Graffiti vs. Streetart

If you read my recent article on Urban Traveling you would know that I am a person who enjoys cities, and with that comes an appreciation of an art form that thrives in them, graffiti. With the rise of #streetart on social media like Instagram and twitter and companies like Heart City Apparel it is safe to say that if graffiti had a spokesman, they deserve a raise. There is certainly a generational difference when it comes to labeling something as street art instead of graffiti,but it is certain that the art form is on the rise and shows no signs of stopping. Street art has become ubiquitous and been co-oped by businesses looking to attract younger customers so much that I don’t see the scales tipping back to where the majority of people see graffiti with a negative connotation.

The different labels of street art and graffiti are both filled with weighty connotations that, put simply, mean acceptable or even encouraged versus a pock mark on society. Street art it seems has evolved out of graffiti as a more palatable form anti-establishment expression, while graffiti remains the work of criminals. While I was living in Frankfurt, the ECB or European Central Bank had actually hired street artists to cover the walls surrounding their newest facility. If that isn’t a sign that the “establishment” has accepted street art then I’m not sure what is. Cities all over the world have started capitalizing on the tourism associated with the street art in their cities as well as creating sections where street art is even encouraged and publicized. One of the most famous contemporary artists right now, who has had films, scandals, and made worldwide news is even a street artist named Banksy, who many say sticks closer to the protesting roots of graffiti.

However, things like the tags of signs and illegible graffitied names will continue to be seen as criminal activity and vandalism because they weren’t pre-approved by the proper authorities or they aren’t an actual depiction of art. Other street art “exhibits” will be painted over or removed because of this which is one of the things that makes street art truly unique. While artists can sell pictures of graffitied walls or street corners in a gallery, the true art will be free for a short period of time before removed or replaced making each one a one of a kind experience that is free for anyone willing to take a look at it. If you are a lover of art and still haven’t warmed up to the idea of graffiti as art try and open up your eyes a bit more on your walk today and see if anything strikes your eye as street art instead of graffiti. Feel free to let me know where your favorite pieces are or if you consider them graffiti or street art.

The Game of Hearts

So you’re interested in learning how to play hearts, or as many of us know it the card game on your computer that isn’t solitaire. Cards are always a great way to keep some conversations going, stoke some competitive fires, and maybe have a few drinks. Hearts, despite the maybe feminine sounding name is good for all of these things and relatively quick to learn. One of the most important rules is right in the name in fact, cards of the eponymous suit are where you’ll find yourself some points. The game dates back a few hundred years and just because your grandmother can kick your ass in it does not mean you won’t have a great time doing the same to your friends.

The gameplay is relatively straightforward, four players are dealt equal hands until the deck is distributed and then gameplay starts. Some people play with the possibility of passing cards before the first, second, and third “tricks” or rounds. If you are not playing this way the person to the left of the dealer starts the round by playing any card they’d like, the person on their left must play a card in that suit if they can, but if they have no cards of the first card’s suit they may play any they like. Play continues like this until four cards have been played and the hand is then awarded to the player whose card is the highest card in the suit set by the first card played. After this points are recorded and play goes on with whoever “won” the previous round (ended up taking the cards) starting.

The scoring of the game is fairly simple and here are two types of cards that traditionally carry points with them. The object of the game is to accrue as few points as possible through the rounds, like golf, and gameplay stops when a number of rounds have finished or a certain point value is reached. If a player “wins” or takes any hands with a heart suited card in it they are awarded one point for every heart they take. The most dangerous card is the queen of spades, which if taken carries 13 points with it. So there you are, a simple enough game to pass the time with tons of variations to play around with if you find yourself getting a bit board. You can also now play with tons of apps on your commute to work, or even boot up that Windows 98 desktop you have in your attic and give it a whirl.

10 Things You Didn’t Know & Might Not Want To Know About Chess

Chess is one of the most popular board games still played worldwide, and has been a mark and symbol of geniuses for centuries. Whether you’re playing it on one of the many engraved tabletops in your local park, at home, on your phone while on the metro, or on one of those opulent life-sized boards while you pretend you’re in Harry Potter, the game is everywhere. Treading the line between sport and mental activity, chess has been a constant of ‘civilized society’ for over a millennia now. People continue to play it in coffee shops to catch up, through the mail to stay in touch, or in bars to simply pass the time between sips, but there is a lot more to the game than many know.

10 It is Super Old

The age of chess has and will continue to be disputed until we most likely get a selfie of somebody with the caption of “first chess game ever!” holding a board and a newspaper from around the 5th or 6th century. In any case, before that happens chess scholars, which is apparently a thing, have conservatively decided that roughy 600 AD is the first indisputable time period where chess was popular enough to be mentioned in texts (Link 1). This means that around this time chess was in the mainstream enough of people able to read and write that they felt it should be included however briefly that people were playing this game. That means that chess is older than most things you can think of, your grandparents, the scientific method, the postal service, the list could really go on quite a while. With this sort of tenure as a popular board game you can simply imagine all of the people big and small who must have tried their hand at it.

9 Despite Having Things Like Bishops and Knights It is Not From Europe

While chess is one of the oldest games still played around the world today, it had to start somewhere right? If you’re nodding your head you probably look a bit odd to anybody around, but you’re correct. And as with any great idea that has been around a while the exact location of where it came from is a bit hazy and it seems a lot of people are looking for the credit. For the origin, as for the age of the game, texts mentioning the game seem to be our best bet at giving an outright answer as to where the game came from. However, texts can be a bit dodgy as they’re translated over to more current languages, or simply written forms of stories or legends that have existed for a number of generations usually. That is why there are really three regions that have a realistic claim to the birthplace of chess, Persia, China and Pakistan with Pakistan’s claim holding a bit more weight than others (Link 2).

8 It Is Basically Just A Rip-Off

The game that spawned it all, Chaturanga, or at least spawned a few games including chess, Chaturanga is most likely from Pakistan and at some point some of the rules were lost after chess had evolved from it. The board and many of the pieces look very similar to the chessboard and pieces we use today with a slightly more “eastern” feel all around (Link 3). While the game can no longer be played because of the missing rules the game still has influences that are felt throughout the world with the games it ended up being turned into.

7 The Chess We Play Isn’t The Only Chess

While we know the game that started it all, another reason there is so much confusions to when and where chess actually started is because there is more than just the western chess that we know and play today. The most popular variation is Xiangqi or “Chinese Chess”, which in many ways looks very different to the chess many of us are used to but has its roots in the same place (Link 4). Xiangqi is still very popular in China and the surrounding regions and in many ways is similar, the main difference being the board used to play the game. Otherwise, the pieces behave and are named similar to the chess many of us play, because of its popularity and the similarities “chess” as many of us know it is often called western chess or international chess to avoid any confusion in certain parts of the world.

6 Chess Has A Special Place In English History

Many people know that chess has been popular in books for quite a while now, if we take a look at the first Harry Potter Novel we can see it is adapted to the “wizarding world” as the brutal game of wizard’s chess. However, when books were first being printed in English this affinity with the written word was just as strong. In fact, one of the first books to be printed in the English language was a book, published by William Caxton, Game and play of Chesse (Link 5). So it would be a bit crazy to say that chess influenced the English language, but if you were to visit a library that had books in chronological order you’d very easily be able to learn a little bit about English. That is of course if you could read and understand 15th century English, which we all know is super easy to do.

5 Some Countries Even Teach Chess In Schools It’s So Popular

With chess being an almost worldwide symbol of intelligence it is a wonder we don’t play it more often right? That’s exactly what the Armenian government thought a few years ago when they added chess classes to the school’s curriculum (Link 6). Chess has often been used as a metaphor for life and the obstacles and trials we face in it, so why not get the hang of it all at an early age right? Armenia is one of the more chess-centric countries with a large number of chess world champions for a country with such a small population. Since Armenia paved the way other countries have started adopting chess into their curriculum as well. Many schools in Hungary now teach chess as a subject and other countries are beginning to debate the idea seriously with those in charge of the curricula (Link 7). We may soon see a generation of kids playing chess for an hour a day during school, getting rid of the “chess club” nerd stereotype that exists at nearly every school. Of course who knows, maybe we’ll still think of people playing chess as nerds if they’re doing it outside of school, like kids doing homework for fun.

4 The Man vs. Machine Chess Game Has Gone On Longer Than Computers

At one time chess was so popular among the aristocracy and nobility that in order to impress them a man built what was said to be a machine that could play chess. A mechanical man skilled at chess and what was called the “knight’s tour”, a challenge where the knight had to occupy every space on the board once. While now hearing a computer that can play chess is really nothing to bat an eye at, of course computers were none to common eighteenth century Austria. The contraption housed an operator that would actually be controlling “the turk” from within the playing table in order to give the appearance of mechanical actions. The illusion was able to tour the world with famous opponents like Benjamin Franklin Napoleon Bonaparte before eventually being forgotten about in a small museum after it had long outlived its creator. A fire eventually burned “the turk” leading to the last of its secrets being revealed as the first machine to play chess wold never play another game (Link 8).

3 Playing Chess Makes You More American

The World Chess Championship of 1972 was between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky, two guys with very American and Soviet names, respectively. While it may not have been the height of the Cold War and for many wasn’t as exciting as beating the “ruskies” at hockey in the olympics, Americans at this time really didn’t need telling twice that this was about more than just some board game, it was for all the marbles so to speak. Fischer won the championship and became the first American World Chess Champion and ended a 24 year Soviet streak. In many respects Fischer was expected to win, he was rated the highest in the tournament, and seemingly breezed passed chess masters early on, nonetheless the chess match served as another battleground for the United States and the U.S.S.R. to compete on, giving people another reason to get excited about a chess game that otherwise would have gone unnoticed for the most part in the mainstream media.

2 Chess Has It’s Own “Language”

While we often hear chess terms in our everyday life, such as the reference to pawns as simpletons or useless aside from strategic maneuvers or tools. There is also the language of chess that we see in movies or televisions when we’re meant to believe a character to be clever. We hear things like knight to E5 and think, “Oh he means chess, those are things from that game of chess”. While this is a somewhat subtle way to establish a character’s intelligence many of the chess “greats” and even skilled amateur players play with nothing more than this “language”. This system of values for the different spots on the grid and singular nature of the game’s moves allows for very short descriptions of moves allowing people to play with an idea of the board in their heads, through the mail, or even just passing notes which means the worlds most popular board game often doesn’t even need the board.

1 Russian Cosmonauts Are Not Allowed to Play Chess

Whether it is because of the disgrace of losing that World Chess Championship way back in ’72 (not likely) or some other reason (definitely this one just wait), cosmonauts are forbidden from playing chess in space. Now you would think that a country with such a history of chess champions and a thing like space being so big and boring for astronauts that playing chess in space would be a given. Although the gravity issue might be a bit tough at first I think I could definitely figure it out given the right tools and it could help pass the time a bit. However, after a chess game in a Russian scientific base in antarctica the losing player went on to murder one of his coworkers with an ax leading the government to decide against allowing chess to be played in situations that might stress the players psychologically. (Link 10)

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The Good Life; A How-To

On the internet there are all sorts of “clickbait” titled articles about how to make thousands a day at home while burning fat and gaining muscle. All you need to know is this one secret that doctors hate or something like that, and you’ll be rich, famous and healthy. Now I have my own personal “How to” tutorial on how to improve your life vastly with one simple change to your life. You can take that change however far you like but, mark my words if done correctly it will improve your quality of life at least 3 fold. At this point in this article I’ve really skirted the topic of what this one thing is, and this sentence is similar in that I still haven’t told you. In the very next paragraph however, I will reveal my ancient wisdom onto you.

Have a coffee. This is my favorite piece of advice to give to people and it is similar to saying “have a beer”, although it is somehow more socially acceptable, aside from within Mormon society. Coffee can make nearly any situation better, you get to know people over “a coffee”, you catch up with an old friend over it, you start your day with it and you top off a decadent dinner with it. Coffee can make you happier, more alert, smarter, and honestly it makes you just look more sophisticated. So you’ve probably heard of coffee before, I can’t be the first person to share this secret with you but, I hope you take it to heart. A coffee can give you a reason to stop and energize yourself. Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, downtrodden or anything stop what you’re doing and walk away to your nearest coffeeshop and have somebody make you something nice. Really sit and enjoy your cup o’ joe for a few moments and then get back to it. Not a fan of coffeshops? Take the time to make yourself a cup at home and enjoy the smell of the beans as you get yourself ready for that cup. No matter what the weather is like, go sit on your porch or balcony and take yourself away from it all for as long as that cup lasts.

Maybe you’re a coffee snob who never needs telling twice to have another cup, or maybe you’ve got an old percolator in your cupboard somewhere and a few scoops of Maxwell House around somewhere. Whatever you enjoy and prefer there’s no judgement, go and enjoy a cup with a friend or alone with you thoughts.

This post, surprisingly enough, was not paid for by a coffee conglomerate.