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Web Monitor

16:14 UK time, Monday, 30 November 2009

CherA celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: the lineage of semi-naked pop-princesses, why mountains make you good at chess and the case for the dog show.

• When did pop become so scantily-clad?Semi-nakedness among pop stars has been traced back through pop lineage by Johnny Dee in the First Post to one person - Cher. He claims Cher was the first to wear the basques and fishnet stockings which have become a pop uniform:

"Shot on the deck of the gigantic USS Missouri battleship, the video to Cher's 1989 hit If I Could Turn Back Time featured her surrounded by hundreds of panting sailors and sitting astride a gigantic cannon. Music may have died when Buddy Holly's plane crashed in Clear Lake in 1959 but If I Could Turn Back Time marked the moment the subtle use of sexual innuendo in pop music was butchered in its prime."

• With more chess grandmasters than China, the relatively tiny Armenia is a chess superpower. David Edmonds in Prospect magazine wades through the reasons Armenia is good at chess. As well as a decent education system and a soviet legacy, mountains are mentioned:

"Armenia is poor and chess is cheap, one man told me. Then--and this is a favourite rationalisation--there's the individualistic nature of the game. Armenians take perverse gratification in their incompetence at team games. (Weight-lifting is the only other sport at which Armenia excels.) The British ambassador, whom I later met in Yerevan, pressed a more physical, less abstract explanation upon me. Armenia is so mountainous that there's no room for football pitches and athletics fields--but chess needs only space for a small board."

Jesse Smith in The Smart Set sticks up for the American dog show in what she calls the age of dog show ridicule. To some it may seem perplexing as to why people would spend so much of their time blow-drying their pet. But Smith thinks it is just a symptom of her culture:

"If you're looking to mock, a dog show is an easy target. You could note how many of these people pursuing perfection in dogs are themselves fairly overweight, and eat too many funnel cakes, and dress in a way that would kill any chance of a social life were they actually in high school. Spending time at the dog show, however, the group came less to resemble some kind of wacky subculture, and more just the culture. A common trait of Americans -- blue and red, gay and straight, X and Y, whatever -- is that they largely want to be good at something, to be recognized for doing at least one thing well, and maybe that's at the expense of everything else."

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