hours to make your move. But bullet chess is my latest obsession. Basically, bullet chess games are lighting fast matches in which you get one (1) minute to make your moves. No, not one minute to make each move, but one minute to make all your moves. As in, you start with the clock at 1:00, and then, if it takes you 10 seconds to make your first move, you have only 0:50 seconds to work with after that. It is the game of chess compressed and
Recent posts

New Yorker Fiction Review #265: "Dietrologia" by Paul Theroux

Review of the short story from the Dec. 7, 2020 issue of The New Yorker... Paul Theroux -- American travel writer and novelist, author of The Mosquito Coast , among many other works -- used to write about traveling, adventuring, and romancing in far-flung locations. Now he's writing about kindly old men sitting on their porches, telling stories to the neighborhood children. Time catches up with us all.  In "Dietrologia," an old Italian man living in Hawaii, Sal Frezzolini, sits and talks to a group of local kids who live in his neighborhood, discussing with them various episodes from his life that he struggles to understand. The kids don't really, fully understand either, but for a different reason: they're kids. They mostly marvel at how old Sal is and await the chance to get cookies from his cookie jar. Meanwhile, Sal is at conflict with his wife about the fact they must soon relocate into a smaller home, more suitable to people in their waning years.  Not exact

New Yorker Fiction Review #264: "The Winged Thing" by Patricia Lockwood

Review of the short story from the Nov. 30, 2020 issue of The New Yorker... I feel like like I ought to be familiar with Patricia Lockwood, but I'm not. After about 30 seconds of Wikipedia research (literally performed between writing that last sentence and this one) I see that she's under 40, from Indiana (my second home, so extra points there), and has at least five books under her belt.  From the 30 minutes I spent reading her short story "The Winged Thing," I get a bit of a Lorrie Moore feel: funny, snarky, jaded, but in the end tender-hearted and ultimately hopeful. I'm sure that revisionist description of Lorrie Moore's oeuvre would manage to make a true Lorrie Moore fan want to puke. But, I'm doing my best. My point is, "The Winged Thing" is the story of a real human crisis shot-through with dark humor and some not-inconsiderable snark, but behind (almost) every jaded snarkster is, in my opinion, someone who has been hurt or had their own

New Yorker Fiction Review #263: "The Old Man in the Piazza" by Salman Rushdie

Review of the short story from the Nov. 23, 2020 issue of The New Yorker... My experience with the fiction of Salman Rushdie includes all of (now) two short stories in The New Yorker , the other one from way back in 2015 called "The Duniazat," which I loved little more than I loved "The Old Man in the Piazza." That said, this current effort met with my approval, which I am sure Salman Rushdie is relieved to hear. Salman Rushdie seems to write in "fables" which -- unlike Aesop's fables (the only other fables I really know about (are there any others?)) -- are not readily translated into some easy, spoon-feedable meaning like "careful what you wish for!" or whatever. No, Salman Rushdie's fables are much more nuanced and encompass a much broader sweep of humanity. Furthermore, thankfully, they do not seem to put a value judgement or some kind of prescription on human behavior. Rather, like "The Old Man in the Piazza," they come fro

Two Great Show-Biz Autobiographies: "They Call Me Supermensch" and "When I Stop Talking You'll Know I'm Dead"

Over the past month I've listened to two autobiographies by two famous talent agents: Jerry Weintraub and Shep Gordon. These two books have a lot in common and these two men have a lot in common. They are both Jewish, they are both from New York, they both had careers that crossed-over many genres of show-business but mostly music and film. Furthermore, both books were read by the authors themselves, which is always a real treat. I don't know what either of these guys are (or were , in the case of Jerry Weintraub...R.I.P.) actually like as individuals, but after listening to these two books I feel like I'm best friends with both of them and I didn't want either book to end.  They Call Me Supermensch (2016) - This book is a follow-on to the 2013 documentary Supermensch directed by Mike Meyers of SNL and Austin Powers fame. The documentary is spectacular and if you haven't seen it, I highly, highly recommend it. It's so good, you wonder why exactly there needed

New Yorker Fiction Review #262: "Hansa and Gretyl and Piece of Shit" by Rebecca Curtis

Review of the short story from the Nov.16, 2020 issue of The New Yorker...  Unless I'm forgetting something, or my eyes deceive me (both equally possible, let's face it), it's been about six years since I've read anything by Rebecca Curtis. Her story "The Pink House" still sticks in my head after all these years, even though I had forgotten -- until today -- who wrote it.  Rebecca Curtis is one of the most darkly funny contemporary writers, and while "Hansa and Gretyl and Piece of Shit" is not her best work, to me it was an impossibly intriguing read. It made me a bit uncomfortable, in a way, as art -- good art -- often does, and was shot through with a thread of tension strong enough to pull you through any boring parts, of which there weren't many.  I'm not a big fan of the "fairy-tale retold" genre. In fact, I pretty-much hate the "fairy-tale retold" genre. However, "Hansa and Gretyl and Piece of Shit," thankf

Breckenridge Brewery

The other night, I needed to grab a couple six packs of decent beer, and I didn't have much time. I was in a beer store I didn't know well, and so the task was daunting. Somehow, I made a really good choice, grabbing two sixers of beer from Colorado-based Breckenridge Brewery: their Christmas Ale and their Oatmeal Stout.  Christmas Ale -- At 7.1% alcohol this malty, full-bodied ale with just a hint of Christmas spices will warm you up, and fast. I want to say it tastes "thick" but that's not a great descriptor. Let's just say, it tastes "hearty," what you want a Christmas Ale to taste like.  Oatmeal Stout -- A smoky, dry oatmeal stout registering at a solid but not overly powerful 5% ABV. Really, the chief thing about this beer is the smoked flavor. It's almost -- in a weird way -- like drinking liquid bacon. But it actually works.  Being my first exposure to Breckenridge, I have no idea what their other beers taste like, but I'll definitel