BCH

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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CIPC #161: Jay Richard Kennedy, Schach dem Vorsitzenden

Perhaps you have heard of a 1969 movie called The chairman? Maybe under its alternative title The most dangerous man in the world? It was by no means a success and nowadays it is perhaps best remembered for starring Gregory Peck. The screenplay for that movie was based on a novel by Jay Richard Kennedy called The chairman. This novel was translated to German and this translation was christened Schach dem Vorsitzenden, which can be loosely translated as Check to the chairman. Naturally,my interest was piqued. And that was before I saw the cover!

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CIPC #160: Jonny Quest E.19, Attack of the tree people

By a bit of an accident, I recently stumbled upon the existence of a franchise with three different TV-series, two made-for-TV movies, a series of comic books, and three computer games — the most recent one for Windows 95. Yet I had never heard of it before. Also it’s kind of shit. In 2009, IGN named the original series the 77th best animated TV-show of all time, but how something as bland and lifeless as this gets in a list like that while the Tintin animated series doesn’t is a mystery for the ages and it is probably why God has averted his gaze from the eternal disappointment that is the human race. But perhaps I should tell you what Jonny Quest1 is about. I’s about a boy, his father — who is a greatly sough-after professor — their bodyguard, an Indian orphan named Hadji, and their dog Bandit. Together, they live through all sorts of silly adventures.

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CIPC #159: Simpsons comics presents Bart Simpson Vol.56, Sore loser

Apparently, there are Simpsons comics. I never knew this, but it is one of those little-known but entirely unremarkable facts about our world, like the fact that there are endemic species of frogs in Madagascar. Nor does the fact that the stories are run-off-the-mill and the drawings uninspired come as a surprise: this whole series is a simple cash grab, coasting on the popularity of the TV-series. This popularity happens to be so enormous, so indestructible, that the Bart Simpson comic lasted for a hundred issues and more than ten years.1 On the cover of the fifty-sixth issue, we see the eponymous hero playing chess against his sister and we immediately become interested.

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CIPC #158: Mysterium

More than one hundred posts ago, I talked about dixit, a popular card game featuring a bunch of highly surrealistic but beautifully drawn cards, on one of which a chess scene was depicted. Today’s subject, Mysterium, is a cross between that game and Cluedo. The story is that, thirty years after a murder, six mediums have come together to try and solve it. To do so, they organise a seance and contact the ghost of the victim. One of the players takes the role of ghost and tries to point the mediums to the correct answer by giving them visions. These visions come in the form of beautifully drawn cards like the one below.1

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CIPC #157: Tales of tomorrow S1 E2, Blunder

Tales of tomorrow is a sci-fi anthology show that aired in the beginning of the fifties in the USA. It doesn’t seem to be very well-remembered now, but it starred some big names, like Lon Cheney Jr and Boris Karloff, as well as the then still young Paul Newman and Leslie Nielsen. In no more than two seasons, a total of eighty-five episodes of about half an hour each were shown. Our subject for today is the second one. Its plot is very much a product of its time: somewhere in the Arctic,1 a scientist called Everson is working on Bismuth fission.2 The hope is that it will give humanity access to readily available, cheap energy, but there is a small chance that it will blow up the entire Earth. Presumably, this would make any expected value computation yield something hugely negative, but this does not deter our man.

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CIPC #156: Pretty woman

Pretty woman, a 1990 film starring Richard Gere as Edward Lewis and Julia Roberts as Vivian Ward, must be the epitome of the romantic comedy. Roberts got an Oscar nomination for her role and there were a bunch of nominations for Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and the like — but that is not the point of the movie. The point is that it is a wish fulfilment fantasy aimed at particularly stereotypical women. The story, if you can call it that, is rudimentary at best: billionaire needs arm candy, picks up random hooker, they fall in love, the end. But the rest is taken good care of: Edward1 is rich, handsome, strong, gentle, takes his girl shopping, to the opera, and is completely in love with her — plus he plays the piano! Vivian, on the other hand, has no discernible qualities, except being pretty and a woman.

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CIPC #155: Hanes advertisement

If you thought we already plumbed the depths of human society last week, here’s a treat for you! Not only do we once again visit the crusty world of advertisement, but this time it’s for sheer tights (or pantyhose, if you prefer the other side of the Atlantic) — also known as the one thing that has less to do with chess than Kias or basketball. From what I understand, the ad below appeared in the March issue of Good Housekeeping in 1989. It is advertisement for the American underwear brand Hanes and features what is presumably a couple (or a couple-to-be, at least) playing chess in a park.1

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CIPC #154: 2016 Kia Optima commercial

After one whole blog post about high culture, we descend once more into the dank morass of the worst type of popular culture: commercials. Our object of study today is a 2016 commercial for the Kia Optima starring American basketball star Blake Griffin. Griffin and Kia had partnered up before and have again partnered up since, to some considerable success, if success is measured by YouTube compilation videos. The main point of this particular commercial seems to be that Griffin is ‘in the zone’ and it is suggested that one can get there by the simple virtue of driving a next generation Kia Optima.1

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