Wednesday, 22 September 2021


ppe: an enigmatic update to COVID guidelines 

i don’t want to live on this planet anymore: a supercut of Futurama gags that have endured  

norm macdonald has a show: an appreciation of the comedian’s (†) early standup  

ernie and the emperors: a Giant Crab discography (1969) 

grandmaster: the mental and physical tolls of chess  

appareil: gorgeous French brick patterns from a 1878 catalogue 

 tireless research: Ruben Bolling showcases great scientists of the twenty-first century

Friday, 18 June 2021

blanc joue et mate en 2

Via the morning news, we learn that not only is there a developed, strategic version of free to print and play one-dimensional chess, there’s quite an extensive history of 1D chess variants going back decades—even as early, in the form at least of single row, constricted practises, as 1925.

Friday, 19 March 2021


centre of attention: country-focused map world map projections (see previously)  

foia follies: celebrating the worst in US government transparency  

double-bongcloud: top chess players making bizarrely risky openings—via Kottke  

the positively true adventures of the alleged texas cheerleader-murdering mom: fifty year old charged with harassment for producing deepfakes to defame her daughter’s competition and get them kicked off the squad 

letterlocked: using x-ray technology and artificial intelligence (see also) to read historical epistolary works without destroying them 

house of the muses: a search engine that finds visual correspondence among masterpieces in world-class art museums via Open Culture  

terra incognita: a sonic sea chart of phantom islands (previously here and here)—via Things Magazine

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Via the always interesting Language Hat, we are referred to a circumspect survey of the names for the six chess pieces in different languages, seventy-eight to be precise. Just a few noteworthy items to compare and contrast, the Rook—usually called a Tower or Fortress in many languages is a ship (ะ›ะฐะดัŒั́) in Russian, and while the Queen is usually a royal consort and co-equal, the piece is a vizier or viceroy in Arabic, Hindi, Turkish and Russian. The Bishop can also be interpreted as a messenger or runner—from the Latin for cursor. Metonymically, the King was originally the Persian Shah and when under attack by the opposing side, was said to be in check and during the end-game, checkmate—that is, the king is defeated.

Wednesday, 3 February 2021


We quite enjoyed learning about this chessboard designed in 1922 by Bauhaus artist Josef Hartwig, teacher and head of the sculptural arts department until 1925, whose pieces help one intuit their range of motion and rank (see also) that masterfully reflect the form-follows-function sensibilities of the movement through their elegant geometry. Two versions were available on the market, one “daily use” version (Gebrauchsspiel) and a second Luxusspiel with figured turned from more exotic wood but most consumers were already priced out by the cheaper model. Learn more from Open Culture at the link above.

Thursday, 24 December 2020

nittel nacht

Observed in some Jewish communities dating back as far as the late seventeen-hundreds with scholastic reinforcement in the following century, the Yiddish term (ื ื™ื˜ืœ ื ืַื›ื˜) for Christmas Eve likely comes from natalis but may also refer to the hanged one, nitleh, an epithet for Jesus during the Middle Ages. In medieval Europe, non-observers were often forbidden from being seen in public—with Yuletide often signalling the beginning of attacks on Jewish neighbours by Christians—so this was a good excuse to staying in and specifically not studying the Torah and abstaining from enjoyment so as not to give any glory to the day, though for some, reading the Sefer Toledot Yeshu (an alternate hagiography that portrays Jesus as a womanising charlatan though possibly accounts themselves are exaggerated as another excuse to label people as blasphemers—that is, megadef) as an acceptable activity to engage in. Chess and card games became a tradition, in lieu of other pastimes, and children were apprehensive about being snatched away on this night by demon Jesus.

Thursday, 26 November 2020


surrogate: Trump issues pardon to former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who pled guilty twice to making false statements to the FBI involving his Russian connections 

thermochromic: windows go from transparent to tinted while generating electricity  

l’atlas: an intriguing new approach to mapping France’s natural glory—via Things Magazine 

 : reimagining the Queen’s Gambit as a MS DOS PC game 

fry guys: one intrepid connoisseur revives a long lost recipe  

stonks: only pausing to take credit for and praise the teetering high of the Dow Jones, Trump presents a very abbreviated brief

Monday, 21 September 2020

disrupted chess

Via the always excellent Nag on the Lake, we are introduced to the range of multi-sensory board games—fluxchess sets—conceived and crafted by studio artist (see previously) Takako Saito to question the primacy of vision to play and in the artistic aesthetic in general by tethering experience to higher planes through the richness of perception and incorporating all the senses.

In addition to the pictured version where players have to ascertain each phial-piece’s rank and range of motion by sampling the liquor it contains, there is also spice chess with the chessmen identical and distinguished into one of the six by its scent and more tactile and acoustic games. Much more to explore at the source link up top.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

rank and file

Like the exquisite but diminutive game piece itself we nearly overlooked this incredible find (see also) that provides a tangible link between the activity of Lindisfarne and the Viking raids and subjugation that began at the dawn of the ninth century.
On learning that the finely crafted bauble is speculated to be playable character of an ancient Viking board game, akin to chess (ibidem as it turns out), called hnefatafl my memory was jogged and there’s quite a bit of resonance to an artefact that suggests how these imagined ruthless plunders brought along their pastimes and distractions to the equally imagined milieu of desperate poverty and privation.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Tucked away in a drawer for the better part of five decades, a family in Edinburgh has learned that their treasured heirloom conversation piece is one of the five legendary missing pieces from the Lewis Chessmen (previously), a medieval set from the twelfth century unearthed on the Isle of Lewis in northern Scotland in 1831. A shrewd antiques dealer got the artefact for a bargain of £5 and it has been appraised at over a million pounds—hopefully auctioned off to join its team mates.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019


We regret having missed this scandalising graphic design choice from December of 2017 when the new season’s World Chess Championship logo had its debut, but it is still resonant since the world (on-line and off) is puerile as ever and wont and eager to prise a dirty joke or snicker out of any situation. The studio behind this pugilistic emblem as well as the client organisation that commissioned it called out as something obviously tantric responded in a healthy way, however, appreciating the furore and the focus it brought.
The world is lousy with bad design and there’s a lot of unintended suggestiveness—though of course sex sells, but overall attacking what’s bold or avant-garde makes design as whole boring and more conservative, brands and associations not wanting to risk what might be made the butt of ridicule. This obsession—which I am sure will go into overdrive with candidates developing their campaign imagery—seems to me like a surrogate for that persistent though mythical legend about subliminal advertising (by definition, if it is subliminal, it does not register) that had people trying to find (and in some cases swearing to it) nudes in ice cubes for the past six decades.  More to explore at the link up top.

Monday, 5 November 2018

tafl top

Our gratitude to TYWKIWDBI for the introduction to the family of Nordic and Celtic strategy board games played out on a grid with asymmetrical armies with the player on the defensive clustered at the centre of the board—protecting a king or castle from capture.
Known as hnefatafl (fist-table—I guess for pounding the table and upsetting the pieces out of frustration over losing) or Viking chess, variants were played in the British Isles and Scandinavia for centuries—with the received rules written down by natural philosopher Linnaeus in the eighteenth century, but so rife with errors and mistranslations that the rules needed to be re-written and the original form of play was lost. Trying to reconstruct this ancient game, however, and watching it evolve has proven to be a fun and fertile activity. Learn more at the link up top.