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CIPC #84: Chess in literature

So far, I have only talked about books in the 15th instalment of the Chess in Popular Culture series, where I discussed a bunch of covers featuring chess. But it is famously impossible, or at least inadvisable, to judge a book by its cover and indeed many books with a chess inspired cover barely mention it while on the other hand many books are published in which chess is a major theme without board or pieces on the front. This time, we’ll focus on what’s in the book. As you are, of course, all connoisseurs of everything CIPC, there is no point in mentioning Arthur Conan Doyle’s scheming minds or Charles Dickens’ chess nuts. There is also no point in spotlighting books which are about chess, because then I’d have to talk about pretty much every scene, which is exhaustive for both you and me. So here’s what I’ll focus on: books in which chess is mentioned in one or two particular places in a more or less offhand fashion. Since this still leaves me with too large a scope to be exhaustive, I’ll just restrict myself to some books close at hand.

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CIPC #83: BLΛƆKPIИK, Ddu-du Ddu-du

No, I did not just have a stroke. There is a far more sinister reason for the weird title: K-pop! Yes, K-pop – the word that strikes fear in the hearts of men! Okay, maybe that’s not quite right. Maybe I should say K-pop – the word that strikes confusion in the hearts of men. Either because they don’t know what it means, or because they do know and are utterly baffled by its existence. For the blissfully unaware among you: K-pop is basically Korean pop music1 and also utterly incomprehensible. For one thing, there’s barely even the pretence that K-pop is about music; the visuals in the accompanying video and the choreography are much more important, which is probably why boy bands and girl groups dominate the scene. Another idiosyncrasy of the genre seems to be that the title of every song must be either English or gibberish. Today’s subjects chose the latter.

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CIPC #82: Salsa cookies

Dear Lord, where do I start with this one? Okay, so half an internet century ago there was minor fad for adding English subtitles to foreign-language songs, with the important caveat that the subtitles show what the foreign words sound like in English rather than the actual translations. The most famous examples of the genre are probably Moskau by Dschinghis Khan, Benny Lava, and our subject of today: salsa cookiesThis one is based on O fortuna from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana and has been uploaded and reuploaded countless times to YouTube, accompanied by a meme-based video. The interest for us comes from the fact that the Latin word egestatem (poverty) is misheard as play chess all day and comes with a picture:

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CIPC #81: Zorro S1 E36, The sergeant regrets

I hope you guys have been dutifully spreading the word about the Zorro-opening, because, today, Zorro rides again! Yes! We’re now a bit further in the series but still in the first season, episode 36 to be precise. This time, it is magistrado Varga who our eponymous hero is vying against. The dastardly bastard is trying to get his hands on a list of noblemen who are trying to form a front against the oppressors. Of course, Zorro prevents this, but before he does so, he can be seen playing chess with his faithful servant Bernardo.

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CIPC #80: Captain Kronos – Vampire hunter

Captain Kronos – Vampire hunter is not exactly the sort of title that inspires a lot of confidence, but, surprisingly, the movie is not that bad. Now, bear in mind that it is a seventies Hammer movie, so you shouldn’t be expecting The Shawshank redemption, but if you just want a fun little adventure movie with some supernatural motives sprinkled in it’s serviceable enough. When I first watched, it was not clear to me at all why it was advertised as a horror movie, let alone why it was rated R – it looks very bright, there is almost no blood, the dialogue is light and joky – but then we’re treated to the following gruesome image:

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CIPC #79: New York

When we last visited New York exactly four weeks ago, a duck-voiced serial killer was wandering the streets of the big apple, strewing mutilated women’s bodies in rivers and apartments. This time, terrorism casts its lugubrious shadow over the East coast. The movie focuses on Omar who arrived from India to study some unspecified topic at the New York State University, because if he can make it there he can make it anywhere. On his first day, he meets Sam – who will become both a good friend of his and an important plot point – and plays a games of chess with him. At this point, everything is still sunny and, as this is after all a Bollywood movie, a song inevitably breaks out.

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CIPC #78: Zorro S1 E11, Double trouble for Zorro

Long, long before Batman there was already a wealthy man living a double life as a masked and caped vigilante, a superman in everything but the name, battling corrupt law enforcement as well as everyday criminals, with a select few loyal servants who know his identity and help him in his endeavours. That man is Zorro, alias Diego de la Vega. He sprung from the pen of Johnston McCulley in 1919 in the novel The curse of Capistrano. Since then, numerous other novel, short stories, movies, and television series were based on the character, one of the most famous being the 1957 live action series by Disney with Guy Williams playing the lead. The following scene occurs in the 11th episode of the series, wherein the nefarious captain Sánchez Monastario sets a trap, which de la Vega avoids with a fox’s cunning.

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CIPC #77: Samsung advertisement

Samsung is known as one of the biggest and most famous electronics manufacturers in the world, but it is also an adjective used in music to describe a piece in which the vocals are performed by a singer, typically tenor or bass, by the name of Sam.1 The name of the brand is Korean, of course, and apparently means three stars, which must be rather awkward in the age of Amazon when everything is rated on a five star scale rather than the Michelin-style three, for now it suggests mediocrity, a vague competence maybe, but no more. However, in view of the usual fare on this blog, simple competence would already be quite welcome. Can they actually reach that lofty height? Let’s see!

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CIPC #76: Mickey Maus No.48

One of the biggest names in popular culture I have not mentioned so far is the almighty mouse, the great Mickey himself. Of course, there are so many comics and cartoons that it is statistically certain that at some point somewhere in some of his adventures, chess was involved. My task, then, was only to find this point.1 I failed. Kind of. I did find a nice,big chessboard on the cover of one of the issues of the Mickey Maus magazine, but it is disappointing in two ways: firstly, it is not Mickey playing but Donald Duck, secondly, I turned to the German edition, as the spelling already made clear.

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CIPC #75: Lo squartatore di New York

Last time, I spotlighted an example of the spaghetti western. This week, I want to show that other famous genre of Italian movie: the giallo. ‘Giallo’ just means ‘yellow’ in Italian, but the term is also used for crime mystery pulp fiction after a famous series of such books named ‘i libri gialli‘, i.e. ‘the yellow books’. From there, it was a logical step to also apply the name to movies with similar themes. One of the most famous directors in the genre is Lucio Fulci and one of his more popular movies is Lo squartatore di New York or The New York ripper if you prefer Shakespeare to Dante.

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