Archive for the ‘words’ Category

“It’s a Google,” says McCain

June 9, 2008

Al Gore may have invented the Internet, but now John McCain has discovered the utility of Internet search engines, even if the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is still befuddled about using Google as a verb.  From Reuters: “‘You know, basically it’s a Google,’ he said to laughter at a fund-raising luncheon when asked how the [vp] selection process was going. ‘What you can find out now on the Internet — it’s remarkable.'”


Political Endgame

April 19, 2008

A chess analogy carried unusually far in The Huffington Post: “At this point the entire endgame is predictable. Clinton, like a good chess player, can easily see that the remaining moves inevitably lead to checkmate; it’s time for her to tip over her King and concede defeat.”

Triple Entendre

April 8, 2008

Mary Roach’s new book Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex includes a delightful triple entendre: “Kinsey wanted Dellenback to film his own staff. There are three ways to read that sentence, all of them true.”

(hat tip: The New York Times)

Blinded Me with Science

February 21, 2008

I like when song lyrics can be aptly trotted out on singular occasions. Last night, at the height of the lunar eclipse, I received a text message from a friend: “I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.”

I think it would be fun to go through an ordinary day and try to work as many appropriate song lyrics into conversation as possible.

Strange Semicolon Sighting

February 19, 2008

The semicolon, what Frank McCourt calls the yellow traffic light of punctuation, is common in literature but rarely appears in advertising copy. Which is why the sight of it in a public service ad on the New York subways is striking to grammar groupies. The ad beseeches riders to take their newspaper with them when they leave the train: “Please put it in a trash can; that’s good news for everyone.”

The subterranean resurrection of the semicolon prompted Sam Roberts to reflect semihumorously on the period hovering over the comma. His essay quotes Kurt Vonnegut: “When Hemingway killed himself he put a period at the end of his life. Old age is more like a semicolon.” Read what Roberts has to say; you’ll enjoy his essay; I know you will.

Latest Review of King’s Gambit

December 8, 2007

The Oregonian is the latest newspaper to review my book. Under the title “Mated to a Fanatical Spouse: Chess Mastery,” the review begins:

“After reading King’s Gambit: A Son, a Father, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game, Paul Hoffman’s memoir of his and others’ lives in and around the world of professional chess, it’s easy to see how this mesmerizing sport keeps itself largely removed from the hearts and minds of the American public.

“For every Garry Kasparov, the former champ and would-be successor to Vladimir Putin, witness: the cruel decline of another former champ and current anti-Semitic expatriate Bobby Fischer; the narcissism of Kalmykia President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a millionaire who runs the international chess federation FIDE and whose own Russian republic chokes on dust as he showers the chess world with his excesses; and the madness of Vladimir Nabokov’s Luzhin, the broken grandmaster culled from reality in the novel The Defense.

“Neither flawed genius nor chess is new to Hoffman….”

And the whole review can be read here.

(Another) Missed Opportunity

December 7, 2007

On Wednesday evening, at 9:11, I received an unusual text message from a cell phone number I didn’t recognize: “Ultrasecret hanging out with 40 wasted nurse practitioners. They know how to wrap a bandage.”

I thought it was porno spam—the first I had ever gotten on my cell—and feared a barrage of texts for penal enhancement supplements (see comments below) and get-rich-quick Nigerian oil schemes. I showed the text to a friend, and he too agreed it was porn.

I particularly liked the appellation “practitioners.” Nurses are a mainstay of pornography, or so I’ve been told. But these were not just nurses—care-givers in tight white dresses who were eager to attend to your needs—but nurse practitioners: they had additional schooling. The implication was that they could hold a conversation between acts of bandaging.

Last night I was IMing my friend Chris, and he said, at one point, “I hung out with 30 drunk nurses last night.”

Oh damn, I thought, the party I missed!

During the previous evening’s debauche, he had been using a different cell phone, which accounts, of course, for my not recognizing that the text was from Chris. I realize now that the unusual expression “nurse practitioners” (which is particularly wordy for a text message) should have been a giveaway: only he (who is an appealing amalgam of heady and hedonistic) would have used it.

King’s Gambit Signing in Philadelphia

November 23, 2007


Next Thursday, November 29, I’ll be in Philadelphia for a book talk and signing at 7:00 PM at a cool independent bookstore called Head House Books. Head House is at 619 South Second Street.


Engaging “Engaging Pieces”

September 23, 2007

I’ve been catching up on my reading, and this weekend I got to Howard Goldowsky’s anthology of interviews, short fiction, and opinion pieces. What comes through most in the book is how much Howard cares. He cares about chess, and he cares about people. Before I cracked open Engaging Pieces, I already knew that Howard was a thoughtful interviewer. (He’s questioned me twice, once for ChessCafean interview that’s anthologized in Engaging Piecesand once for the October 2002 Chess Life.) But from reading his book, I discovered that he is also an entertaining fiction writer. Fans of the royal game will enjoy his work.

A Whale of an Index

September 10, 2007

Two-time U.S. Women’s Champion Jennifer Shahade blogged about how she began “reading” my book King’s Gambit by consulting the index for all mentions of Shahade.

I love indexes. Today I found my old Thomas calculus book from high school, and, just as I remembered, there was a little hijinks in the index. It says, “Whales, p. 188.” But turn to page 188 and you’ll find no mention of whales; there are two graphs on the page, though, that are vaguely whale-shaped.

Can you name the book that contains the following index entries?

Allen, Woody, 20

Bust, 376-77

Clinton, Bill, 311

Cruise, Tom, 72

Fishburne, Laurence, 65

Houdini, Harry 20

Madonna, 199