Attack of the clones as Star Wars fans design own lightsabers

Attack of the clones as Star Wars fans design own lightsabers
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In this picture taken on April 22, 2019, Makoto Tsai, who handcrafts lightsabers for Star Wars fans, poses for a photograph at his workshop in New Taipei City. (AFP/Hsu Tsun-hsu)
Attack of the clones as Star Wars fans design own lightsabers
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Makoto Tsai, who handcrafts lightsabers for Star Wars fans, poses for a photograph at his workshop in New Taipei City. (AFP/Hsu Tsun-hsu)
Attack of the clones as Star Wars fans design own lightsabers
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Fans arranging model lightsabers during an event to promote the upcoming unofficial Star Wars Day in Taipei. (AFP/Hsu Tsun-hsu)
Attack of the clones as Star Wars fans design own lightsabers
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Makoto Tsai, who handcrafts lightsabers for Star Wars fans, in his workshop in New Taipei City. (AFP/Hsu Tsun-hsu)
Attack of the clones as Star Wars fans design own lightsabers
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Makoto Tsai, who handcrafts lightsabers for Star Wars fans, poses for a photograph with a R2-D2 toy robot at his workshop in New Taipei City. (AFP/Hsu Tsun-hsu)
Attack of the clones as Star Wars fans design own lightsabers
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Fans posing for photographs with model lightsabers during an event to promote the upcoming unofficial Star Wars Day in Taipei. (AFP/Hsu Tsun-hsu)
Attack of the clones as Star Wars fans design own lightsabers
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Replica Star Wars lightsabers at Makoto Tsai's workshop in New Taipei City. (AFP/Hsu Tsun-hsu)
Attack of the clones as Star Wars fans design own lightsabers
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Makoto Tsai posing for photographs with lightsabers during an event to promote the upcoming unofficial Star Wars Day in Taipei. (AFP/Hsu Tsun-hsu)
Updated 03 May 2019

Attack of the clones as Star Wars fans design own lightsabers

Attack of the clones as Star Wars fans design own lightsabers
  • Star Wars may be a multi-billion dollar Hollywood franchise but fans have long complained that the official lightsabers on the market are flimsy and disappointing versions of the whizzing, crackling, swords seen in the films
  • Bright tubes of light and motion-linked audio cards similar to the film’s sound effects are now standard

TAIPEI: Frustrated by the lack of quality lightsabers in toy shops, Makoto Tsai did what any self-respecting hardcore Star Wars fan would do — he studied engineering at college and then spent years perfecting a replica.
The 36-year-old is part of a small group of artisans around the world who have forged successful careers hand-crafting remarkably realistic models of the movie saga’s famous energy swords.
As fans gather globally on May 4th for what has become the unofficial Star Wars Day — this year mourning the death of towering Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew — many will be clutching one of Tsai’s lightsabers, made in his workshop near Taipei.
In the past decade he has shipped around 1,000 blades to some 40 countries as diverse as the United States, France and Cuba to Peru, Iceland and Tunisia. Prices start at $255 and around 80 percent of his orders come from abroad.
Local and ethnic Chinese fans are offered a half price discount, providing that they pass a written test “to prove they have enough passion for Star Wars.”
“I hand-make every piece of work so it’s very intimate to me. I only want those who really like it to own it,” he told AFP at his memorabilia filled workshop.
Star Wars may be a multi-billion dollar Hollywood franchise but fans have long complained that the official lightsabers on the market are flimsy and disappointing versions of the whizzing, crackling, swords seen in the films.
As a result a whole cottage industry has sprung up of replica manufacturers filling a gap that more established companies have uncharacteristically failed to fill.
Advances in battery, LED and computing technology have helped these artisans create increasingly sophisticated replicas, many of them choosing to avoid overt branding from the films to reduce their exposure on copyright issues.
Bright tubes of light and motion-linked audio cards similar to the film’s sound effects are now standard.

Among fans of the custom saber scene, California-based Michael Murphy is known as “Yoda.” His online shop and forum FXSabers.com is the go to place for those trading tips on where to buy and how to build the best lightsabers.
“As far as people doing installations like myself and Makoto, I’d say it’s grown from the original group of 25 back in the early years to well over 100 people out there in forums and on Facebook offering services for sabers in one way or another,” he told AFP.
The original lightsaber wielded by Luke Skywalker in the first 1977 instalment — a remarkably budget production compared to its lavish follow-ups — was little more than the handle of an old Graflex camera flash.
Those retro flashes have now become notoriously hard to source thanks to Star Wars fans. The most expensive fan-built lightsaber replicas which feature original Graflex handles have sold for as much as $15,000 on eBay.
Tsai first fell for Star Wars as a teenager and his quest for a realistic lightsaber prompted him to study electro-optical engineering and then work in that industry until he became a full-time lightsaber maker over a decade ago.
Tsai said he constantly researches to make his lightsabers “brighter, more durable and easier to manoeuver” so they can be used in fencing, which he has been promoting in Taiwan with regular duels.
The business also supports fan and charity gatherings he organizes free-of-charge.
“I spend two-thirds of my time organizing events. My mission is to promote Star Wars in Taiwan as hard as I can to draw out more fans,” he added.
One of Tsai’s proudest moments was an outing to Taiwan’s presidential office on last year’s Star Wars Day.
Darth Vader, Chewbacca and a motley crew of intergalactic characters chanted “May the force be with you” alongside Vice President Chen Chien-jen, while toy gun-toting stormtroopers joined military police to stand guard outside the landmark in downtown Taipei.
This year fans will gather near the renowned Taipei 101 skyscraper to mark the day, he said.
With plenty more Star Wars films planned by the Disney-owned franchise in the years ahead, Tsai is confident he’ll have new generations of fans flocking to buy his sabres.
“I am very optimistic that there will be more and more die-hard fans and we can definitely keep the momentum for at least another decade,” he said.
College student Kuo Shun-hao, 20, became a fan two years ago after watching the seventh instalment “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” — the JJ Abrams reboot that brought fresh critical acclaim to the franchise and a new windfall for Disney.
Kuo now regularly fences with his lightsabers.
“I like sparring and talking about Star War movies with other fans,” he said, adding: “I am making new friends as there are often new people coming to our fencing gatherings.”


Dubai cat cafe hopes rescues will find purr-fect new homes

Dubai cat cafe hopes rescues will find purr-fect new homes
Updated 28 February 2021

Dubai cat cafe hopes rescues will find purr-fect new homes

Dubai cat cafe hopes rescues will find purr-fect new homes
  • The cafe’s original residents were strays taken in by the family over the years
  • Now Ailuromania hosts cats from a government-run animal shelter in the neighboring emirate of Ras al Khaimah, hoping to increase adoptions

DUBAI: A haven for humans craving furry feline company, a cat cafe in Dubai also doubles as an adoption center for some of the United Arab Emirates’ many strays.
The Ailuromania Cat Cafe, which was the Middle East’s first cat cafe when it opened in 2015, hopes the relaxing properties of its 25 rescue and shelter cats will help find them their forever homes.
“Anyone who is stressed just has to find a cat. All your stress will go away,” said Omnia Fareed, whose two cat-loving sisters Allaa and Iman started the cafe after university, taking inspiration from similar establishments in Korea and London.
The cafe’s original residents were strays taken in by the family over the years. Now Ailuromania hosts cats from a government-run animal shelter in the neighboring emirate of Ras al Khaimah, hoping to increase adoptions.
The cafe’s name Ailuromania is a play on the Greek-derived English word for a lover of cats: ailurophile.
The cafe has regular customers who come seeking relaxation from the stresses of life, or because they cannot keep a cat at home.
“They are so cute, they love playing,” said visitor Shaasthra. She said she appreciates how the cafe looks after the cats’ welfare by advising people not to hold them or wake them up.
Another regular visitor, a street cat who would stare in through the window, was also invited and eventually adopted.
Since Dubai began lifting coronavirus lockdown measures last summer, the cafe re-opened with capacity and sanitization restrictions.
Dubai has a large number of stray cats, with many abandoned on the streets by their owners. In 2018 UAE authorities made it illegal to abandon animals, but animal welfare activists in Dubai have for years called for a large-scale trap-neuter-release scheme and feeding programs to bring numbers down humanely.
In August, Dubai municipality issued a circular restating a policy of fining anyone caught feeding strays, saying it increases the spread of diseases.


Chinese court orders man to pay former wife $7,700 for five years of housework

Chinese court orders man to pay former wife $7,700 for five years of housework
Updated 24 February 2021

Chinese court orders man to pay former wife $7,700 for five years of housework

Chinese court orders man to pay former wife $7,700 for five years of housework
  • The award of compensation for housework sparked debate on Chinese social media

BEIJING: A Chinese court has ordered a man to pay his former wife 50,000 yuan ($7,700) as compensation for housework she did during their five-year marriage, state media reported on Wednesday.
Under a landmark civil code that seeks to better protect the rights of individuals, spouses can seek compensation from their partners in a divorce if they have shouldered more responsibilities — including housework.
The woman, who did not work outside the home during the marriage, sought compensation for housework she had done after her husband filed for divorce at a district court in Beijing last year.
The judge ruled in her favor, telling the man to pay 50,000 yuan for her labor, according to state television.
He must also pay 2,000 yuan a month to support their child, with other assets such as property to be divided equally.
The award of compensation for housework sparked debate on Chinese social media, with many netizens saying the amount was too little.
“A nanny’s annual income is already in the tens of thousands of yuan,” said a social media user. “This is too little.”


Experts warn of ‘dangerous’ keto diet side effects

Experts warn of ‘dangerous’ keto diet side effects
A reduction of carbohydrate intake and increase in fats place the body in a metabolic state called ketosis. (Supplied)
Updated 20 February 2021

Experts warn of ‘dangerous’ keto diet side effects

Experts warn of ‘dangerous’ keto diet side effects
  • “The keto diet can also affect your performance during certain exercises, and you won’t be able to work out as intensely or as often as before”

JEDDAH: The ketogenic diet has become one of the fastest-growing dietary trends, but experts have warned that many of its advocates are unaware of the dangerous side effects the diet can cause.

According to Healthline.com, the ketogenic diet, commonly known as keto, is a low-carb, high-fat diet that shares similarities with low carb and Atkins diets. A reduction of carbohydrate intake and increase in fats place the body in a metabolic state called ketosis.
However, the diet has led to severe side effects for some people.
“The keto diet should only be done under clinical supervision, and only for brief periods of time,” Dr. Ruwaida Idrees, a nutritionist, CEO and owner of Hayati Ghethaei, a catering company, told Arab News.
She added that the keto diet should only be considered in “extreme cases,” because it can do “more harm than good.”
Idrees said: “It can cause damage to the heart, since the heart is also a muscle.”
Consulting a doctor, completing necessary tests and discussing goals with a clinical dietitian should all be considered before starting a keto diet, she added.
Idrees said there are many misconceptions surrounding the keto diet and exercise, adding that exercise can still reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity and other health conditions.
People need to be careful about the types of exercises they practice, she said. “The keto diet can also affect your performance during certain exercises, and you won’t be able to work out as intensely or as often as before.”
Fouz Ghannamil, a fitness trainer, told Arab News that the diet appeared to work for many people. “It is good, but my own opinion is that the human body needs more nutrition than just fat and a really small dose of carbohydrates.”
She added: “It has a high portion of proteins which is good, but the fat sources, no matter how good they are, are a bit too much. It is better in my opinion that the portion of fat and carbs is balanced.”
Ghannamil suggested a better alternative for people looking to shed pounds this year — sticking to a diet of “80 percent healthy food and 20 percent junk food.
“Because naturally, your mind will desire junk food that is not natural, however, it has loads of fat in and your body can use it as an energy source.”
She warned people considering a new diet to stick to a balanced nutrition pyramid that contains everything they need: Protein, carbohydrates and fat.
She added that people should avoid diets based solely on numbers rather than personal experience.
Idrees, on the other hand, proposed the Mediterranean diet as a simpler alternative to the keto diet, saying that it has a good balance of seafood and other sources of proteins, moderate portions of dairy and a limited intake of red meat.


TWITTER POLL: Huge majority disagree with US decision to remove Houthis from terror list

TWITTER POLL: Huge majority disagree with US decision to remove Houthis from terror list
Updated 15 February 2021

TWITTER POLL: Huge majority disagree with US decision to remove Houthis from terror list

TWITTER POLL: Huge majority disagree with US decision to remove Houthis from terror list

DUBAI: A large majority of respondents to an Arab News Twitter poll said they disagreed with the US decision to remove Houthi militia from a terrorism list — reversing one of Donald Trump’s final decisions before leaving office.
A staggering 74 percent of 1,113 voters said they opposed the decision, while just over 17 percent agreed. And only 8.9 percent said they were undecided.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Houthis will be removed from the US list of foreign terrorist organizations on Feb. 16.


Blinken said the decision to remove the group’s FTO designation as well as its Specially Designated Global Terrorist Designation was driven by concerns, calling it “a recognition of the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen.”
The announcement came after the Houthis mounted a number of attacks on civilian targets in Saudi Arabia, which were condemned by the State Department earlier this week.
The top US diplomat noted in his statement that Houthi leaders Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, Abd Al-Khaliq Badr Al-Din Al-Houthi, and Abdullah Yahya Al-Hakim remain under sanction.


“The United States remains clear-eyed about Ansarallah’s malign actions, and aggression, including taking control of large areas of Yemen by force, attacking US partners in the Gulf, kidnapping and torturing citizens of the United States and many of our allies, diverting humanitarian aid, brutally repressing Yemenis in areas they control, and the deadly attack on Dec. 30, 2020 in Aden against the cabinet of the legitimate government of Yemen,” he said, using another name for the Houthis.
The Biden administration's special envoy for Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, was in Riyadh this week for meetings with Saudi and Yemeni officials as well as UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths.
“The United States will redouble its efforts, alongside the United Nations and others, to end the war itself. We reaffirm our strong belief that there is no military solution to this conflict,” Blinken said Friday.


French nun, Europe’s oldest person, turns 117 after surviving COVID-19

French nun, Europe’s oldest person, turns 117 after surviving COVID-19
Updated 11 February 2021

French nun, Europe’s oldest person, turns 117 after surviving COVID-19

French nun, Europe’s oldest person, turns 117 after surviving COVID-19
  • Sister Andre is not going to do anything special for her 117th birthday
  • She converted to Catholicism and was baptized at the age of 26

TOULON, France: Europe’s oldest person, French nun Sister Andre, turns 117 on Thursday after surviving COVID-19 last month and living through two world wars, with a special birthday feast including her favorite dessert — Baked Alaska.
Born Lucile Randon on February 11, 1904, Sister Andre said she didn’t realize she had caught the coronavirus, which infected 81 residents of her retirement home in the southeast city of Toulon, killing 10 of them.
“I’m told that I got it,” the nun said ahead of her birthday. “I was very tired, it’s true, but I didn’t realize it.”
But David Tavella, spokesman for the Sainte-Catherine-Laboure nursing home, said she had “experienced a triple confinement: in her wheelchair, in her room and without a visit.”
“So, her birthday, it reinvigorates us,” he added, following the deadly outbreak.
Sister Andre said she was not going to do anything special for her 117th birthday but the home is planning a celebration for her.
There will be a special mass at the home, which has a dozen nuns, and the chef is preparing a birthday feast of foie gras, capon fillet with porcini mushrooms and Sister Andre’s favorite dessert: baked Alaska, washed down with a glass of port.
She says her favorite food is lobster and she enjoys a glass of wine.
“I drink a small glass of wine every day,” she said.
Born in Ales in a Protestant family, she grew up as the only girl among three brothers.
One of her fondest memories was the return of two of her brothers at the end of World War I.
“It was rare, in families, there were usually two dead rather than two alive. They both came back,” she said last year, on her 116th birthday.
She converted to Catholicism and was baptized at the age of 26. She joined the Daughters of Charity order of nuns at the relatively late age of 41.
Sister Andre was then assigned to a hospital in Vichy, where she worked for 31 years and then spent 30 years in a retirement home in the French Alps before moving to Toulon.
She is the second-oldest living person in the world, according to the Gerontology Research Group, after Japanese woman Kane Tanaka, who is 118.
Asked what she would say to young people, Sister Andre said: “Be brave and show compassion.”