Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Chess in the Library: Natural Harmony

Chess Library
Is this not perfect? 

It is a wonderful synthesis when two hobbies in life come together in such a perfect way. Activities like watching TV and eating dinner, walking and daydreaming, owning a cat and being a masochist. I am talking about my love of chess and my love of libraries. Whether it be in a private home library or a public venue one can enjoy both in tandem.

My father showed me how to play when I was six. My uncles all played too. They had fun knocking me around. Eventually my Uncle Vincent who was really into chess took me under his wing. It was the late 70s. Medieval imagery and stories were booming at that time. Tolkien, Arthurian lore, role-playing games were all being brought out from the colleges and into the mainstream. I remembered being immersed in this fascinating bygone era. It was a mix of fantasy, history, fact and fairy-tale. I could not get enough of it. I think that it was one of the things my parents really shared in common. They weren't scholars or serious hobbyists. They just found it fascinating and it rubbed off on me.

Chess Library
A lovely hotel amenity
The game of chess really was a perfect admixture for all that culture from all those different sources. I always associated chess with that era of my life. Also, chess and its relation to medieval history brought to me an appreciation of academia and libraries. Museums and libraries brought me to a deeper, more complex appreciation for the book. From the book to writing to blogging. So all this comes together quite nicely.

Now, what better room is there for your chessboard than your personal library. (And no, your chess app on your e-reader does not count!) Sorry, you need reality and a room. You need wood shelves, old books, some comfy chairs, a fireplace if you are lucky. The parlor isn't really that good. The TV is there. It is usually a central hub of the house with people going in and out. A private room with few distractions aside from the tinkling of ice in your whiskey glass. Just you and your opponent. I wonder how many old  That is a good time.

What's in your chess library?
Public libraries too can join in the fun. They often are host to small public gatherings, book signings and informative guest speakers. Chess is not always played privately. It has been known to be a spectator sport. The library provides a wonderful setting for friends or chess clubs to get together over the pieces. It is a great way to use the library and advertise a game steeped in tradition.

Speaking of chess clubs while I was researching this blog I found a nice organization called Chess In The Library. They are a primarily Canadian group who fosters chess clubs that meet in libraries across Canada. Why let the Canadians have all the fun? I'm sure some other countries out there can do the same. And yes, I am sure some already have their own. So, if you are looking to join a chess club and are less than thrilled with online play go to your local library and see if they have something going on.

Chess Library
These guys really get into it!

Chess Library
This is more along what I was thinking :)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book Reviews

Today I wanted to speak on a subject that has been bubbling in the back recesses of my mind for some time now. That subject is the book review. Why, you ask? Well, if you must know, I need to think of fresh topics that may pique your interest. It is something that I have been intending on writing for some time now. Today is that day, well rather that night. Now you are probably wondering what exactly about book reviews am I going to touch upon. I'm getting to that! If you would just stop wondering and allow me to write I'd get to that. Quit interrupting me!

The point that I wanted to make was this notion that somehow 'neutral' book reviewers are somehow are more favored than people personally known reviewers. This is something that I hear from everyone I know who has written or is currently writing books. I do know a few. This is something that personally drives me insane. Why is someone who cares absolutely nothing about whether you succeed or fail as a writer more valued than someone who has a stake or just personally wants to see the writer succeed? Since Patriarch Photios (yeah, same guy who got into a theological scuffle with Pope Nicholas I) wrote the first recorded book review (Bibliotheke) back in the 800's there have been many book reviews and thus people in similar positions.

While I am not a 'book reviewer' per se I have done so. I've read them. I've seen them published. We all have. I will grant you that professional reviewers probably have a greater skill. They know what to look for with greater technical proficiency. I can see that. Yet, I feel if a pro reviewer had a friend who was a writer the writer would still hold the review at the end of twelve-foot pole like a plague-ridden blanket.

Why is this? Here there is no question of technical acumen. Here is where we get to the crux of the issue. This is an issue of definition. The writer does not want a 'neutral' reviewer. The writer wants a stranger to read the book. The writer is already somewhat satisfied with the work to allow another to read their treasured time. The writer already knows that there needs to be some refinement. The writer just wants to know that their blood, sweat and tears has reached the mind of a completely new individual who is hopefully enjoying their work. That the stranger will tell others who will in turn tell others. This will eventually lead to  every one in the whole world having read their book (and liked it).

Yes, I know this writers out there. I am one of you guys. I am in your position. I have my own project in progress. I will put it out there for my friends to read when it is done. I will be itching for my work to take that next step, for it to flower and succeed. My advice to my compatriots in the fight out there. Take advice and constructive help wherever it can be found. Your friends DO want your success. They are not reading your work with rose-colored glasses. They are not the villagers in The Emperor's New Clothes. They want to help and be a part of the process. The reviews from the outer world will come in time.

(My 100th blog post! Yay!)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Old TV

Well, we made it to New Year's Day. Not really much to do today it is cold outside with a blizzard on the way. I would probably kick back and read for a bit, but there is a Twilight Zone marathon and that is one of my guilty pleasures. Been a longtime fan since I was a kid. The episodes really don't scare me anymore, but I am of an age where I can understand Serling's moral messages.

That is not what I am writing about today. Today I speak about old TV and old movies in general. While I watch these movies I am as much enjoying the setting as well as the story. I enjoy watching what was modern turned time capsule. I'm not talking about attempted recreations of the past. I'm talking about movies set in what was the modern day. I love watching the old signs, the house furnishings and appliances, the sayings, pool halls, diners, the events and norms of the day.

What some people see as dated and devoid of what they see as familiar I see as a treasure of history. Not the famous history of Earth shattering events, but simple cultural history. These films are accurate representations and I predict will become more and more important in educational study of culture. It is armchair archeology. Pretty soon we'll have one hundred year old TV shows. While yes, I confess do enjoy the pop ephemera. I really do watching the old fashioned world of The Three Stooges or Laurel and Hardy. So many of their productions were set in old hotels, houses or just outside in the city. You see everything they took for granted and totally forgot about.

While much of what I am talking about is looking into an era that predates me or my memory. The rest of it is revisiting youth. Both versions are just as enjoyable. So if you enjoy history and you seek it in books, documentaries, courses here is one more angle to try. Just sit back and watch old TV with another level of enjoyment. You'll be surprised at what you find.