BCH

CIPC #132: The prisoner, Checkmate

I have written about The prisoner before; if you don’t know what it is, you should probably read the first few sentences of that post. But there is more to talk about. In fact, one of the episodes is called Checkmate, which is a pretty good indication that there might be chess involved – and indeed: it starts with a human chess game. If you don’t know what that is, you should probably read the wikipedia article I conveniently linked you to, or read the next sentence, which will give you the short version. In human chess, the pieces are played by humans dressed up to be recognisable as the piece they represent and they follow the commands of their respective team captains who are doing the actual chess playing. (See? I promised, didn’t I?) Our hero, number 6, is called up to play the white queen’s pawn.

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CIPC #131: Die Csárdásfürstin

Emmerich Kálmán is perhaps not the most well-known name in Western history, but in the small world of the operetta, it is often mentioned together with Johann Strauß jr., Franz Lehár, and Franz von Suppé in a list of the greats of the genre. Die Csárdásfürstin – Fürstin being German for princess and Csárdás being a traditional Hungarian folk dance that got popular in the ballrooms of Budapest and Vienna around 1900 – is probably his most well-known work. It is a story as old as time itself about a young nobleman being in love with an equally young maiden who sings and dances for her money in the Budapest Orpheum. Of course, things can never be straightforward in an operetta, so our noble protagonist is pressured in getting engaged to another woman. To announce their engagement, his parents organise a giant party. When the patriarch is organising this party, we are treated to the following scene:1

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CIPC #130: Breaking bad S3 E6, Sunset

About a decade ago, Breaking bad was the hottest thing on television. It was a television series about a chemistry teacher diagnosed with cancer who decides to make some crystal meth and thereby money to not leave his family in financial troubles after his death. It won a total of about about fifty bazillion awards, has universal critical acclaim, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest television series ever. In order to gain such high appraisal, an eye for detail is indispensable, so maybe, just maybe, this show, if any, can get a chess scene right. There was a long wait, but in the sixth episode of the third season we finally get a chance to find out. Almost twenty minutes in the episode, main character Walter White is cooking meth with his new sous-chef Gale Boetticher. To make it clear that these two are Very Smart People, they are shown playing chess during a break.

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CIPC #129: Roxette, It must have been love

I have always thought it rather strange that there is so much Swedish pop music. In classical music, the Swedish presence is basically nil, but half of all pop music is Swedish. There was ABBA, of course. There was Ace of Base, there was Avicii, and there still is Karl Sandberg, who has written about half of all pop music for the last decade or two.1 And there is Roxette. Started in the late eighties, they broke through in the very beginning of the nineties with hits like The look, Dangerous, Joyride, and today’s subject It must have been love. At that point, video had already killed the radio star, so an accompanying music video was shot as a matter of course. Most of the video is singer Marie Fredriksson repeatedly coming to the conclusion that it, whatever it was, must have been love. Then, during a lull in the singing, when the audience’s attention inevitably starts waning, they viciously pull it back by showing a chessboard.

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CIPC #128: Keds advertisement

Keds is a brand of sneakers. As in, footwear. But you wouldn’t be able to tell from their advertisement. Case in point: the image below, which was featured in a 2016 campaign of them. My first guess would have been that this is advertisement of some chess club. My second guess would have been that this is promotional material of the woman in question who, according to the text in the top left corner, is a singer/songwriter. My third guess would have been that this is a campaign to raise awareness of the colour blue. Hell, I probably would have guessed it’s an ad for Ikea before I would think of the sneakers. Once we accept that, despite all appearances, this is really an attempt to sell shoes, the real mystery begins.

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CIPC #127: Justin Timberlake feat. Jay Z, Suit & Tie

Justin Timberlake started his career all the way back in the early nineties as a member of the boy band NSYNC . In the two thousands, he went solo and several of his singles, like Cry me a river and SexyBack,1 apparently unhindered by a severe lack of diaphragmatic support, polyphonic content, or a decent orchestration, became worldwide hits and cemented his name in the annals of modern popular music. His image is that of a suave, sophisticated, sharp-dressed, sexy socialite. In the song under scrutiny here, the main focus is on the penultimate adjective, but to remind the public that the one before that applies as well, the accompanying music video, which was directed by none other than David Fincher, shows Justin playing chess with a lady who, since this is a pop song after all, appears half naked.

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CIPC #126: The prisoner, Arrival

The prisoner is a delightful cocktail of sixties futurism and mystery fiction with a liberal dash of the Kafkaesque. It is about a former secret agent who one day wakes up in a quaint English seaside village which he soon finds out to be a prison for people with too much too important information in their heads. The series basically deals with him attempting either to escape or to find out what the hell is going on. In the very first episode, he gets a helicopter tour of the premises by someone who goes by number two1 who seems to run the place. During this tour, a former admiral is pointed out to him as being good at chess. Near the end of the episode, we see him playing against our protagonist.

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CIPC #125: The invisible ghost

Before Ben Kingsley, before Michael Ironside, before Lee Van Cleef even, the guy you went to if you wanted a memorable villain for your Hollywood movie was Bela Lugosi. Born in Hungary as Béla Blaskó, he is nowadays mainly remembered as the original Dracula, but he played in dozens of other movies, usually as the bad guy and more than once together with that other icon of thirties horror, Boris Karloff. In fact, I briefly talked about him before in this post about The black cat. In today’s subject, The invisible ghost, Lugosi plays a mister Kessler who has lost his wife in an accident and is now haunted by her ghost. Except that his wife is not really dead and that she is haunting him pretty much by accident. Where the ‘invisible’ in the title comes from remains unexplained.

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CIPC #124: The blob

We will stay in the wonderful, whimsical world of the creature feature for just a while longer, but in contrast to last week’s Creature from the haunted sea, which was more or less forgotten as soon as it was released, The blob, which features a young Steve McQueen in the main role, has grown into a bit of a cult classic over the years. And it must ba said that it is a far better movie than would be suggested by the incredibly cheesy premise:1 an alien, gelatinous blob crashes on Earth and starts consuming everything in its path. In movies likes this, usually the police gets involved at some point, but they, are of course, sceptical and have to be convinced of the existence of the eponymous monster. But there are shenanigans going on in the police department! The lieutenant opens a drawer from one of his men’s desks and finds a chess board:

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CIPC #123: Creature from the haunted sea

Long before Michael Bay and Steven Seagal were the schlockmeisters par excellence of the film world, way, way back in the swinging sixties, the b-movie scene was dominated by the incomparable Roger Corman. From the fifties to the seventies he directed a staggering amount of low-budget movies, reaching in 1957 alone an astonishing 9 movies. And with titles like Attack of the giant leeches, X: The man with the X-ray eyes, or The saga of the Viking women and their voyage to the waters of the great sea serpent you just know they’re going to be great! Of course, in such a tremendous amount of film, there is bound to be some chess scene somewhere and, indeed, shortly after the beginning of Creature from the haunted sea, one of his lesser known creature features, we can see a female spy in a shady bar playing chess against herself:

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