Rick Bragg, The Decatur Book Festival, and the Road That Goes On Forever

The AJC Decatur Book Festival has grown to become the largest independent book festival in the country. It began in 2006 and you can read about it here (https://www.decaturbookfestival.com/).

Today is the third day of the four day event. I attended many of the festivals but cannot recall the exact number. There is one in particular I do recall, though…

In 2002 a conversion van was purchased in order to make a trip around the country to play in Chess tournaments, and to visit with many people scattered over the country, some involved with research into the JFK assassination. One of the stops was in Rolla, Missouri, where the Missouri State Chess Championship was held. The Rolla public library contained one of a very limited number of the many volume “official” US Government Warren Commission Report. Every report ever released can still be obtained from the government of the US except the Warren Report. Think about that for a moment…

Sometime during the week before the tournament I learned the author Rick Bragg

would be signing books at the Left Bank bookstore in St. Louis (https://www.left-bank.com/).

I had read his first book, All Over But the Shoutin′

and liked it so much I read each of his following books, including Ava’s Man,

which brought tears to my eyes. Rick, like me, was born Southern “by the grace of God,” as the saying goes…Rick is from the Great neighboring State of Alabama. His words struck a chord and hit home because we came from a similar background. He could have been writing about my family, which is, I suppose, why he became such a popular author.

I had plans to play in the Indiana state championship the following weekend so had time to attend the event. By the time I arrived almost all the seats had been taken. Taking the last available seat put me in the back row. The younger woman in the seat to my right was very pretty. She had her long brown hair put up, which I’ve always found attractive, brown eyes, and a smile which caused my heart to flutter while wishing I was at least ten years younger…

Rick was introduced and began to speak. He asked a question of the audience and no one spoke, so I spoke. Everyone turned around to look. It was an extremely quiet audience so I continued to speak during the event. Although I cannot recall much of what was said between us that night I do recall Rick talking about eating at the Krystal.

It seems he had a fondness for the “pups,”

blaming much of his extended belly on his fondness for them, and other Krystal “delicacies.”

As soon as he ended I went to the men’s room. As I walked back into the room where Rick was signing books a nice lady stopped me and said, “I sure did enjoy your conversation with Mr. Bragg tonight.” I smiled and thanked her for saying something so nice. The brown-eyed woman who had caused my heart to throb said, “Me too,” and then immediately dropped her eyes as if she could not believe she had spoken. I thought maybe she was the shy type…She had the look of a librarian.

The publicist who was with Rick noticed me heading toward the door and stopped me, asking if I were leaving. “No ma’am, I am headed to the van to grab a cassette tape I want to give Rick.”

“Is it a book?” she inquired. “No ma’am, it’s music. I just thought Rick would appreciate it.”

“Oh that’s great,” she said, “Rick wants to meet you.”

After nabbing the tape I stepped in at the end of the line behind, you guessed it, the lady with the brown hair and eyes. She had two of his books to be signed. I learned she had not read them, but intended on doing so. We were in the central west end, later to be home of the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center.

I asked her if she would like to get something to eat and she said, “That would be lovely.” This caused a heart palpitation!

She made it to the table, Rick signed her book after doing a double take which caused me to understand I was not the only man who found her attractive. She moved to the side as I walked up and he looked at her and said, “You with him?” She nodded, said “Yes,” and I’m certain my chest puffed out several inches. Rick looked at me and said, “You lucky dog.” Then he shook my hand and we talked for a little while, with him relating something about there always being one guy from similar circumstances in the crowd saying, “And tonight you were it.”

I handed the tape to Rick, telling him I had made about a dozen copies and given away most of them to friendly truckers while on the road like the one who asked, “You need a shower?” as he slipped me his pass. Rick got a kick outta that! I asked him if they would like to grab a bite to eat with us, but his publicist said they did not have the time.

Fast forward to 2008. I was working at the Atlanta Chess Center and had taken the day off so as to attend the Decatur Book Festival where Rick Bragg would be presenting and autographing his new book, The Prince of Frogtown.

His lecture was to take place in a church. It was standing room only and during the presentation Rick used the word “fuck,” which is the only time I have ever heard the word uttered in a church. He was reading from the book, but still…I remember thinking no one made a sound when he spoke the word. Back in the day little old Southern ladies would have swooned, and possibly fainted, after hearing such a word spoken in a “house of the Lord.”

I was in the balcony. By the time I made it outside there was a very long line of people waiting to have their book signed, but no Rick, so I hit the head. I walked back outside, went around to the rear of the tent, stepped across a line that could not be crossed, came up behind Rick, just as some festival gentleman with a badge grabbed me by the arm, and said to Rick “The road goes on forever…”

The official began pulling my arm just as Rick turned to look. Seeing it was me he completed the line, saying, “And the party never ends!” Then he asked “What are you doing here?” The festival official was attempting to drag me away as I said, “I live here Rick. Decatur is the city of my birth.” Rick looked at the official and yelled, “Unhand that man!” Then he looked at me and said, “I can’t believe it…after all these years…I LOVED that tape! I wore it out and had to get a new one. Now I’ve got everything Joe Ely has done!” Naturally, this made me smile.

“So you liked Love and Danger, huh?”

“Liked it? Hell no, I LOVED it!”

The people in line were getting restless, so Rick said, “You gonna be around a while.”

“I can be,” I said.

“Wanna grab a beer and maybe something to eat?” he asked.

“I don’t think they serve beer at Krystal, Rick,” was my response. He laughed out loud as he stuck out his hand and said, “I don’t even remember your name.”

“Michael Bacon,” I said.

“Yeah, that Bacon part rings a bell…”

“Must be something to do with food, huh?”

“You got that right!” Rick said.

I stepped back to wait. The official came over and apologized, saying something like, “Sorry. I did not know you were friends.”

“That’s OK, sir. I know you were only doing you job.” He smiled.

After the last book had been signed we walked to the Brick Store pub.

After we ordered Rick looked at me and asked, “I seem to recall you were with a beautiful woman that night.”

“Yeah, I met her at the signing.”

“No shit?” he said, “What happened with her?”

“Gentlemen never tell, Rick,” I said as he broke into a big, wide grin.

Rick’s latest book is:

I have yet to read it, but there is no doubt it will be read soon.

Can You Handle the Truth?

Yesterday Mike Murray started a new thread in the “All Things Chess” section of the USCF Forum. The title of his thread is a question, “Does chess develop transferable skills ?” (http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=21185&sid=fc8aa899349128eec2cc1414646786be) Mike begins his post answering the question by writing, “Evidently, not so much.” He then quotes from this blog by copying something I copied verbatim:

“…recent research into expertise has clearly indicated that, the higher the level of expertise in a domain, the more limited the transfer [of skills to other fields] will be… Moreover, reaching a high level of skill in domains such as chess, music or mathematics requires large amounts of practice to acquire the domain specific knowledge which determines expert performance. Inevitably, the time spent in developing such skills will impair the acquisition of other skills.”

Mr. Murray then gives a link to my post, and adds a link with which I was unfamiliar:
“see also” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4126200/

I would like to express my thanks to Mike Murray for drawing my attention to this paper.

Before deciding to write about what is currently known in regard to the question of whether or not chess is beneficial for children I took the time to read several papers pertaining to what has been learned by those who study these types of questions. These are the papers:

Facing facts about deliberate practice

David Z. Hambrick1*, Erik M. Altmann1, Frederick L. Oswald2, Elizabeth J. Meinz3 and Fernand Gobet4
1 Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA
2 Department ofPsychology, Rice University, Houston, TX, USA
3 Department of Psychology, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Edwardsville, IL, USA
4 InstituteofPsychology, Health, and Society, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
*Correspondence: hambric3@msu.edu
Editedby:
Michael H. Connors, Macquarie University, Australia
Reviewed by:
Lena Rachel Quinto, Macquarie University, Australia
Michael H. Connors, Macquarie University, Australia

The Role of Domain-Specific Practice, Handedness, and Starting Age in Chess

Fernand Gobet and Guillermo Campitelli
Brunel University

The genetics of music accomplishment: Evidence for gene–environment correlation and interaction

David Z. Hambrick & Elliot M. Tucker-Drob

Accounting for expert performance: The devil is in the details

David Z. Hambrick a,⁎, Erik M. Altmann a, Frederick L. Oswald b, Elizabeth J. Meinz c, Fernand Gobet d, Guillermo Campitelli e
a Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, United States
b Department of Psychology, Rice University, United States
c Department of Psychology, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, United States
d Institute of Psychology, Health, and Society, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom
e School of Psychology and Social Science, Edith Cowan University, Australia

Does high-level intellectual performance depend on practice alone? Debunking the Polgar sisters case

Robert W. Howard∗
School of Education, University of New South Wales, Sydney 2052, Australia

Longitudinal Effects of Different Types of Practice on the Development of Chess Expertise

ROBERT W. HOWARD*
University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Deliberate Practice and Performance in Music, Games, Sports, Education, and Professions: A Meta-Analysis

Psychological Science published online 1 July 2014
Brooke N. Macnamara, David Z. Hambrick and Frederick L. Oswald
DOI: 10.1177/0956797614535810

Intelligence and chess

Fernand Gobet, & Guillermo Campitelli

Educational benefits of chess instruction: A critical review

Fernand Gobet & Guillermo Campitelli
University of Nottingham

What put me on this path was the flap over what Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book. “In Gladwell’s bestselling “Outliers” he discusses the “10,000-hour rule”: If you practice the necessary 10,000 hours you can reach the zenith of your field.” (http://www.salon.com/2014/07/15/is_malcolm_gladwell_wrong_scientists_debate_the_10000_hour_rule/)

In the same article Zach answers, “We found that, yes, practice is important, and of course it’s absolutely necessary to achieve expertise,” Hambrick told the Times. “But it’s not as important as many people have been saying.”

The article, Is Malcolm Gladwell wrong? Scientists debate the “10,000-hour rule: The argument between talent versus practices deepens with the release of a new study, by Sarah Gray, Tuesday, July 15, 2014. This particular article begins:

“A new study, published in the journal Psychological Science, is fueling the practice-versus-talent debate. The study was co-authored by Zach Hambrick, of Michigan State University, Brooke Macnamara, who is currently at Case Western Reserve University, and Rice University’s Frederick Oswald. According to the New York Times, this study is the “most comprehensive review of relevant research to date.”

“The paper, which looked at 88 different studies, covering a wide range of activities, from chess to music to sports, found that only 20 to 25 percent of a person’s ability — in music, sports and chess — came from practice. In academics, the Times reports, it is even lower; only 4 percent of a person’s academic ability came from practice. However, the authors note that academic skill was more difficult to measure, because it was tough to gauge how much people knew beforehand.”

The book by Malcolm Gladwell was a best-seller and the author, no doubt, made much money. Unfortunately for him, his theory has been refuted. Even so, their are many people who have not gotten the word. For example, I was sitting at a table in a Barnes & Noble with a chess board in front of me while reading a copy of the best chess magazine in the world, New In Chess, when an older fellow walked up and asked, “Putting in your 10,000 hours?” I asked if he were referring to Gladwell’s book and he answered in the affirmative. As he took a seat I told him Gladwell’s theory had been refuted. Having read the book, he was in disbelief. “The man would not have written the book if it were not true,” he said. Nothing I said could disabuse him of his belief. Fortunately, someone whom he knew arrived and he took his leave, but not before telling his friend that I was a “party pooper.” I have been called far worse…

This kind of thing happens all the time in our society. An example would be what the Bushwhackers said happened to Private First Class Jessica Dawn Lynch during the invasion of Iraq. Initial reports by the Bushwhackers said that before being captured and brutalized, PFC Lynch, in her best Rambo imitation, fired all the rounds in her weapon until the weapon was so hot it burned her hands, but still she continued, in great pain, to hold onto the weapon, using it to club Iraqi soldiers until there were so many of them she could no longer swing said weapon…or some such. I will admit to paraphrasing here, but you get the idea. The truth came out later, and I quote, “Initial official reports on Lynch’s capture and rescue in Iraq were incorrect. On April 24, 2007, she testified in front of Congress that she had never fired her weapon, her M16 rifle jammed, and that she had been knocked unconscious when her vehicle crashed. Lynch has been outspoken in her criticism of the original stories reported regarding her combat experience. When asked about her heroine status, she stated “That wasn’t me. I’m not about to take credit for something I didn’t do… I’m just a survivor.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jessica_Lynch#Further_reading) See The authorized biography, I Am A Soldier Too: The Jessica Lynch Story, by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Rick Bragg.” See also, “The truth about Jessica.” (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/may/15/iraq.usa2) People can still be found who will tell you all about the brave woman during the invasion of Iraq who made Rambo look like a wuss…

The lies the Bushwhackers told about former NFL star Pat Tillman are even more egregious, and the truth still has not been told to WE THE PEOPLE. I do not mean to single out the Bushwhackers. “Presidential aide Arthur Schlesinger has written that President Kennedy said just days before the assassination that Johnson was a man “incapable of telling the truth.” (See Robert F. Kennedy and His Times, page 655. I have taken this from the masterful work by Douglas P. Horne, Chief Analyst for Military Records, Assassination Records Review Board, “Inside the Assassination Records Review Board: The U.S. Government’s Final Attempt to Reconcile the Conflicting Medical Evidence in the Assassination of JFK – Volume 5.”)

Another example would be the prosecutor who, while the defandant is on the stand, looks the jury in the eye and says, “The defendant is obviously a scurrilous scumbag!” The public defender then leaps to his feet saying, “Your Honor, I most strenuously object.” At which time the judge says to the prosecutor, “The objection is sustained. Mr. Prosecutor. I cannot believe a man with your credentials would would say such a thing.” To which the prosecutor says, “Yes Your Honor. Forgive me. It will not happen again.” The judge then say, “That last remark will be stricken from the record and the jury will disregard the comment made by the esteemed prosecutor.”
When the trial ends and the jury is marched into chambers to decide the fate of the accused, the only question to be decided is which one will be chosen foreman. Once a foreman is chosen he will say, “Do we really need to spend any time voting? It is more than a little obvious the defendant is a scurrilous scumbag.”
Someone will mention the judge said to disregard the remark and will be turned on by the rest of the pack while the foreman says forcefully, “What the hell do you mean? The ESTEEMED prosecutor said the defendant was a scurrilous scumbag, and he would not have said it if it were not true!” Meanwhile the rest of the pack will nod in agreement, saying, “Uh huh, uh huh, right on, right on, right on.” The poor defendant will be lucky to have a show of hands before being declared guilty.