I’m about to go and present a conference paper about the trust responsibility in U.S. Indian law; most people will find almost anything mentioned below more interesting than that.
Video: “My Demons” by The National
Anybody who has asked me for a music recommendation in the last few years has heard about The National. They are far and away my favorite band in recent years; I saw them play three times on their last tour. They have a new album out next month, and this is the first official single from it. Unsurprisingly, it is great. Wait for the bridge.
I am very interested in standards— how they are established and by whom, in what fields or areas, and what the costs and benefits are. Mostly this is because I get annoyed by the fact that, for instance, there isn’t the equivalent of an ISBN number for movies, which makes a search on Netflix a hit-or-miss operation (though this is also because their search engine needs some work). This article is about the origins of the Staunton chess set, which was created in 1849 and quickly became the standard design internationally. It’s not a standard in the way that ISBN numbers are, exactly, but many world chess organizations now use it in order to avoid confusion: you don’t need to share a language if you know that the King is always going to be the tallest and have a cross on top. Among the more interesting tidbits in the piece is that the Knight in the Staunton set is based on a horse found on the Elgin marbles, which is why it always appears to be…distressed.
Video: Acoustic Games of Thrones Theme by Blue Skies
I am not watching Game of Thrones, because I don’t have HBO. But this is pretty amazing. One of the books in my to-read pile right now is Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus, and this made me think of that book: this guy figured this out on his own, maybe just because he wanted to see if he could pull it off, or maybe because he wanted practice in arranging things for guitar; whatever the reason, because of YouTube, something that would have remained a private accomplishment is now available for everyone to see. Anyway, it’s cool. You should watch it.
Via Digg Videos.
Photos: “Native Americans: Portraits From a Century Ago.” Photos by Edward Curtis; post by Alan Taylor
There are plenty of reasons to be critical of Edward Curtis, not least of which is the fact that he was explicitly involved in perpetuating the idea that Native Americans were doomed to disappear— his photographs were an attempt to document them in their “natural” or “unaltered” state before that happened. Despite all that, though, they are some amazing images.
Interview: “In Conversation: Robert Silvers” by Mark Danner
I’m pretty sure that I have posted things about Robert Silvers before, but I find this guy, and the New York intellectual circle of which he was a part, fascinating. The occasion for this interview is the 50th anniversary of the New York Review of Books, of which Silvers is the editor. “The paper,” as Silvers always refers to it, was founded in the midst of a newspaper strike in New York, taking advantage of the fact that the presses were idle and nobody had anything to read; it was also a response to what its contributors saw as a lack of serious, critical writing about books. Its success (it has remained profitable almost from the beginning, even as the internet encroaches on the turf of most print publications) was a result partly of serendipity, partly of perceiving a need and filling it, and partly of the editorial skills of Silvers and his original co-editor, Barbara Epstein, who simply demand the best writing from the best writers. Silvers is 87 and still works longer hours than most people, and the NYRB is still doing great stuff. As I have said about Silvers before, I think, his story is an example of the importance of “curation,” a word that has gotten buzzy lately but, really, is what good editors have been doing for a long time.