Smithsonian’s Design Decoded explains the architectural origin of today’s standard Staunton-style chess men.
Prior to 1849, there was no such thing as a “normal chess set.” At least not like we think of it today. Over the centuries that chess had been played, innumerable varieties of sets of pieces were created, with regional differences in designation and appearance. As the game proliferated throughout southern Europe in the early 11th century, the rules began to evolve, the movement of the pieces were formalized, and the pieces themselves were drastically transformed from their origins in 6th century India. Originally conceived of as a field of battle, the symbolic meaning of the game changed as it gained popularity in Europe, and the pieces became stand-ins for a royal court instead of an army. Thus, the original chessmen, known as counselor, infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariots, became the queen, pawn, knight, bishop, and rook, respectively. By the 19th century, chess clubs and competitions began to appear all around the world, it became necessary to use a standardized set that would enable players from different cultures to compete without getting confused.
In 1849, that challenge would be met by the “Staunton” Chess Set.
The Staunton chess pieces are the ones we know and love today, the ones we simply think of as chess pieces. Prior to its invention, there were a wide variety of popular styles in England, such as The St George, The English Barleycorn, and the Northern Upright. To say nothing of the regional and cultural variations. But the Staunton quickly would surpass them all. Howard Staunton was a chess authority who organized many tournaments and clubs in London, and was widely considered to be one of the best players in the world. Despite its name, the iconic set was not designed by Howard Staunton.
According to the most widely told origin story, the Staunton set was designed by architect Nathan Cook, who looked at a variety of popular chess sets and distilled their common traits while also, more importantly, looking at the city around him. Victorian London’s Neoclassical architecture had been influenced by a renewed interest in the ruins of ancient Greece and Rome, which captured the popular imagination after the rediscovery of Pompeii in the 18th century. The work of architects like Christopher Wren, William Chambers, John Soane, and many others inspired the column-like, tripartite division of king, queen, and bishop. A row of Staunton pawns evokes Italianate balustrades enclosing of stairways and balconies.
Jonathan Blow produces games which are less violent and more pretentious than conventional gun-them-down and blow-them-up games.
The Atlantic really buys into to all this, and lavishes praise on a fellow whose approach to gaming sounds to me a lot like films by Alain Resnais.
[W]hat makes Blow’s games so remarkable[is, that] at great personal expense, in ways no other developer has even attempted, he struggles to communicate a deeply authentic vision of the meaning of human existence. With both of his games, Blow strives to use the unique language of video games to impart the wisdom he has gained the hard way in his life. In The Witness, he hopes to help players try to “step outside their human viewpoint and see what the world is.” And in Braid, he sought to communicate something more personal still. ...
[W]hat he is [is]—a spiritual seeker, questing after truth in an as-yet-uncharted realm. These are the terms in which he sees his art. “People like us who are doing something a little different from the mainstream have each picked one direction that we strike out in into the desert, but we’re still not very far from camp,” he told me. “There’s just a huge amount of territory to explore out there—and until you have a map of that, nobody can say what games can do.
If you take apart GarE Maxton’s 40-45 lb. (18.18-20.45 kgs.) puzzle sculpture, comprised of over 100 pieces which took a year’s worth of precision machining to produce, you can assemble from a number of concealed parts the single shot .45 caliber muzzle-loading pistol seen below.
The Telegraph reports on the remarkable results achieved by an enormously large committee inspired simultaneously by commercial vulgarity and political correctness.
After 18 months, 40 focus groups and a secret operation worthy of MI5, London 2012 on Wednesday finally revealed the mascots that will help define the capital’s Olympic experience, and just as importantly help pay for it.
The one-eyed figures, called Wenlock and Mandeville, were unveiled at an east London school on Wednesday with organisers hoping they will inspire a generation of children and persuade their parents to contribute the £15 million the mascots are slated to raise in merchandising revenue.
Two parts-Pokemon to one-part lava lamp with yellow ‘Taxi’ lights on their foreheads, the distinctive characters are intended to capture the imagination of children and work as well in the digital world as they will in costume form at trackside in 2012.
Any concern at the appropriateness of the design, which shares a certain abstraction with London’s much criticised logo, should be off-set by the smart choice of names, which resonate with Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic history.
Much Wenlock in Shropshire is considered by many the birthplace of the modern Olympics. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the IOC, visited the town in 1890 and took inspiration from the annual Games organised by Dr William Penny Brookes, a local doctor, to “promote the moral, physical and intellectual improvement of the inhabitants”.
Stoke Mandeville’s famous spinal injuries unit meanwhile was where the Paralympic movement began, and the naming of one mascot after the hospital is an explicit attempt to raise the profile of the Paralympic Games.
The mascots will soon be ubiquitous, with merchandise going on sale in July to mark two years to the London 2012 opening ceremony.
They are a central part of London’s £70 million merchandising budget, and organisers hope the mascots will contribute up to 20 per cent of that sum through sales of T-shirts, key-rings, tea-towels and the like.
The Cyclops design allows the mascots’ eyes to work as lenses, and digital cameras in the shape of the characters will be available.
The organisers of London 2012 were plunged into a fresh row after the new Olympic mascots were branded “patronising rubbish” by design experts. ...
Apparently hewn from the “last drops of steel” left over from constructing the final support girder of the Olympic Stadium, the one-eyed creatures are intended to help young people relate to the Games.
But branding experts last night called them “a calamity” and accused Olympic bosses of wasting thousands of pounds on their creation.
Stephen Bayley, the prominent design critic, said: “What is it about these Games which seems to drive the organisers into the embrace of this kind of patronising, cretinous infantilism? Why can’t we have something that makes us sing with pride, instead of these appalling computerised Smurfs for the iPhone generation?
“If the Games are going to be remembered by their art then we can declare them a calamitous failure already.” ...
[C]ritics said the design would leave young people baffled. Aaron Shields, a partner at the design agency BrandInstict, said: “I don’t think people are going to relate to these very modern creations. The first rule of mascot creation is to make something familiar and accessible, not something alien. This is just going to be seen as another disappointment coming out of the Olympic games.”
MikroKopter, a German company selling kits, frames, and innovative designs to that country’s enthusiastic miniature aviation hobbyist community, has a very cool six-rotor model which, alas! will set you back $1,549.95USD for the basic model.
Lying on his back, watching the passing clouds, he worried over the Nathaniel Hawthorne lookalike’s role in this grim threesome. (Dwell magazine, November 2009)
The blog Unhappy Hipsters exists to mock the spare and alienated modern architectural and interior design aesthetic celebrated by très, très chicDwell Magazine simply by captioning some of its photos of the sophisticated “at home in the modern world.”
My wife, who brought this one to my attention, is naturally sympathetic to Unhappy Hipsters’ jaundiced viewpoint on expensive moderne minimalism. Our preferred houses tend to be old, and thoroughly cluttered with books, weapons, natural history specimens, Orientalia, and sporting prints. A friend from Yale once described our native habitat as “decorated by Stalky & Co.” Our design aesthetic might be described as Addams Family Excess.
Where do those hipsters keep their books? one always wonders.
I was busy yesterday writing up an account of the Murder Hollow atrocity for Chronicle of the Horse, when in came an email from your friends and mine at Bang & Olufsen offering me my own personal preview at my nearest B&O showroom of the Danish company’s brand new BeoTime alarm clock.
A B&O alarm clock! thought I. I have got to see that. (So I Googled it.)
And yes, it really was cool looking.
If I actually used an alarm clock (I don’t, being one of those people who come equipped with an internal mental one), or had a bedroom full of B&O equipment, or was not just another currently impoverished inhabitant of Obamistan, I could actually see running right out and paying a mere $375 for an alarm clock this cool.
Edwin at Coolest Gadgets was also appropriately admiring.
(T)his is the first alarm clock I’ve seen that makes me actually want to wake up so that I can admire its beauty, although that novelty ought to wear out in a couple of days.
BeoTime will come with an integrated sleep timer that can turn all Bang & Olufsen equipment in the room to standby mode after a selected time interval of up to two hours, making it the perfect, complementary device to own especially for folks who tend to fall alseep at the couch due to an extremely boring movie or just a bad habit. Functions include an alarm and sleep timer, alongside the ability to perform basic operations for the bedroom television, loudspeakers, or light controls. It does pretty well for itself as a unique desk clock, making it ideal for one’s work or home office.
The BeoTime was also designed to be extremely convenient and a snap to figure out, boasting easy operation that requires just one’s thumb. You get a built-in tilt sensor within that shows information and button functions change orientation in accordance with how BeoTime is position, regardless of whether it is being held, left on the nightstand, or placed in its wall bracket. As with other Bang & Olufsen products, the Beotime won’t come cheap, retailing for $375 when it hits showrooms later this August.