Thursday, October 09, 2003

Chess – showing its age …..

I was thinking the other day, it’s about time that Chess, the greatest game in the world – ever; should have a makeover. Not a Linda Barker or (God help us) an Anna Ryder Richardson job… "Oooohhh yes Carol, just got to drape this fantastic velour off the Rook, sprinkle some glitter on this gambit – and we’ll be finished".
I was thinking about being a bit more radical…..

It’s been around for thousands of years – unchanged. So how about freshening it up? After all, ‘Monopoly’ has been updated - and that’s only 65 years old.

I don’t mean changing the pawns into wearing Star Wars garb, giving the Bishop a ‘power mitre’ or dressing the Queen in a Quentin Crisp outfit. I was thinking about a whole new team member. A new man or two that would compliment the existing crew.

You’ve got your Bishop, Castley thing and Horsey gee-gee, I though that we could get rid of a couple of pawns and bring in ‘Omega’ and ‘Politician’

Omega would be in the shape of a button and would be in 2 parts. Part 1 would sit on top of the board, the second part would be hidden somewhere underneath the board, known only to each player.

And that second part would consist of a little bit of plastic explosive and have wires connected to part 1 – the button. The explosive would be just enough to take out 10 squares.

Each player would attempt to lure the opposing pieces towards the area that the volatile bit of the Omega piece was hidden. Once the player was satisfied that he had gathered enough opposing pieces into the Omega or ‘Death Zone’ he would reach for his Omega button.
Imagine how a match between Gary Kasparov and our own plucky loser Nigel Short might be really spiced up…

"Oh my God, Kasparov’s about to deploy the Omega gambit"

The ‘Politician’ is an altogether different affair. This piece would be a stiletto shape, cast in 100% Machiavellian ore – with a specially hardened two-faced tip. When a player is in a particularly difficult and tricky situation he very slyly and very coldly picks up ‘The Politician’.

The opposing player, referee and audience all fail to notice.. Everyone is distracted by a manifesto given out by the player holding the ‘Politician’ "Hmmmm lower taxes and better healthcare – sounds good"…

The player with the piece in his hand excuses himself to go to the toilet – as he is passing his opponent, he makes his move and stabs him in the back - with the Politician, right between the shoulder blades.

"Ohh my God, he’s used the ‘spinal tap’ gambit! Brilliant, quite, quite brilliant…"

Talking about Chess……

Ever tried to do the trick where you start at the first square of a chess board with 1 grain of rice? The next square has 2 grains and the one after that 4, and so on, doubling up on every square. Has anyone ever got to the end? I tried once, ended up nearly halfway across with a ton of paper and 86 gazziollion zeros.

And finally…..

On the chess front – My most favourite, chess-related quote from dour, mashed-in Blackpool fighter Brian London. The time – the mid ‘60’s and Brian is bitterly reflecting on the way he has been manipulated throughout his pugilistic career.

Brian declared "Me? I’m just a prawn in the game"……..
‘Nuff said.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Smoking gun…..

So, another widow is taking tobacco companies to court – suing them for killing her husband. Sorry, widow woman, but you just can’t do it, it just won’t wash, it just aint right. – Your hubby knew exactly what he was doing – basically committing suicide in a long winded and short of breathless sort of way. Shoving a cocktail of poisons down your lungs every few minutes is going to kill – eventually. Ignorance was a defence in the early part of the last century – but since the ‘50’s ciggies have had the bad press they deserve.

‘Alfie the abstainer’ used to be ‘Alfie the chain smoker’ – regularly going through 5 packs of 20 a day. I was so weed dependent that at night I would brush my stained, yellowing teeth in the bathroom – then light up for my walk to the bedroom. At work, I had a glass fruit bowl for an ash tray – its capacity was about 600 stumps, easy. I gave up 20 years ago when my first son was born. He was born, I held him in my arms, had a celebratory fag and stopped dead. It was easy; the alternative was halitosis, leg ulcers, cancer, emphysema, heart disease and death. The only complication was going from ‘Alfie the slim jim’ to ‘Alfie the big boned’

Arnie’s Army…..

Arnold Schwarzenegger pumped up body-builder, wooden actor, political clone of ‘dubbya’ - and a man with more skeletons in his locker than Bobby the bone collector has been on the news a lot lately. Always anxious to capitalise on our fiscal potential I was a bit disappointed when I asked my wife if Arnie had ever attempted to grope her. "No" Came the firm reply. "For God’s sake, THINK! Arnie used to live in Blackpool you know – you might have run into him there"
"Definitely not"
"I’ll throw Max Clifford’s ‘phone number away then"…..

Why doesn’t he stick to ‘actoring’? A few years ago we were taking our youngest son to see one of his more family friendly movies. "And it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger" I said enthusiastically.
He turned and looked at me "Who’s Arnold Sports-Mega then?"

Deggsy’s back…..

It’s great to see scouse medium Derek Acorah back on the box. For those who haven’t seen his programmes, Derek, along with ex Blue Peter presenter Yvette Fielding fronts a show on Living TV called ‘Most Haunted’.

The format of the show is to visit haunted locations all over the Country. The crew arrive during the day, set up experiments and camera equipment, wait until dark then SWITCH ALL THE LIGHTS OFF!!

Deggsy then goes around each spooky room with his little torch and tells us about the spirits that ‘live’ there. Sometimes it’s a wonder there is any room left for the furniture - there are so many spirits in one place.

It is amazing just how many times he is spot on, he names people, dates, tragedies etc that no one in the house has heard of before. Occasionally, he will meet up with a real bad ‘un. During an episode in an old Methodist church in Manchester last year he was completely taken over by a malevolent spirit who used to be a minister there. Christ, it was scary….. there was Derek strutting about and shouting his head off telling everyone to get out of his church. Then all of a sudden, he collapses, sweats buckets and whimpers "Get me out of here"

It’s great TV – last night they were all at a really spooky WW2 airfield. It was probably one of the best episodes yet. Lots of spooked panicky people, lots of girlies screaming, lots of crew members kacking their pants – and the sceptical psychologist scratching his head at the end of the show.

I don’t know if I believe – but I think that Derek really does think that he communicates with dead people.

Most Haunted, Living TV, Tuesdays @ 9.00pm.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Magic – the new black….

Well, first it was St David Blaine of Pretentia – then ‘Roy’ from the poptastic 70’s throwback magic duo ‘Siegfried and Roy’ got half of his neck seriously sucked by a well pissed off white tiger. Now - mind maestro Derren Brown of Dementia crops up with his ballistic bravado. The Russian-Rouletter extraordinary sticks his Smith and Wesson to his temple and ‘click’ the tension rises. Will he blow his brains out, (click) will he put us off our Sunday supper? (click) It’s taken magic to a whole new level.

Kaboom! – "Christ, what a mess. Who’d have thought it – a magician cocking up a trick like that"

"Just turn over, Heartbeat’s on the other side"………

Gone are the tuxedos, white doves, endless knotted hankies and dull background xylophone music. Gone are the inane card tricks, the cheesy smiles and the frilly assistants. In, are contrived life-threatening operettas played in front of our very eyes – for our minimal and transient entertainment.

Whatever happened to Jonny Hart, Ali Bongo, The Great Soprendo, Paul Daniels and Sooty? The magic wand has now been swapped for instruments of death and destruction. The magic cabinet has changed into a transparent dungeon were we are invited to see a man doing irreparable damage to himself.

It’s only a matter of time then, before someone croaks in the name of light entertainment in this Country. A few years ago in the Philippines there was a magician whose stage act revolved around his unlikely ability to catch bullets in his teeth. There he is, catching bullet after bullet from his stage gun. Suddenly, some prat gets up from the audience, revolver in hand and shouts " Catch this then!" Needless to say, the magician’s brains end up plastered all over the scenery. The guy that shot him got off –his plea was that he honestly believed the magician could catch bullets.

I do wonder however, if it was Paul Daniels that was doing the Russian Roulette trick, would the punter that put the bullet in the chamber be bothered as to whether the diminutive trickster got it right or not?
Would we, as watchers be sitting there all saying to ourselves "Go on Paul, get it wrong, and while you’re at it, get Debbie Magee to position her head right next to yours" – it’s a 2 for 1 deal…..

Also on the box on Channel 4 last Sunday, was the 50 greatest magic tricks – ever. Top of the pile was David Copperfield, not for the fact that he managed to get off with Claudia Schiffer (I suspect sleight of hand in that magic trick) but for the amazing ‘saw through the body’ trick. Brilliant, who’d have thought that after a fledgling career in a comedy show with Lenny Henry and Tracy Ulman - Dave would end up being the toast of Vegas.