Wednesday, May 22, 2013

New blog! The March of the Twelve Backs!


I decided to start a "Star Wars" blog, filled with memories of my childhood and what it was like to be a seven year old kid when "Star Wars" hit the big screen in 1977.  I decided to do this because if I didn't separate the "Star Wars" memories from the rest of the things I wanted to talk about then the "Star Wars" memories would rapidly drown this "Angst and Speed" blog.

The years from December 1976 to December 1979 will always be golden for me ... a special time of magic and wonder.  The new blog is called "The March of the Twelve Backs" and the title is taken from the name of the card stock that the original twelve Kenner Star Wars action figures (released after the movie) used back then.  There were a hell of a lot of Star Wars products back then, speculation, talk ... Star Wars affected people around the world like a cultural supernova.  I'm a huge fan of the original 1977 Star Wars movie ... the first release ... before George Lucas re-released it and stuck the tagline of "Episode IV: A New Hope" into the prelude scrawl across the stars.

For me, there was only one "Star Wars" and that was the original, 1977, unedited release.  Everything after that pretty much blew sweaty Bantha genitalia.

There was a very palpable magic in "Star Wars" ...  Lucas was hailed as a visionary but as the decades would prove he was much less a visionary as he was a revisonary ... often with terrible results.  Lucas said that when he made "Star Wars" he set about to "Give a fairytale to a generation that didn't have any fairytales."  Of course, my generation had fairytales.  What Lucas meant was that he was going to give a fairytale to a generation that had no fairytales because they didn't believe in classic, traditional fairytales.  Lucas set about to turn "Star Wars" into the biggest, whine-fest of a liberal fairytale that the world had seen.  What started out as a simple tale of good versus evil with good triumphing over evil must have really messed up Lucas' mind and laid his spirit low ... all the talk of how evil Darth Vader was threw Lucas into overdrive to correct that perception.

How is "Star Wars" a liberal fairytale?


It's the story of Darth Vader, aka Anakin Skywalker, and how it just wasn't his fault that he turned out to be evil.  In a liberal mindset there really isn't any such thing as good and evil, there's just different shades of gray.  No one is evil, no one is responsible for what they do or did, they're all victims of bad childhoods, not getting a pony for their 8th birthday, growing up in a single parent family, playing violent video games ... to a liberal anyone who does something bad is never at fault ... instead, it's their circumstances which are to blame.  Liberals are the kind of people who, when one person shoots another person then the person who used the gun and pulled the trigger isn't to blame ... no, they are just the victim of all the bad things that happened to them in life.  Oh, and it's the gun's fault for shooting the other person.  Liberals love to blame inanimate objects and give them animate traits and since liberals really can't punish a handgun they instead try to punish the company that made the handgun ... rather than punish the person who actually pulled the trigger and shot the other individual.

I've come to realize that most liberals are simply suffering from advanced mental retardation.  You cannot be a liberal unless you are severely mentally retarded because what they use for logic makes no real sense at all and defies everything else that we know is sound and true.

Darth Vader / Anakin Skywalker is a perfect example of liberal logic.  

Anakin was from a single parent home and over the six different movies we come to find out that Darth Vader, once considered cinema's reigning black armor clad prince of evil, was not so much a tremendous villain as he was just a tremendous fuck up.  After he is thrust into greatness at Naboo he consistently fails to live up to expectations after that.  In the second and third episodes he is refused what he wants, he breaks the rules of those who have taken him in and ultimately his greed and desires destroy everything around him.  He was supposed to bring balance to the Force, according to a prophecy, but instead he destroys the Jedi order ... almost.  In Episode IV he is tasked with retrieving the stolen plans to the Death Star and he fails in that ... it's only when the plans come blundering back his way does he get a chance to redeem himself.  Further charged with protecting the Death Star from starfighter assault, he fails in that task.  In Episode V, Vader is tasked with finding the rebels and when he eventually does they escape leaving him, literally, empty handed at the end of the movie.  Oh, he caused the rebels grief in Episode V but he really didn't do any permanent damage.  In Episode VI, he is charged with protecting the Emperor and the new Death Star.  In the end, he wusses out, attones for his sins, and, well, the rebels win (with the help of some teddy bears with sharp sticks).  "Star Wars" (1977) is an amazing film.  Taken as a whole, the story given to us in Episodes I to VI leaves a lot to be desired and ultimately disappoints in a huge way.

So why did Darth Vader go from being the epitome of evil to being the posterchild for liberal pantywads?  We can thank Lucas for that because unsatisfied with a simple tale of good versus evil, Lucas instead had to give us five more movies to explain why Vader really wasn't evil ... he was just misunderstood ... and each of those five movies took the "Star Wars" name and franchise and ruined it more and more with each new movie until by the end of the entire six part story the original magic that was "Star Wars" was pretty much dead and buried for all time.

The original 1977 "Star Wars" movie is the best.  

My new blog, "The March of the Twelve Backs" will be about the magic and awe that George Lucas brought into the world in May of 1977 ... the first and last time that he did so.  The blog will be about memories of a time when magic was real and that magic was everywhere.  If you were a kid way back then and you were lucky enough to see "Star Wars" in the theater back in 1977 then you know what I'm talking about and I think you'll enjoy this new blog.


Friday, May 03, 2013

Kenner Star Wars Laser Pistol and Laser Rifle

There came a time in my childhood when two of the most awesome guns were made available by Kenner; the Star Wars (Han Solo) Laser Pistol and the Star Wars 3 Position Laser Rifle.  This gave the "good guys" a gun to use and the "bad guys" a gun to use as well.  For Christmas of 1978 I received the Star Wars 3 Position Laser Rifle while my friend three houses down got the Star Wars Laser Pistol.  After that, the hours were spent running around the neighborhood draining pairs of C and D sized batteries to our hearts' content.

The weapons were somewhat faithful reproductions of their on screen counterparts but the sounds that these toys produced were nowhere near what the sounds in the movie were.  In fact, both toy guns were activated by a two stage trigger system ... a small nipple type button in the hand grip activated something inside the gun so that when the trigger was pulled the toy gun made a noise reminiscent of either a buzzsaw at a lumber mill or a hamster being put in a blender.  We both found that even at the age of 8 years old we could make more accurate Star Wars blaster sounds using our mouths than Kenner could using electronics and back then electronics was the big thing in toys ... an electronic toy was cutting edge and these toy guns weren't the cheapest toys on the market.  They weren't the most expensive, but they weren't the cheapest either.

Han Solo's German Mauser based heavy blaster pistol. 
You unscrewed the two twist knobs on the side and inserted
two "C" sized batteries in the toy.  The batteries
had amazingly short lives, IIRC.

I think one of the things that endeared me most to the weapons of Star Wars was the fact that all of the weapons were built out of real world counterparts ... familiar counterparts ... mostly taken from World War II which fit right in with my pre-Star Wars love affair of all things World War I and World War II.  Years of being weaned on "Sgt. Rock" and "The Unknown Soldier" and "The Losers" and other combat comics and of playing with Marx "green army men" had made me more than aware of the many, many weapons used in the major wars.  As such, it was easy to see where Han Solo's blaster was made out of a early 20th century German Mauser (one of my favorite pistols of all time).  The standard Stormtrooper weapons included the standard issue blaster rifle (created from a Sterling 9mm submachinegun) and two heavy blasters created out of a German MG34 machinegun and a British Lewis machinegun.  Scopes and doo-dads were added liberally to these classic weapons but their cores, their guts, were unmistakeable which I guess made them all the more believable when they were being used because I had seen so many combat movies where the cores of those fantastic weapons had been used.

The 3 Position Laser Rifle was probably the neater (and more expensive) of the two blaster offerings but it was also the more prone to break.  Loading batteries into this toy weapon required that you twist / pop the rear loop off at the rear of the weapon, take a cover off and insert two "D" sized batteries (batteries not included).  When you pulled the secret nipple trigger below the trigger guard and then pulled the trigger the 3 Position Laser Rifle did something that the Laser Pistol did not ... it spun a yellow with black stripes "barber pole" inside the barrel ... and made a sound reminiscent of a failing starter on a AMC Pacer.

The rear loop, for whatever reason it was included, was both prone to breaking through hard play and even more prone to simply fall off and disappear.  It wasn't required for the laser rifle to work but it was something that when it went missing you felt like your toy was incomplete.

What really set the Laser Rifle apart from the Laser Pistol was the three position folding stock hence the name of the weapon being 3 Position Laser Rifle.  The stock was affixed to the weapon at two swivel points located at the back and to each side of the hand grip.  On the front, a simple clip "snapped" the folding stock in tight against the barrel.  This clip also did not survive strenuous childhood rough housing and when it broke it would leave you with a folding stock that simply had to either be deployed full or held tight against the barrel.

The three positions, seen above on the box, were folded (standard), shoulder pad down up front (guard) and fully extended (turning the rifle into a real rifle).  While we never saw any of the three positions of the stock being used in the movie that didn't stop us from taking it as canon and running with it.
Although my original 3 Position Laser Rifle never made it with me out of childhood I was lucky enough to find a replacement on Ebay a few years ago.  The toy did include the rare (and often lost) rear D-ring type clip but the front clip for the stock was broken.  The toy blaster did not work even with new batteries and a quick inspection of the screws used to secure the casing showed that the tiny screws were heavily rusted and corroded.  If I go into this toy to see if I can fix it, it's going to require new screws as I have doubts if the heads of the current screws may even make it through a very careful disassembly.  I also plan on using a simple pair of magnets under the barrel to "grab" the stock and secure it in the folded position.

I said that I never owned the Laser Pistol ... now I do, from the same Ebay seller and in similar condition (though this toy still had some obscure, cheap-ass "C" size batteries in it that were rusting to pieces).  Other than the non-functioning electronics and the broken stock retaining clip on the laser rifle, both toy weapons seem quite well preserved for 36 year old artifacts from my childhood.  Both are dusty as hell and will require hours of careful cleaning to be fully presentable but the plastic is still non-discolored and uncracked.  

I think I'll mount them on pegs on the wall of my study where, like my other iconic toys from the 1970's, I'm sure they'll incite conversation from those who remember these toys.  As I hold these toy weapons in my hands, I'm taken back to cold winter days where imagination ran free and so did we through the yards of our neighbors yelling and laughing and not having a care in the world other than how much fun we could have.

The Dark One speaks ... !

Sort of ... I'm going to be making a series of podcasts related to my website ... soon.  So, if you've ever wanted to hear The Dark One speak, get ready.  Most of the podcasts will be about things that make me happy, like toys and childhood memories and neat things and nerd things and fast cars and fast motorcycles and good times.  There's even going to be some full frontal nerdity regarding "Star Wars" ... ok, maybe more than probably a lot of that since I have a lot of opinions on Star Wars.  

In fact, there just may be a whole damn series of podcasts just on Star Wars and what a hack Lucas is.  It's a good thing that he sold the Star Wars franchise to Disney because he had already spent the last three and a half decades Mickey Mousing the shit up.

I hope to have the first podcast up and going in the next few weeks, look for it on my website and a link will be posted here as well as the Facebook page.  Podcasts will try to be issued weekly, more or less.  I don't recommend holding your breath waiting for one but if you do then I'm sure that Darwin will be pleased.