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Posts Tagged ‘popular culture’

starwarstvtimesIt’s been a long time since I was a Star Wars fanboi, counting down the years (as it was when I were a lad) from when it appeared in the theatres to when it appeared on TV.

I remember my  Dad taking my cousin and me to see Jungle Book and me looking longingly at the queues to see Star Wars as we went inside. That would have been somewhere around 1978, the film having hit UK cinemas on December 27th 1977. I remember being mesmerised by the trailer – and having to wait until I was ten, on Sunday 24th October 1982, to see it on TV for the first time (it aired on ITV from 7.15pm to 9.30pm). That was back before the existence of Channel 4 and you needed two magazines to see what was on three channels!

I was never an aficionado of Star Wars LEGO® or played any of the Star Wars computer games and my Star Wars mania waned as I became hooked on Star Trek and its successors. Still, Star Wars held a quiet affection for me as the original and best space epic, even if my geek tendencies took me away from film and into home computers and gaming.

When the three Star Wars prequels appeared, I saw Phantom Menace, but it didn’t capture me in the way that the original had so many years before.

And then this.

Step forward a global army of Star Wars geeks to take on a challenge that is only really possible in the Internet age and which has reminded me why I loved the original three films so much.

Casey Pugh’s Star Wars Uncut has been around for years and I have no idea how I missed it. If you did, too, then take a look. Fans from all over the world have lovingly recreated the original in 15 second segments. Just about every form of amateur film-making can be found in its two hours. I’ve not watched it all yet, but the bits I have seen reveal that Star Wars retains its appeal to people of all ages.

A long time ago…

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I have recently rediscovered the joy of Monopoly.

In the days before HMV broke, I spotted a very attractive retro edition, in a wooden box, and I decided that as I couldn’t find my childhood box that I would buy it (my old version was a deluxe edition in a black box that included a locomotive token). After all, what better way could there be to pass the long winter evenings than to accrue a personal property fortune?

I was quickly and rudely reminded that there are no ideological bars to winning. My opponent, no, my enemy, a self-styled ex-Socialist Worker who is more than a little sceptical of my own liberal political values, proved to be the most ruthless and cunning capitalist I have ever come across. There was no mercy shown – she led from the beginning and destroyed me five times. Once or twice and I would put it down to a roll of the die. Five times and I was definitely the victim of the socialist incarnation of Donald Trump. (Personally, I think Monopoly provides a safe environment in which socialists can surrender to base instincts and act like the rest of us. That sound you can hear is the sound of me running for cover.)

Still licking my wounds, you could imagine my shock when Hasbro offered a world wide vote to replace a historic playing piece with a diamond ring, a guitar, a toy robot, a helicopter and a cat. The result of that vote? The iron bought it, securing just 8 percent of the vote, and was replaced with… a cat.

Now, I am a cat fan. I admire their cunning, their cold, calculating capacity for dissembling, their ruthless survival instincts and the juxtaposition between the lean, mean killing machine that most of them think they are and the fact that they are often the animal kingdom equivalent of Norman Wisdom, exhibiting a tremendous propensity for slapstick. I would say I own one, but I am pretty sure he owns me.

What a cat isn’t – or what it shouldn’t be – is a Monopoly playing token. To my mind, the iron was one of the more elegantly designed pieces. The cat that replaces it is pug ugly.

Monopoly_casts_aside_the_iron_in_favour_of_the_catI indicated earlier that I can understand the general sentiment towards cats. We also live in a world in which we take refuge in cute things and fluffiness, and perhaps moreso amongst the social demographic that is likely to be taking part in online votes on game tokens. However, applying the same logic to the piece that was rejected, what does it say about the younger generation’s relationship with the iron? Judging from the crumpled trousers I see hanging off the backsides of “cool” types, it says pretty much everything. I wonder if irons are going to go the same way as the cassette tape? In ten years’ time, I can imagine a wide-eyed child pointing at an iron and murmuring incredulously: “Mummy, what is that?”

As it happens, it’s not the first time that pieces have been retired or changed. My retro edition partially recreates the 1935 edition and doesn’t include the wheelbarrow, introduced in 1937.  However, it also doesn’t include three other tokens that were retired in the 1950s: the purse, the rocking horse and the lantern (the wheelbarrow already introduced, the 1950s saw the introduction of the man on horse and the dog). Other retired tokens include the sack of money (which existed in the 1999-2007 editions, having won a contest over a piggy bank and a bi-plane), a man on horseback and a Howitzer (!).

In the end it is probably that I am just not good at change. So I’ll just hanker after this classic set, knowing that if only I could have the lantern I’d win every time…

Tokkens web monopoly photos T6

 

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Movember is the month of moustache-growing madness, raising awareness particularly for prostate cancer and other cancers affecting men. An international movement, in the UK Movember ‘taches can even be found sprouting in the corridors of Westminster.

Moustaches may not be the most fashionable look, but there’s no doubting their pedigree. From musicians to scientists to movie stars, from revolutions to civil wars to world wars, there are examples of memorable moustaches throughout history. Writing in the Daily Mail in 2008, Piers Brendon even attributes “the humble moustache” with a key role in the success of the British Empire (How the moustache won an empire).

The 2011 World Beard and Moustache Championships produced some stunning and bizarre examples of upper-lip facial hair, with numerous categories for competitors to enter and strict rules on how they should be grown. Patrick Gorman, overall winner in the moustache category, told the Arizona Daily Star that he wouldn’t be defending his title next year in Las Vegas – so there is hope for the rest of us yet.

For those engaged in Movember 2011, and who might be flagging a little with the bristly scratch of your new growth, here are some iconic ‘taches to keep you motivated.

I might give it a go next year…

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We had a delivery of logs this morning and, singledom introducing a whole new desire to shape up and get fit, I stuck my headphones on – Whitesnake, Alice Cooper and Biffy Clyro  – and threw myself into the log heap.

As I worked up a sweat, stacking them against the side of the house, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a cold January Saturday in 1986, when several friends and I caught the bus to Romford to watch a film that epitomises the Hollywood of 80s America: Rocky IV. I’d been seduced by the idea of America years before, Star Wars, Raiders, the A-Team, the Dukes of Hazzard, T J Hooker, Star Trek etc all doing exactly what they were supposed to do and brain-washing me into believing that only American things were real and “proper”. As ever, as an overly impressionable 14 year-old, I was blown away and Rock IV was my new best movie of all time.

Of course, having seen it several times since,  through the boring filter of being “all growed up”, it is a crap film with some cheesily memorable moments that capture something that appeals to single blokes with an ab obsession – and those with a fascination for Hollywood grotesque. It also captures – as it was designed to do – the geo-politics of the day, with a ruthless, towering Russian pitted against the smaller American hero. Along the way, Ivan Drago (could you make up a more evil-sounding Russian name?!) kills Rocky’s friend, the famous Apollo Creed (introduced by a Spandex-suited James Brown in one of the most over-the-top character entrances ever), and so loyalty, honour and revenge are all qualities tested to Hollywood destruction.

So far, so cheesy, but the film does contain some clever cultural inversions, not least of all in the training montage, where the Russians are portrayed as being in possession of sports technology years ahead of its time (some twenty years, apparently, according to  a paper entitled Rocky IV – Fight Medicine presented to the University of Texas Health Science Centre), whilst Rocky has to rely on a simple wood cabin in the wilds of Russia, felling trees, sawing timber, humping logs and running through the snow. And whilst the claims of some on the Interwebz that Rocky IV ended the Cold War are probably exaggerated, there is a certain amount of fun to be had in seeing the Politburo rise to cheer Rocky’s final speech:

[Addressing the Soviet crowd, translated into Russian line by line by announcer]
Rocky: During this fight, I’ve seen a lot of changing, in the way you feel about me, and in the way I feel about you. In here, there were two guys killing each other, but I guess that’s better than twenty million. I guess what I’m trying to say, is that if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!
[loud applause, even by the Politburo]

Go, Rocky!

There’s lots that could be said about Rocky IV as a propaganda film or even just as a reflection of the geo-political uncertainty of the time. Observations could be made about American insecurity, perceptions of Russia and that general staple of American culture (film in particular) of the individual pitted against the world – and winning.

In the end, though, I was  thinking substitute Russian landscape-double Wyoming for Langdon Hills and a Hillcroft log-stack and hell, yeah, I could be Rocky, too!

Here are the two most iconic moments of that film as far as I am concerned: the entrance of Apollo Creed and Rocky’s training montage. Enjoy the 80s’ cheese.

Vodpod videos no longer available. Vodpod videos no longer available.

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There’ll be plenty of people of my generation (mainly men with nerdy secrets I suspect) who, notwithstanding the CGI wonders of Michael Bay’s special effects-fest, have a special fondness for the animated series of Transformers and the tinny beep of “Tranformers Robots in Disguise” over  the dark thunderings of Linkin Park’s “New Divide” (I imagine my younger  brother Seth is among them!).

Very amusing then to open Metro this morning and to see a story about Drew Beummier, a contestant on American Idol, who has discovered that “chicks find it sexy” when he wears his home-made Transformer suit.

Apart from wondering if Em thinks I’ve missed a trick somewhere along the line, I do wonder if this is taking fond childhood memories a step too far?

Anyway, he’s hoping to have the suits on sale in the UK soon…

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Men’s Health America has decided to scare the pants off us with a journey through the soft drink horror stories of the United States. Before we all scoff (ho ho), cluck and roll our eyes in knowing despair at our American cousins, we should remember that many of these brands are available here and we see them in school lunch boxes by the hundreds of thousands.

For instance, take the Rockstar Energy Drink.

According to Men’s Health America it contains the sugar equivalent of SIX Krispy Kreme Original Glazed Doughnuts.

That’s right: six doughnuts.

I mean, erm, WTH?!

Speaking as a diabetic, a few of those a day would make for an interesting experience… Seriously, though, how on earth can anyone think that has any serious nutritional value for your average, sofa-bound, pizza-gorging gamer addict?

To my mind these sorts of drinks are little more than legalised toxins. Check out the slide-show here.

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