BCH

CIPC #171: Casper the friendly ghost, Vol.2

Who is the most famous ghost in all of fiction? The obvious answer would be the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future from Dickens’ A christmas carol. The more modernly inclined might think of nearly headless Nick from Rowling’s oeuvre. Perhaps some weird Flemish person might suggest Sus Antigoon. But no, the first name that popped in your mind when you read that question is Casper, because you read his name in this post’s title. Here he is, his shapeless self flying around between life-sized chess pieces.

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CIPC #170: Camel advertisement

If you were to ask me for my favourite sites, I would probably go on a tangent about how one should not assume that such orderings are linear and that therefore the question is moot. When pressed on the matter, I would probably give several, but one that’s sure to be on that list is archive.org. Not only does it host the wayback machine, but it also features a lot of public domain movies, television shows, books, and magazines. For example, there is the archive of The Saturday Evening Post going all the way back to 1821. If you decide to browse through them all, in the end — in fact, when you hit the edition of April 28th, 1932 — you will encounter the following image:1

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CIPC #169: The wire S1 E3, The buys

The wire is one of the most critically acclaimed television series in history, charting at number six in IMDB’s top list at the time of writing. If we leave out documentaries — or, equivalently, David Attenborough series — it is even number four. It is about drug dealing in Baltimore as seen form both sides of the law. In the third episode of the first season, there is quite a famous scene where the lieutenant of some local drug cartel catches some of his crew huddled around a chess board. It is such a famous scene that one can find several people’s takes on it online, with detailed breakdowns of the symbolism involved and the way it reflects the culture of the impoverished urban youth of the USA.

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CIPC #168: TheOdd1sOut, Tabletop games

This is a blog about chess in popular culture, but I feel that my subjects haven’t been very popular lately. Who watches Wing commander? Who has heard of an obscure silent movie short from the twenties that was quite literally just filler material? Let’s instead go to the hotspot of modern popular culture: YouTube. TheOdd1sOut is not the most popular YouTuber but, at the time of writing, the channel has over 14 million subscribers — a respectable number at the very least. Its content consists of short, animated videos in which a broad range of subjects are presented. Like, for example, the video about tabletop games which appeared in October 2018. You may have encountered a stillshot from it in some form:

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CIPC #167: Wing commander

It is received wisdom that any video game based on a movie has an good chance to blow. Hard. In the bell-end of a horn. Similarly, it is a well-known proposition that any movie based on a video game is sure to be just as bad. This theorem is often attributed to Uwe Boll but, even though that worthy indeed made valiant efforts to prove it, it was known before. Boll’s first video game adaptations for the big screen came in the early two-thousands. Well after the Super Mario bros movie, the two Mortal Kombat movies, a Street Fighter movie, and our subject for today: Wing commander. I have never played any of the Wing commander games, but they are supposed to be pretty good, and the third one in the series had a cast consisting of, among others, Mark Hamill, Malcolm McDowell, and John Rhys-Davis. In the movie, we get Freddie Prinze Jr., Saffron Burrows, and Matthew Lillard instead. Yeah, the movie is not “pretty good”, it’s a solid hour and a half of stupidity.1

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CIPC #166: Young Sherlock Holmes

After almost a hundred blog posts, Sherlock Holmes once more turns in an appearance, but this time in a younger form. Young Sherlock Holmes is movie from 1985 pretending to be about the young years of the great detective, but, apart from the names Holmes and Watson, it has very little to do with Doyle’s works. In fact, it directly contradicts them.1 The plot is that a young Watson meets an equally young Holmes in a boys’ school. Soon, people start dying in apparent but not actual suicides.2 Obviously, Holmes is on the case, the game is afoot.

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CIPC #165: Entr’acte

Once again we have a novelty on this blog. Not that it is anything at all recent, in fact, our subject today is from all the way back in 1924, but for the first time we see an actual chess expert on film! But perhaps I should tell you a bit about it, because I don’t think Entr’acte is a household name. It is a short film by Frenchman René Clair which was, as the title suggest, meant as a filler between two acts of the long-forgotten ballet Relâche by dadaist painter Picabia and with music by Erik Satie. Usually, when describing a movie, I would talk about the plot, but since there isn’t one I can dispense with that here.

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CIPC #164: Ahzee, King

After one hundred sixty three blog post, I can apparently still stumble upon something which is novel: I have never written about a DJ before. Yes, an honest to god DJ, proudly riding his vinyl wheels through the airwaves, prodding them on at opportune moments with some precise hand movements. At least that’s what I presume DJ’s are like, I am not exactly an expert in the matter. This particular DJ appeared on the scene back in 2013, when one of his singles even managed to break the Flemish top 10. About half a year later, his third single King was released and broke into the charts in Belgium and France.

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CIPC #163: Friday the 13th part 2

This blog is, as the name suggests, about chess in pop culture. Last week, we talked about the culture part, today we’ll deal with the pop part. Because the Friday the 13th series is humongously popular. Apart from the original movie, there were nine (!) sequels, a crossover film with the Nightmare on Elm Street series, a remake, novels, comic books, video games, and an enormous amount of merchandise.1 In short: it is one of the most popular series out there. Yet, most everyone agrees that all these movies aren’t very good. I haven’t seen most of them, but I can affirm that the second one isn’t great. Still, it got chess in it!

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CIPC #162: M. C. Escher, Metamorphose II

I assume, I guess, I hope, that Dutch artist M. C. Escher needs no introduction. His lithographs and woodcuts have penetrated the farthest corners of the Earth and the most obscure backwaters of pop-culture and is widely considered to be one of the finest 20th century artists. He is, in the words of Weird Al Yankovic, my favourite MC. As he was born in 1898, he was smack-dab in the middle of his life when a veritable chess craze burst out in The Netherlands, after Euwe had won the world championship match against Alekhine. A few years later — Euwe had lost his title again — Escher’s Metamorphose II1 was printed, an extended and refined version of Metamorphose which was printed during Euwe’s reign but had not yet been influenced by the chess hype. That was different for Metamorphose II.2

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