BCH

CIPC #178: XTC, The mayor of Simpleton

It is remarkable how little commercial success correlates longevity. Nowadays, XTC is considered one of the quintessential British rock bands from the eighties, but back in the days their singles barely scratched the charts. Senses working overtime, perhaps their best known song, only reached place 31 in the Flemish pop chart. Their other songs, like Dear God and today’s subject The mayor of simpleton, didn’t even chart. On the other hand, have you listened to much Bros lately? Some Climie Fisher, perhaps? They both reached the Flemish end-of-the-year top 100 in 1988, the same year as The mayor of Simpleton, but they have completely vanished from the public eye.

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CIPC #177: Alvin and the chipmunks: The squeakquel

My God. What have I come to? You know, I hope you all really appreciate what I do for this blog, because you have no idea. Just two weeks ago, I sat through the entire music video of the 1992 gabberhouse hit song Poing by the Rotterdam termination source in the vain hope that the knight on the cover indicated some chess imagery in the video — and now I watched an Alvin and the chipmunks movie! The second one even, which has a title that is to puns as concrete is to fine dining. And this time there are three more excruciatingly annoying chipmunks running about! O joy!

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CIPC #176: Shera ceiling tiles ad

I have bad news for the regular CIPC readers: today we’re going to tackle a philosophical question. Yes, one of those deep mysteries that bother all of us but that, on closer inspection, vanish in a puff of ill-definedness. An enigma no less profound or more irrelevant than the age-old question of why we are here on Earth: what, exactly, is chess? What is appropriate material for this blog? Would a bughouse game be an acceptable subject? Should van Leyden’s famous painting be disqualified because it actually shows courier chess?1 Should I include scenes where xiangqi is played?

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CIPC #175: A matter of life and death

After a short detour to the land of advertising, we return to our usual playground of movies. This time, we go all the way back to nineteen forty six for on of the most critically acclaimed films I have ever covered on this blog. It stars David Niven, who later went on to win an Oscar, as a fighter pilot in the second world war who slips through a crack in Death’s administration and gets caught up in a celestial court case about whether or not he gets to live on now. He gets visited every now and then by a heavenly messenger with a strong French accent who is possibly just a figment of his imagination.1 In the few hours he stole, he has fallen madly in love with a young American girl. She has arranged for a doctor to see him and, while they wait for him, they play a game of chess:

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CIPC#174: State Farm commerical

State Farm is one of those things, like red sups and school shootings, which most of the world is only familiar with through American media. In this case, the familiarity mostly comes from State Farm’s jingle “Like a good neighbour, State Farm is there” which is often referenced,
1 subverted or not, in movies, television series, and the like. It is an insurance company, which took its start in the twenties — the nineteen twenties, to be clear — selling car insurance. At least, that’s what Wikipedia claims. I don’t really care. What I do care about, is the following screenshot coming from a 2018 commercial for the firm:

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CIPC #173: Death note 2: The last name

I have already written a blog post about a manga and one about an anime, but I have yet to talk about Japanese cinema. That’s going to change now. Today, I’m spotlighting Death note: The last name 2. It is the sequel to Death note, a critically acclaimed movie based on a manga of the same name about a guy, burdened with the name Light,1 who can kill people by writing their names in a notebook. He uses his power mainly to kill criminals who escape slip through the cracks of the justice system, but of course things don’t go very smoothly. In the beginning of the second movie, we see him being suspected  by the police and, more importantly, playing a game of chess with the leading detective.

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CIPC #172: Blazing saddles

After the horrors I had to endure last week, I think I deserve a bit of break. Something light-hearted, something fun. Something good, even. Which is why I watched Blazing saddles, a 1974 western comedy by Mel Brooks that enjoys wide and wholly justified critical acclaim.1 The plot deals with a corrupt politician trying to take over a town. When the town needs a new sheriff, he has a black man named Bart (played by Cleavon Little) appointed in the hope that the locals will either get rid of him and leave themselves unprotected or leave town themselves. One his first day on the job, the new sheriff meets and befriends the best sharpshooter in the west. It turns out that he likes to play chess.

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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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