By Angela Reinhardt
Until recently all I knew about Bobby Fischer was that he was a chess prodigy who would forever be that sweet boy I remembered from the trailer for Searching for Bobby Fischer, a film I’ve never seen. It’s only been in the last couple months that I realized that little boy wasn’t actually Bobby Fischer, who for my entire life I mistakenly characterized as the humble-genius type. Fischer was, I’ve found out, brazenly unlikable and arrogant, a jerk-genius type instead.
I know this now because two months ago my son expressed to me his newfound interest in chess, and since then I’ve gone down the chess rabbit-hole, watching old matches and interviews with players, reading about grandmasters and chess strategy (the latter of which I’m proud to say I understand at least part of the time) - but most importantly I’ve played a few matches with my 14-year-old.
It was a quiet Saturday afternoon at home when Auri told me he was “getting into chess.” I had no idea he’d been playing with friends online.
“Yeah,” he told me. “It’s fun.”
Memories of my childhood flooded in like a full-on pawn storm. Dad taught my sister and me the rules when we were young, 10 or 12, and we’d play from time to time over the years.
“No kidding,” I said. “Wanna play?”
I dug out our cheap 6-in-1 game set that can also be conveniently used for backgammon, checkers, cribbage (does anyone actually play this?), Chinese checkers, and dominos. The chess pieces were plastic and uninspiring, but miraculously all accounted for and even had the fuzzy green felt on the bottom I remembered fondly as a child.
It had been at least 15 years since I’d played a match, but I was able to summon the rules from some long-unused backroom of my mind - and I’m not going to lie, I was proud of myself for remembering where all the pieces should be placed and how they moved. Still, I had no idea what to expect since I was rusty and Auri hadn’t been playing long - then he proceeded to obliterate me in seven moves the first game and talk copious amounts of smack the second.
“Well that was an interesting choice,” he said, and, “Wow, I wouldn’t have done that,” he passively gloated after I’d labored several minutes over my turn before he swiftly took his.
Damn it. He’s pretty good, I thought. Was he trying to psych me out? His approach was, of course, completely unacceptable in professional matches but somehow endearing at our kitchen table. He beat me every game, and it was easily the most enjoyable time I’ve had with him in a while.
All this happened before we’d heard about the Netflix series Queen’s Gambit, which I have since watched voraciously (seriously, so good). Interest in chess skyrocketed after the show was released, and beyond being secretly glad mine and Auri’s interest wasn’t a bandwagon thing, it made me happy to think about people playing a game that is simple to learn with just a few rules, but a challenging mental exercise that’s extremely difficult to master. During some of my turns it felt like it looked like I was thinking - brows possibly furled, eyes slightly squinted, and I may or may not have leaned forward a little at times. But in contrast to Rodin’s “The Thinker,” I probably just looked stupid. Auri didn’t haze me for that part, though, just my ill-thought-out rook to d3 move.
So, yeah, I know Bobby Fischer is a jerk now because my son told me he liked chess and I decided to play with him. I know that and so many other things I didn’t before – vague notions of openings like the Sicilian Defense; that Magnus Carlson is the current grandmaster; and that I find those two-dimensional chess boards that let spectators see what’s happening during a match oddly satisfying.
I also know that there is no better way to spend time with my kids than tech-free activities that, hands down, put the check in check mate.
Seriously. Y’all are amazing. This community deserves a huge pat on the back for its resilience, adaptability, and its determination to maintain some semblance of normalcy in a year that has been anything but.
We were moved this weekend at the Night of Lights Christmas parade, which like so many other things in 2020 had to be drastically modified because of the pandemic. We were moved because, despite challenges posed by constantly changing health guidelines, y’all still made it work. By “y’all” we of course mean organizers with the Jasper Merchants Association who were quick on their feet and innovative, whipping up the concept of a drive-thru parade to keep everyone safe.
By y’all we mean the people and businesses who spent their time and money to make floats. We mean the Pride of Pickens Band and color guard that performed at the courthouse so spectators could enjoy live Christmas music. We mean volunteers and law enforcement who worked the event. We mean all these people, of course, but we also mean all those around us who simply showed up to support the parade.
Traffic was backed up in every direction with folks who wanted to get into the Christmas spirit, and it warmed our hearts. People wanted to take part. Participants could tune into the radio to hear the parade being narrated, holiday music, and a local council member read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’. It made you feel connected with other people in town even though everyone was in separate vehicles.
The Progress posted some photos of the event on social media, and while there were a few Grinches who had the gall to complain about long lines or fewer floats than normal (shame on you), by and large people were positive.
Here are a few of those positive comments:
Jessica Allen – “We had a ball at the Christmas parade. A lot of people worked really hard to make this parade special and it was. My kids really enjoyed it. Thank you to everyone who made this possible and stood out in the cold to spread a little Christmas cheer. Love my hometown.”
Monica McClain – “We absolutely loved this. Got there around 5:45, drove through and listened to the music. We had a blast. Perfect idea in an imperfect world. Thank you to everyone in our small community that participated in making this a magical time for the kids.”
Tina Geiger – “I think it was the greatest show of Christmas spirit that so many people made this happen. I missed it, but the spirit behind the effort was really what the holiday is all about. God bless each and everyone who thought it, created the floats, played the music, and those who came out in the cold but beautiful night to make it all worth it.”
Sherry Martin – “My 82-year-old mother never gets to leave her house. I didn’t care if we were in line for hours, I was determined for her to see it and get out of the house. Kudos to all of those who did a great job of bringing some cheer to our little town. Thanks.”
See, naysayers? This event was important for people, and the volunteers’ efforts didn’t go unnoticed. The parade is just one of so many examples of how the community has mustered up the gumption to make things work this year.
It’s proof that the human spirit can’t so easily be broken, and can rise to unprecedented challenges.
We hope and pray 2021 will mean brighter days ahead, but in the meantime we are proud of how so many have pulled together to make the best out of a bad situation. Y’all are amazing.
By Dan Pool
This fall I needed new arrows for my old wooden recurve bow. I enjoy shooting at a target in the backyard and the arrows used make a lot of difference. Before March of 2019, I would drive over to the Bargain Barn for advice and arrows. Although it sounded like a second-hand store, they had a knowledgeable staff on all things hunting and fishing along with a wide selection of outdoor products. Longtime residents will be familiar with what they sold as the Bargain Barn had been in business since 1961 and was a competitor of Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops when the Jasper store was at its peak.
Now, I’ll either need to drive out-of-town or order online and “chat” to get my questions answered.
With retailers, if a community doesn’t use them, they lose them and the Bargain Barn closed in 2019. People occasionally mention that we need a book store here, to which I remind them we had one, a nice one, right on Main Street. Nickell Books is long gone also.
With the Bargain Barn, the book store, and quite a few other specialty stores, you often run into higher prices than what’s online. With free shipping and hassle-free exchanges, it’s hard for local mom-and-pop stores to compete against the likes of Amazon.
This year digital companies have extended their domination of the American economy, as people staying home found they could do more online and e-companies, to their credit, stepped up to fill the need.
Consider that in August, it was reported in the NY Times that “The stocks of Apple, Amazon, Alphabet (Google), Microsoft and Facebook, the five largest publicly traded companies in America, rose 37 percent in the first seven months this year, while all the other stocks in the S&P 500 fell a combined 6 percent.”
Those massive companies have seen their stock prices continue an upward trajectory, most either doubling this year or close to it.
No one should begrudge them the success. It wasn’t luck, they earned it. They made shopping while sitting in sweats on your couch ridiculously easy with two of the companies, Facebook and Google, driving you to products you never knew existed.
But as we enter this holiday shopping period, I ask our readers to consider the impact of where they shop? [First, a little caution is warranted. Who knows what will happen next with so much turmoil in the world? Now is not the time to max our credit cards.]
The underlying question: Are you going to help online retailers make even more money or do you want to support the businesses of this community?
When you shop, remember that what is spent by everyone in the community at area stores and restaurants, makes an impact right here at home. A jump in local spending allows some of the businesses to keep a full crew or offer bonuses or in some cases, just keep the doors open.
On the other hand, all the 2020 holiday spending by Pickens residents wouldn’t be a drop in the bucket to the biggest online retailers.
Instead of insisting on the lowest price possible, how about enjoying the small town atmosphere of shopping with people you know? We realize that some arrows and other specialty products simply are not available here. But we all need to realize that if we don’t support our neighbors in their businesses even fewer products will be available here.
Furthermore, the big national companies are going to take what you spend back to the corporate office and divide it out to shareholders, being sure that billionaire owners are compensated in the millions.
Here, the money you spend (hopefully) is re-spent at other local businesses, buying tires, paying HVAC repairmen and having parking lots resurfaced, running ads in the newspaper, paying property taxes and providing sales tax to help our schools and governments.
Worst of all, a closed local business is a sad sight, a morale killer for the whole community and does nothing to benefit anyone.
Now is the time to support your community – loyal to local as the saying goes. No matter how nice the online offerings may be, there’s no way those companies are employing your neighbors, supporting a church building fund or helping with medical expenses of someone here. And it’s unlikely the owner of any of them will stop and speak to you.
By Dan Pool, Editor
Candidates who use mass texts should do it from personal phones
It was a pleasant day during the Thanksgiving weekend when I heard my phone beep a couple of times indicating text messages. The first was someone named Charlie, letting me know that the fate of America was in my hands. With such a dire communication I quickly read on to discover the text was on behalf one party’s candidates seeking the senate seats up for grabs in the runoff. Maybe theoretically, the fate of America is in the hands of those who got the texts, but not really. Even for politicians that rhetoric is stretching it.
The second text that came shortly afterwards was also about that race.
It’s still about two weeks until early voting starts (Dec. 14th) but if I had I a ballot in front of me in the moments after those texts arrived I would not have voted for those senders.
Campaigning is to be expected, but text messages should be an off-limits forum. It’s intrusive, invasive and annoying to get random texts from a political campaign, especially on a holiday weekend. And let’s hope there is a backlash against candidates whose campaigns are using them—though it looks like all the senate hopefuls are.
The difference is the text message is more personal than other communications. It’s what your kids use to let you know they got where they were going or your wife uses to remind you to get something for her in town. You look at texts much quicker than e-mails. (Newspaper ads are obviously the ideal way to campaign and they show up when readers are actively seeking information, not when their damn phone beeps and interrupts them.)
If a candidate wants to send out mass-texts, it should be mandated they do it from their own personal cell phone. That’s fair. If they obnoxiously butt into your Saturday, then why shouldn’t they take replies?
You deserve to be heard back from when you stop yard work and find some imbecilic political drivel. The intrusion is more deserving of a pie in the face for the offending candidate, not a vote.
State/feds need to capitalize on popular parks
This fall, I have had the chance to get to some of our National Forests and state parks. They are wonderful, especially this time of the year with the leaves falling and cooler temperatures.
When people think big government, it too often is with negative reactions. But state parks/national forests are well liked and well used. In fact, they are crowded, but this isn’t a problem, it’s an opportunity. Seeing more people using them augurs well for future protection and expansion of facilities.
The state and national parks people need to expand through user fees and more efficient and cooperative operations. A perfect example is the nearby Amicalola River area, a combination of DNR-managed land and property owned by the City of Atlanta. You are supposed to have a “land pass” or a hunting or fishing license just to be on the trails there. However, it seems unlikely the casual passerby stopping for a stroll along the river trail would know they should have bought a pass online before they arrived or hope they have cell service.
In Georgia, we have 867,000 acres of National Forests across 26 counties and you don’t need a pass for these. But you’ll find odd signs that allow camping in one spot but not in a spot 50 feet away. There may be some grand plan but it’s hard to figure out where you can pitch your tent and whether you need to pay anything.
Since COVID encouraged people to shun urban spots, all these natural areas have seen a rush in use. A spot where Noontootla Creek, the Appalachian Trail and Benton Mackaye trails converge was so crowded some weekends this fall that campsites were impossible to get and parking along the road looked like Black Friday at the mall.
What’s needed is for the state and federal leaders to work together, act like a traditional business and say it’s time to expand. Charge these outdoor users a fair fee, but make it easy to pay and then use these funds to create even more great spots around our state at no cost to the taxpayers.
This a rare case where we are telling government, we like your work please do more.
By Dan Pool
I realized last week that the majority of the fodder you see on the internet is self-help material. By fodder, I mean e-mails you didn’t request and the links that pop up everywhere.
It’s an interesting world, where you can lose hours studying everything from which bourbons ought to be in your bar to how to do a “perfect pushup” as though regular push ups aren’t enough. And maybe that is the draw - “What if I could do the perfect pushup?” Would I suddenly look like an NFL linebacker?
I worry whether we have the horse or the cart in front here. Are we in so much need of help that we are all searching for the best meditation apps for our iPhone? Or, are there so many people profiting off this stuff it is creating an atmosphere where we feel compelled to read “10 tips for improving your memory?”
In any event, below is a collection of various advice that caught my attention in a trip down the rabbit-hole of self-help gurus and advice.
• Zen Buddhist guidelines for daily living from “Moon Journeying Through Clouds” - Pause before buying and see if breathing is enough.
• From How to Be Productive. According to Ancient Philosophy by Author Darius Foroux - “‘Better a little which is well done, than a great deal imperfectly.’– Plato,” to which the author adds, “We can achieve a lot in a lifetime. We can achieve little in a day.”
• From the Drug Market Observer Intelligence Report, for investors not partiers, “Magic Mushrooms Are The Next Big Boom (and Legal!)”
• From Blazer.com on dressing sharp heading into fall, “Fall has always been the time for smart layering, especially when it comes to jackets.”
• From Men’s Health – 20 ways to boost your mental health - Number three on their list was this gem, “Troubleshoot pre-trouble - It’s not worrying; it’s strategizing.”
• From Digg.com - “Helpful tips to avoid being tired all the time,” a video that advises among other things, less caffeine in the afternoon will help you sleep better.
• From Wired.com, a doctor and “food archeologist” says we eat meat all wrong – it’s the innards and blood we should go for, not the t-bones. And avoid eating meat where you don’t know the name of the person who killed and processed it – as in a local farmer and butcher or hunters.
• Daily Bible Living advises to memorize Bible verses that you can fall back on in trying times. Their recommended verses were Psalm 29:10-11, Luke 8:43-48, Isaiah 45:3, 2 Corinthians 1:9-10
• Tim Ferriss, a famous podcaster and author, had in a recent newsletter: “What I’m using twice a week — Hand balance boards for handstands and hand balancing -- I’ve been getting back into spending time upside down. Specifically, I’m working on hand balancing.”
• Gretchen Rubin, another author/podcaster who has made a career out of advising others, offers a plentitude of tips at the The Happiness Project including creating an “emergency kit for anxiety, worry, and stress,” which are a bunch of relaxation techniques.
• But I was more interested in “Caskers” and their “six spirits you should try” including – Ardbeg 10 year old – “it’s not just the peat that comes to the forefront, it’s the unmistakable scent of salty sea air, which manages to transport you to a seaside cliff on Islay.” Now that sounds like a drink and a emergency kit for stress all rolled into one.
• According to RealSimple.com, it’s not Scotch but breakfast that will be big in 2021. Everyone working from home has gotten used to more than a bowl of cereal on the run. They also advise olive oil’s fad will run its course.
• And finally, for anyone hoping I would give out the magic formula for foods that burn belly fat, according Healthguide.com, tofu and berries are at the top of the list.