BCH

CIPC #151: The spirit of Christmas

‘t is the season to be jolly! To put a tree with more decoration than Idi Amin in a prominent place in the house. To get together with the family for a hearty meal with too many courses. To watch super schmaltzy Christmas movies about misanthropes growing a heart and finding love after all. Preferably with ghosts. The 2015 made-for-TV movie The spirit of Christmas fits that bill quite nicely: it is about a woman who prioritises her work as a lawyer over relationships, until she has to assess an old house which is haunted. By an old-fashioned, handsome, gentleman ghost.

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CIPC #150: Saturday night live 20-01-1996, Spartan cheerleaders

From what I understand, Saturday night live is pretty much a staple of American culture but largely unknown outside of the USA. It is a late-night show consisting mostly of a bunch of sketches, often inspired by current news, which are strung together by an ever-changing host. It has been running for well over four decades, several of its sketches have been turned into feature movies,1 and it has, at the time of writing, gathered a record 71 Emmy primetime awards. Of course, in such a long history, chess is bound to pop up at some point. And indeed it has, for example in the episode of January 20th, 1996:2 there is a sketch about two doofuses cheerleading for the ‘Midwestern regional chess tournament’, whatever that may be.

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CIPC #149: Gravity Falls, S1 E11: Little Dipper

Gravity Falls is a critically acclaimed cartoon show produced by Disney about twelve-year-old twins Mabel and Dipper, who spend the summer holidays with their great-uncle — or gruncle, as they call him — Stan in the eponymous town. This town happens to be a hotspot for all sorts of paranormal and superhuman activities, and of course the siblings have to investigate them all. In the particular episode I will discuss today, the magic MacGuffin du jour is a crystal that makes things bigger if light falls through it in one direction and smaller if it falls through it in the other direction. But before they discover this, the two siblings can be seen playing chess:

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CIPC #148: US marines advertisement

The US military has many detractors all over the world, but none could possibly make them look sillier than they did themselves, from what I understand around 1986, in the commercial we will talk about today. It looks more like a trailer for some upcoming fantasy movie than a commercial for work in a modern military corps. In fact, it reminds me quite a bit of the fabled Maradonia trailers1: there are honest-to-God knights on horseback, an evil queen, flaming swords, and an epic soundtrack — but most of all, it has a chess theme! Everything to lure naive young men into the army, I guess.

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CIPC #147: Giving the devil her due, Vol.1

At the very beginning of Giving the devil her due, a webcomic1 by D. S. Newman and Magaly Abarca, a certain David gets run over by a truck. He dies, but before his death is finalised, he gets to play his traditional game of chess against Azrael, the angel of death.2 In a rare twist on this classical theme, the grim reaper himself promises to serve him for the rest of his life if he manages to win. This is where the real plot twist happens: it turns out that death, despite several centuries of practice against millions of opponents, is not very good at chess and he loses against our protagonist, who turns out to be a sixth grade state champion. At least that’s what he claims, but I don’t believe it.

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CIPC #146: Wolfen

Wolfen is a supernatural thriller from 1981, mainly known for starring Albert Finney. The plot starts in a very standard fashion: people are being murdered in New York and when an extremely rich business magnate is killed, former police captain Dewey Wilson is called back out of retirement. The police collect some hairs on the crime scenes which are identified by a zoologist they consult as being wolf hairs. But since when are there wolves in New York? Has this perhaps not been staged somehow? They arrest a member of a suspected terrorism cell. We get a shot of him being interrogated through what is probably supposed to be a one-way mirror1 in front of which is a chess board:

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CIPC #145: Chess book cover galore

It was a long time ago. It was a simpler time then and there was a certain sincerity to the world, born of simplicity more than of innocence. There was still a glimmer of optimism alive in your servant. Yes, in my previous blog post about book covers, I made a footnote that chess book were ‘obviously’ excluded. My reasoning was that chess books are usually written by people who are knowledgable about chess and therefore pick a reasonable position for their cover. In fact, most chess books are about openings and then you can just stick some tabiya on the front and be done with it. Alas, once again, I overestimated the care people put into their work.

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CIPC #144: Rivron, Het caravan kookboek

It’s a — it’s a cookbook! When I started this blog, I was expecting many things. I knew there would be films, comic books, and TV-series. I expected there would be music videos, some book covers, the odd painting perhaps. What I most definitely did not expect was a cookbook. A cookbook! Cookbooks contain recipes, not chess scenes; pictures of cheesecakes, not chess boards. At least, that is what I thought, until Het caravan kookboek [originally titled Caravan cookbook]1 was brought to my attention. There, on page 110, to the left of a recipe for olives with garlic, chilli, and parsley, we see two pictures of some guys at a chessboard.

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CIPC #143: Stone, Impending mate & Mated

Some twenty years ago, there was a regular contributor to the magazine Chess writing under the name C. P. Ravilious. He mainly wrote a column called Collectors’ corner, which had all sorts of interesting stories and pictures from the early history of chess, but sometimes he contributed standalone articles about similar topics and it is via one of those that I first encountered today’s subject: two engravings after pictures by Frank Stone. Apparently, these engravings were highly popular in chess circles somewhere around 1840. Why, I don’t know, because the art is nothing special and the pun is cheesier than a giant wheel of Gouda, but perhaps people were just so starved for anything chess-themed to hang on the wall of their club that they were willing to take anything.1

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CIPC #142: Nero Vol.143, De dood van Bompa

Nero is, or was at least, incredibly famous in Flanders and completely unknown outside of it. It is a comic with a cast of colourful characters, like Adhemar, the baby who lectures at Oxford, Abraham Tuizentfloot, the long-bearded pirate who fought at Trafalgar and Abukir, Petoetje, an adopted Papuan prince who became a pop star after dancing on his head, and many, many more. It was the brainchild of Marc Sleen who wrote and mostly drew the series for over fifty years and for more than 160 (one hundred sixty!) volumes: enough to gain a place in the Guinness world record book for longest running comic series drawn by the same person. Volume 143, De dood van Bompa [Bompa’s death], is the last instalment of a trilogy about Nero’s grandfather. It deals with his dead and the war between good and evil for his soul. In strip 28 we see him stuck in limbo:1

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