Saturday, 3 December 2016

Three U.S. state senators who were also minor background characters in the original Star Wars films





Saxby Chambliss (Republican) Georgia 2001-2015
 


A sponsor of bill H.R. 2335, "to exempt from solid waste designation resources that are recycled," Chambliss can be witnessed campaigning on this very issue in the trash compactor scene in the original Star Wars film.

Unlike Chewbacca, Han, and Luke, Chambliss does not emerge from the compactor and makes no further appearances in the film, leading some viewers to speculate that he was crushed between the encroaching walls before he could escape.

Chambliss added fuel to these rumours while campaigning in favour H.R. 2335. In a televised press conference he stated that he was the only serving U.S. senator to have died in a trash compactor on the first Death Star, in the original cut of Star Wars, before it was re-titled Star Wars: A New Hope.


On a separate occasion he voiced his opinion that Han did indeed shoot first and was entirely justified in doing so. 


Vance Hartke (Democrat) Indiana 1959-1977 


As an early supporter of Medicare and Medicaid, Hartke was a natural choice when it came to casting an assistant to the 2-1B Surgical Droid in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Originally, George Lucas had intended Empire to focus on Luke Skywalker's long rehabilitation, following injuries sustained during a wampa attack – treatment that he would have been unable to afford under the Emperor Palpatine's draconian health insurance bill.

When the film took a different direction, the majority of Harkte's scenes were left on the cutting room floor, where they were eaten by scavenging beetles.

Fortunately some footage has survived. In the photograph above he is pictured assisting in the autopsy of a tauntuan.

Lucas said of Harkte: “Vance could dissect a tauntaun in his sleep. I am in no doubt that, had he not been a long-serving U.S. Senator, he could pursued a very successful career as a veterinarian on the ice planet of Hoth.


Orrin Hatch (Republican) Utah, 1977-present


In 2000, Hatch failed to secure the Republication presidential nomination, with the popular vote going to George W. Bush.

He fared little better, politically, in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, where he can be seen clad in the traditional Utah blue and beige national dress, at the head of a coup to depose the Rebel Alliance Leader, Mon Mothma, while she is distracted by plans for an assault on the second Death Star.

Before he can dispatch Mothma with his ice-pick, Orrin is wrestled to the ground by her formidable amphibious mon-calamari bodyguards and dragged away. In the digitally remastered versions of the film, this scene occurs off-camera.



Sunday, 28 August 2016

A review of the Lego guns manufactured by my nephew during a recent visit

A couple of weeks ago I was visited by my nephew, Stellan. At the age of three he is already a competent and inventive gunsmith. Over the course of his stay he produced an impressive arsenal of Lego firearms that challenged my many deeply-held notions of what a gun can be.

While some of Stellan's creations have been lost to the ages, broken up on the unforgiving jagged tides of the big box where we keep all the Lego, a few examples of his work do still survive.


Below I examine this extraordinary cache of weaponry, made by a young man who knows in his heart that the most efficient method of inflicting injury with Lego is to leave individual bricks scattered where they will be trodden on by bare feet, but whose aesthetic sense intuitively reaches towards something more beautiful and refined.



 (1) The diminutive aspect of this simple weapon, with its three non-moving parts, begs the question: Is this a firearm at all? Stellan, its creator, claimed that he “couldn't remember,” before shooting me with it from the cover of the kitchen doorway.

The bulk of this piece and the absence of a handgrip leads me to speculate that it may be a shotgun of some sort, with an external magazine incorporated into the 6-studded white brick that rests atop the barrel. 

It is possible that that slender blue tile could be repositioned so that it protrudes from the rear of the long red brick to create a shoulder stock. One wonders whether this delicate plastic slate, attached to the body of the weapon by only one or two pairs of studs would withstand the recoil associated with a shotgun, without detaching and potentially injuring the shooter. 



(2) “You've got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”

A bold fusion of the brash and the elegant, this high-calibre handgun would have blended seamlessly into the shop-soiled Big Apple of Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry films. 

A flimsy handgrip may lead to difficulties holding the weapon steady during firing. 

The 1970s car headlamps and radiator grill bulking out the butt of the gun, while of little practical purpose, provide a retro flourish – a nod of the head to the violent cop films of the 1970s and early 1980s that inspired this fearsome piece.

Here we see a common motif in all of Stellan's designs; the concealed trigger which is incorporated into the grip. 




(3) This stocky sub-machine-gun, reminiscent of the KRISS Vector SMG, incorporates an extended magazine within its bulky and protruding handgrip. However, what this misshapen weapon gains in ammo capacity it loses in ease of use.

I initially mistook this portable, rapid-fire, bringer of death for a penguin, earning me the ire of its creator. 












(4) Another sub-machine-gun. A mysterious gap between the handgrip, where the magazine is presumably housed, and the barrel, raises the pertinent issue of how ammunition enters the firing chamber. One tantalizing possibility is that this tunnel accommodates a belt feed, allowing a user to fire on full-automatic, while drawing from a pair of bandoleers, criss-crossing his or her bare, sweaty chest, like a pair of brass anacondas.

The unusual stair-casing design of the barrel forces the bullet to climb a short flight of internal steps prior to exiting through the muzzle. This results in fitter ammunition, capable of travelling at greater speeds over longer distances.




(5) Whether you have just been caught cheating at poker in a late 18th century El Paso saloon bar, or are simply hoping to assassinate the 16th President of the United States of America during a visit to the theatre, this handsome derringer, sponsored by the Shell Oil company, will more than likely meet your requirements. 












(6) Holy fucking crap! Is that a railgun?

Why yes, now that you mention it Edith, it is a railgun. Capable of magnetically accelerating a Lego brick along its smooth-bore, 1.5cm barrel faster than you can utter the words: “Oh fuck.”

In the words of Ordell Robbie, from Quentin Tarantino's uncharacteristically tepid adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel 'Rum Punch' (Jackie Brown):

When you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherfucker in the room, accept no substitutes.” 





After Stellan returned home to Preston, I dismantled his Lego guns and fashioned the remains into this monument to peace.



Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Day five inside a lion costume




It is my fifth day inside a lion suit. Last Tuesday, Donald Trump ordered two of his bodyguards to hold me down while his Columbian maid sewed me into the costume. Later that afternoon I was presented as a gift to Trump's nine year old son, Barron, who rides me around the house and occasionally hunts me with nerf guns.

At breakfast I ask Donald how long I must stay inside the costume.

How long do lions live?”

I don't know.

When lions invent the internet you can look it up.”

The conversation takes a disturbing turn towards the recent activities of Trump's two older sons, Donald Jnr and Eric, who are both avid big game hunters.

I am lying down on my haunches at the foot of the table, beneath the loosely-pleated hem of the gold-embroidered cloth. Barron bends down in his chair and proffers a cupped hand filled with milk-sodden Cheerios.

Don't worry,” he whispers loudly in my ear. “You are a magic lion who will never die.”

As I slink away between the marbled Doric columns and pad out of the breakfast room, I hear Barron ask his father:

Daddy, can lions breathe underwater?”

In the east gallery I encounter Warren, a former member of the secret service who has been sewn into a bear costume. He tells me that he has been sold to the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin. He is due to be shipped out to Moscow tomorrow.

Phone the Democratic National Convention,” he says. “Tell them to get word to Bernie Saunders. In the past he has always stood up for lions and bears.”

He scratches the number into the zebra-skin wallpaper. It takes me three attempts to dial it correctly with my cumbersome paws.

A woman who introduces herself as Debbie Wasserman Schultz answers the phone. When I ask for Bernie Saunders she tells me that nobody by that name works there and hangs up.

Later I read in the paper about an intercepted email from the League of African Herbivores to the DNC, offering to endorse Hillary Clinton to the tune of $2million, if she runs for President on an anti-lion platform and appoints an antelope as head of the United States Postal Service.

That evening on The Daily Show, Trevor Noah asks Bernie Saunders for his opinion on Hillary's willingness to throw lions under the bus for the sake of a couple of million in change.

That is why we must we must elect Hillary Clinton, so that can she can address the corruption in the Democratic Party,” replies Bernie.


In the adjoining room I hear Trump and a potential campaign donor discussing the possibility of dyeing my fur red.  

Monday, 18 July 2016

Alex Fiedler writes to The Beach Boys on the subject of tomatoes




I know that you'll feel better when you send us in your letter and tell us the name of your favourite vegetable.”

- The Beach Boys (Vegetables)


~






Dear Brian, Carl, Denis, Mike, Al, Bruce, and Mr Van Dyke Parks,


As suggested in the lyrics to your song 'Vegetables' I have written this letter informing you of the name of my favourite vegetable, in the hope that doing so will make me feel better about life.


You know, if I am being completely honest I have to say that it's the tomato. Now there are some people who claim that the tomato isn't a vegetable but a fruit and these are generally the same people who pronounce it “tomayto”.


In my heart I feel that this is a communist plot against our hard-working American tomato farmers, both at home and on plantations overseas in Vietnam. If the tomato is a fruit then why don't we eat it with ice cream?


You know what? I'm feeling a little better already.


Give my regards to Rhonda, Barbara Ann, Caroline and all the other swinging California girls.


Alex Fiedler.


September 27th, 1967



Thursday, 14 July 2016

Rayleigh or R'lyeh?

In an attempt to dispel some of the confusion between the town of Rayleigh in Essex, and the sunken corpse city of R'lyeh I have created the following infogram:


Rayleigh, Essex, UK

General Description: Successive 20th and 21st century housing estates and developments, shopping amenities, stadium, leisure centre, golf club, swimming pool, indoor karting track, an historic cottage built by the Dutch, and a windmill.

Home To: The Rayleigh Boys football team. Rayleigh Brass Band

Recent historical events of note: “Reality TV stars to open Rayleigh trampoline park next month” (Southend Echo - 28th January, 2016)

Town Motto: “IN RELIQUIAM LABORAMUS” (We work for the future)



R'lyeh, Southern Pacific Ocean

General Description: “Weedy Cyclopean masonry which can be nothing less than the tangible substance of earth's supreme terror.”

Home To: The cosmic entity, Cthulhu – High Priest of the Great Old Ones, The Great Dreamer, The Sleeper of R'lyeh

Recent historical events of note: That one time Cthulhu woke up and chased after a boatload of sailors

Town Motto: “Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn” (In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming)

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

This time last year I was sleeping rough in London. This is what I learned



1) An extraordinary number of informal lunchtime business meetings take place on the traffic island, outside the Royal Exchange, at Bank Junction.

2) Toilets that don't require payment to use are few and far between.

3) Sources of drinking water are equally hard to come by. You need to start collecting empty water bottles from the trash so that you can store a supply.

4) Even in the summer it gets cold at night. If you get cold then it's very difficult to get warm again. Pick up the free newspapers outside railway stations and use them to stuff your clothes.

5) A sheet of cardboard makes an incredible difference as an insulator and as a cushion between you and whatever hard and uncomfortable surface you happen to be sleeping on. You can pull a collapsed box out of the recycling bundles that the shops put out on the kerb, or you grab one from the cages outside the supermarkets.

6) If you place your ear to the ground in certain parts of London you will hear the sound of the tube trains passing by underneath. Sometimes you will also hear the platform announcements.

7) Your teeth and the inside of your mouth will be the first thing to go

8) After two days without food you will completely lose your appetite.

9) As you lose weight your trousers will slip down and begin to chaff. Make sure that you secure them properly around your waist or you will lose all the skin on your inner thighs and they will stick together when you walk.

10) Parts of London that are populated and generally safe during the day become less so after the crowds depart – e.g. the South Bank, along by The National Theatre.

11) Your biggest human threat is other homeless people. You will be a source of entertainment for drunken arseholes. Everybody else will ignore you.

12) You will win most confrontations by standing your ground and not being afraid to hit back if necessary.

13) The old city of London is generally safe at night but it's harder to find places to sleep that are out of the line of sight.

14) London is a big place. If you don't want to be found, you will not be found.


15) You will never see the places where you slept rough in quite the same way again.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Elegy to Nigel Farage

Elegy to Nigel Farage


We saw you
and we hoped
you were a mirage

a trick of the light

the worst of human nature
given momentary substance
by the sunshine
that warped itself around
curls of beer sweat
rising from the tattooed shoulders
of a fat, shaven-headed man
with no discernible neck,
hunched over his
Wednesday morning pint
in the concrete beer garden
of a pub with a flat roof,
home to a roving Rottweiler
named 'Tosser' by its owners.

Batted back and forth
between the narrow horizon line
of the bar
and the border fortification
of a listing cement wall
about to snap off
from its foundations

Where the old sagas
have been bartered
away piecemeal,
diminished to watered-down
skirmishes between
rival football firms

and the Polish deli opposite
is feared as
the vanguard of some
encroaching army.