Saturday, February 10, 2018

Learn How to Play Chess Like a Writer

A number of writers like Nabokov, Lewis Carroll, and Edgar Allan Poe wrote about and played chess. Unlike Tolstoy, you may not have learned to play chess as a child but I've got a simple way for you to learn, because it can be a daunting task. 

Firstly, I recommend that you learn the names of the chess pieces and how they move:

Moves one box in any direction

Moves in any direction as far as possible

Moves forward\backwards and side-to-side as far as possible (i.e., in straight lines).

Moves diagonally as far as possible

Moves in a L shape and is the only piece that can jump

Moves forward one box but initially can move two but captures diagonally
The only piece that can block
If it reaches the other side of the board, it gets promoted to a piece of your choosing

Secondly and lastly, I recommend that you play. It's that simple. Once you start playing, you'll organically understand how to capture your opponents king (i.e., "Checkmate."). And the game is so kind that you're warned that your king is in grave danger (i.e., "Check."). If you can't find a patient human to play with you, I recommend an app set on the lowest level of difficulty. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

#WhatsInYour[WRITER'S]Bag: A Russian Novelist's knapsack

Transparent Things (1972) p.18

A popular hashtag on Instagram is #whatsinyourbag. For some reason, it can be fascinating to view the contents of a stranger's bags. And writers may find it very interesting to read about the contents of a Russian novelist's 
  • rough drafts of letters
  • an unfinished short story in a Russian copybook
  • parts of a philosophical essay in a blue cahier purchased in Geneva
  • loose sheets of a rudimentary novel temporarily titled Faust in Moscow
  • portable ink
Person is the protagonist in Nabokov's Transparent Things. A quean took Person to a room in a "hideous old roominghouse" where the Russian novelist "[...] sojourned on his way to Italy."

So, what's in your (writer's) bag?

Monday, December 25, 2017

Polyglot Kató Lomb Condones Reading for SLA

Kató Lomb is well-known in the world of polyglots for learning fifteen languages as an adult. In Polyglot: How I Learn Languages, Lomb recommended some unconventional but reportedly effective strategies. For example, she wrote: 

"[...] dare to include reading in your learning program from the very beginning, and second, that you should read actively." (66)

"[...] books [that you find personally engaging], which can be consulted at any time, questioned again and again, and read into scraps, cannot be rivaled as a language-learning tool" (66)

"[...] more efficient means of learning exist [than reading engaging books in a foreign language], [but] more accessible and obliging ones do not." (69)

Lomb recommended buying instead of borrowing. That way the books: "[...] can be spiced with underlines, question marks, and exclamation points [...] and annotated so that they become a mirror of yourself." (69)

"[...] books not only teach grammar but also provide the most painless means of obtaining vocabulary." (74)

Here's Lomb's methodology for using reading as a second-language acquisition (SLA) strategy (69):

So, grab an engaging book in your target language and a (monolingual) dictionary (to be consulted conservatively) to supplement your SLA.

Sunday, November 26, 2017


I recently stopped by the Mid-Manhattan library, which is temporarily housed inside of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. While perusing the art books, a relative showed me a copy of The Bronx Artist Documentary Project. She didn't realize that I was one of the writers of the tome.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Secret[s] of Sleep

The October 23, 2017 issue of The New Yorker is packed with interesting articles. For example, Jerome Groopman's review, "The Secret of Sleep", of Meir Kryger's The Mystery of Sleep is particularly intriguing. 

Kryger's question “Why do all forms of life, from plants, insects, sea creatures, amphibians and birds to mammals, need rest or sleep?” is particularly interesting when viewed through the lens of orthodox Muslims who believe that God doesn't get tired, rest or sleep.  

Groopman writes: "[...] after we have been awake for about fourteen hours, and increases in intensity until the eighteen-hour mark, after which we find it hard not to fall asleep." That explains why, no matter how badly one wants to write, it becomes very difficult to write after being awake for 18 hours - especially if one sleeps five hours per night.

In addition, Groopman writes: "Reiss looks to the historian A. Roger Ekirch, who, in 2001, documented that in early-modern Europe and North America the standard pattern for nighttime sleep was “segmented.” There were two periods, sometimes termed “dead sleep” and “morning sleep,” with intervals of an hour or more when the person was awake, sometimes called “the watching,” during which people might pray or read or have sex. In some indigenous societies in Nigeria, Central America, and Brazil, segmented sleep persisted into the twentieth century. Ekirch hypothesized that segmented sleep was our natural, evolutionary heritage, and that it had been disrupted in the West by the demands of industrialization, and by electricity, which made artificial lighting ubiquitous."

Once again, this is particularly interesting to orthodox Muslims who perform Tahajjud [Arabic: تهجد‎‎].

Lastly, Reiss reminds: "Honoré de Balzac [...] was fuelling his writing with twenty to fifty cups of coffee a day, often on an empty stomach. Balzac believed that, with caffeine, “sparks shoot all the way to the brain,” and “forms and shapes and characters rear up; the paper is spread with ink.” Balzac typically wrote between fourteen and sixteen hours a day for two decades, producing sixteen volumes of “La Comédie Humaine” within six years." 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

#NoFaceArt Instagram Account

I have an Instragram account. I don't post any personal photos, but I curate. I was inspired by a billboard that I saw on the High Line to collect #nofaceart photos. Interestingly, Picasso said in Life with Picasso, "As long as you paint just a head, it's all right, but when you paint the whole figure, it's often the head that spoils everything." These are some of my finds:

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Writers Are Anitfragile

According to Nassim Taleb's Antifragile, artists and writers are antifragile i.e., they benefit from disorder and controversy. For example, Nabokov's Lolita, his most controversial book, made him rich and famous. (Interestingly, most of Nabokov's books contains nympholepsy.)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

500 Blog Visitors = 1 Book Sold?

I was having dinner at Má Pêche with a New York Times bestselling author when I frustratingly shared that I sell one book per (approximately) 500 unique visitors to my blog. 

Surprisingly, the author shared quite nonchalantly that he got the same results. 

Is this an unspoken rule slash phenomenon or just a coincidence?