newton north's nickle minus three

How Come No One Uses Cannons Anymore?

The other night my special lady and I were watching television when we came across the classic (a.k.a. "old") movie channel. They were showing a film about pirates, starring Douglas Fairbanks or Eli Wallach, or one of those old actors who's been dead for like a hundred years, but who you still enjoy in the occasional pirate flick now and then.

This particular pirate movie was a real swashbuckler. It had sword fighting, sea-battles, buried treasure, eye patches, "saucy" wenches and even a mischievous monkey who saved the day in the end. Monkeys seem to do that a lot in movies – does it ever happen in real life? Because all I ever see them do at the zoo is sleep and groom each other. Come to think of it, if you add "watch TV," that's a pretty fair description of me and my special lady!

Anyhow, we were watching one particularly interesting battle sequence, in which this one pirate ship attacks another pirate ship for some reason. I'm not sure why exactly; I was getting the microwave popcorn for the first part of the scene and my special lady was doing a crossword, so she wasn't really paying attention. Which of course made me "cross," because I was counting on her to fill me in on what I missed! Turns out the only thing she "filled in" was #11 down, the answer to which was "Laugh In." (Ironically, it was the crossword in the back of the "TV Guide.")

Luckily, I got back with the popcorn in time to see the brunt of the battle. It was quite a thing to see, especially considering the state of special effects back in 1910 or whenever this film was made. Nowadays they probably just dress robots up as pirates and program them to fight each other, but back then they had to use actual humans and occasionally, animals dressed as humans, who are then dressed as pirates. Such drastic realism made this massive battle all the more impressive, as both teams of pirates fought each other for the gold, or the map, or the map to the gold, or whatever they were fighting about (Thanks a lot Brianna, hope that crossword puzzle was fun!)

In any case, I have to admit, I got a bit swept away by that exciting sea skirmish. Talk about a thrill ride! I mean, I doubt I would have liked to actually been in such a battle, but watching one on the TV is a real blast. And speaking of "blasts," as I sat there crunching my corn and ogling that ocean onslaught, a thought occurred to me: How come no one uses cannons anymore?

When I posed this question to my special lady later that evening, she just sighed and said, "Newton, cannons weigh like a zillion pounds and they're really hard to load and no one's made them since, like, Vietnam." She then went on to say that though they were once probably quite handy, in this day and age, a cannon is hardly convenient as a weapon of mass destruction. Then she locked herself in the bathroom for about an hour and did God knows what. Probably something involving bath beads, shell-shaped soaps and that "loofah" I'm forbidden to touch. But I'm just guessing here. When it comes to what goes on in the necessary room, my special lady and I have kind of a "don't ask, don't tell" sort of deal.

Later I thought about what she'd said and I decided that on the whole, she was right. In this day and age when every street gang member practically carries around a laser gun, using a canon for your day-to-day needs seems a little impractical. Nowadays, people opt for something a little more compact, something they can keep in their jacket or tucked into the waistband of their pants. No one wants to have to worry about loading a giant cannonball into a 500-pound cannon when they're being robbed, or if they need to retaliate against a rival gang, or if they just plain feel like killing and/or wounding someone.

So when it comes to destruction, I understand why the cannon has fallen by the wayside in favor of more efficient means. Today's killing methods are quick, easy and almost never cause the gruesome accidental death of anyone within a ten foot radius, as cannons have been known to do. But I ask you – where's the charm?

Sure, guns, knives and robotic nanoprobes programmed to burrow under the skin and destroy an organism from the inside-out may be clean and efficient, but they haven't one iota of the charm and class of a good, old-fashioned cannon. A cannon is a gentleman's weapon; a throwback to a more dignified time, when killing a man meant more than just whipping out a Saturday night special and pulling the trigger. If you had the fifteen minutes it took to load the cannon, not to mention the additional ten minutes or so that it took to aim it and light the fuse, then you certainly had time enough to sit back and appreciate the pure destructive beauty of this classic killing machine.

I'm surprised that in this day and age, when everyone's thinking "retro," that the cannon has gone as unheralded as it has. I mean my special lady recently spent $70 on a "Princess" phone, just because she loves the crazy 60s look of the thing. "Special Lady," sez I, "For $70, we could have had one heck of a food-fest at 'J.J. McTastegood's Funtime Eat & Drinkery,' that new family style joint that just opened up on Blix street." Or, we could have maybe paid off a few bills or gotten IG88 (our lizard) that operation he needs.

But no, Special Lady says she's gotta have the Princess phone. And she's not the only one I know who's recently succumbed to "retro fever," paying insane, outlandish prices for stuff because it looks cool and evokes a certain charm of an age gone by. Even I'm not totally immune to the pull of retro – or is that someone else with a Michael Jackson Zipper Jacket™ hanging in his closet?

And yet the cannon remains the unsung killing machine of an age gone by. What will it take to wake the world up and remind them that they're missing out on this elegant, refined and downright historical method of blowing the shit out of stuff? Or are we so immersed in our "hurry up," "go, go, go," "get the fuck out of my way, asshole" society, that there's simply no room for the classic killing style of the cannon? I for one, surely hope not.

When it comes to "igniting" people's interest in cannons, I guess we'll have to leave it to the usual folks to get the ball (cannon ball, that is) rolling. I'm speaking of course of that popular destination, Hollywoodtown. How many times has the dream factory churned out some wonderful new product, only to find the citizens of the world clamoring imitate its characters, themes, gagets and gizmos? Who didn't want a flying skateboard after Back the Future II came out? And who didn't long to slip the surly bonds of Earth after watching Apollo's 13? Now that I think about it, I believe those two kids who blew up their high school in Colorado a few years back got the idea from Virtuosity, that movie starring Denzel Washington. That one kinda backfired, but it does help illustrate Hollywood's hold on us.

Perhaps if Hollywood lent a hand by putting a few cannons into their movies, the cannon craze might catch on once again. What's the harm in placing a cannon or two in upcoming films like Men In Black III or the soon-to-be-released romantic comedy, Been There, Done That starring Kate Winslet and Freddie Prinz, Jr. as coworkers who decide to adopt a baby, then fall in love? Maybe George Lucas could even get in on the act, by putting some cannons into one of his new Star Wars movies. I don't see how Princess Leia firing a cannon is any less exciting than her shooting a laser gun. After all, cannons sure supply a lot of "force!" NOTE: That's a little Star Wars related joke- non-fans of the series might not get it.

And it doesn't have to stop with movies. Cannons could make appearances on current hit TV shows, such as "Extreme American Bandstand," "Third Watch" and "Two Pizzas and the Girl." Or they could even be used on the radio, as background sound effects for early morning drive time zoo crews, such as "Brainy, Brewster, & Krink," those wacky morning DJ's they have on 92.4. Those guys are nuts. One time, they called up a woman and told her son had been killed by a drunk driver. She cried and cried. Too insane! Something tells me the sound of a cannonblast would be right at home in that nuthouse!

Anyhow, the point I'm trying to make here is that there's room for the return of the cannon, if Hollywood would care to lend a hand. I know cannons are slow, awkward, and plain, but if I've learned anything from movies and TV, it's that those are qualities much admired by Tinseltown. Those magic makers have shown us time and time again that substance will always beat flash. And that being the case, I don't see how the cannon couldn't catch on, if the entertainment industry gets on board!

In the meantime, the rest of us average nobodies must do what we can. I myself am seriously considering purchasing a cannon for home security use, as soon as I've got the funds. Despite my protests, Brianna said that if I want a cannon, it's gotta come out of my "mad money" stash, which is admittedly on the low side, especially after I won that eBay auction for a full-size replica of that little statue that Harrison Ford steals at the beginning of Raiders Of The Lost Ark. That about cleaned me out, funds wise. Brianna told me it was a stupid purchase, but all I said was "Tell that to the Hovitos!"

In any case, as soon as I get a little more cash in the account, a-cannon shopping I will go. I'm already excited and I must confess I've spent more than a few minutes of work time at as well as And I won't lie and say I haven't been taking the long way home from work, just so I can stroll through the cannon district and get some ideas.

Rest assured, you'll be seeing this guy with a cannon soon. And don't be surprised if it catches on quick – I envision a world united by those giant metal devices that hurl dangerous explosive projectiles which destroy anything within a ten-foot radius that they come in contact with. It's a simple dream, one well within our grasp.

After all, why should pirates have all the fun? And that's my nickel minus three for this week. Ahoy, maties!