Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Deadliest Warrior

Hey everybody, I’m back! At least until classes start up again. Okay, so I haven’t talked about all the lame cartoon shows I grew up with, but I’ll pick that up again another time. Right now I would like to talk about a new-ish series on Spike called Deadliest Warrior.

Deadliest Warrior is an awesome show about history’s most deadly fighters killing each other to death. What’s not to love? Okay, so the battles are all fought on Slitherine Studios’s computer battle simulater, so no one actually dies.

These three guys gather experts on warriors and weapons and perform tests on dummies, dead pigs, sides of beef, and ballistics gel torsos to see what the weapons would do to people. Geoff Desmoulin designs the tests and operates the high speed camera. Dr. Armand Dorian examines the wounds on the weapon targets and tells everyone just how dead they would be if they were a real person. Meanwhile, the other experts trash-talk each other and congratulate themselves on their manliness. Finally, Max Geiger programs the battle data into the magic computer and we see who wins. And just to be sure the winner isn’t by a fluke, he does this one thousand times. After that, a couple of actors fight it out to show us what the fight might look like.

So thus far, they’ve made nine episodes, and a second season of thirteen eps has been confirmed for spring 2010. Here’s the rundown of who’s the deadliest.

1.) Apache Brave vs. Roman Gladiator

The Apache kills the gladiator, being quicker than his opponent. While the gladiator had armor to protect him, he wasn’t armored in the right places.

2.) Viking vs. Samurai

Well, if my ancestor had to lose out to someone, I’m glad it was the samurai, ‘cause samurai are awesome.

3.) Spartan Hoplite vs. Ninja


4.) Pirate vs. Knight

I didn’t really buy the results here. I mean, yeah, the pirate had guns, but the tests showed that the bullets wouldn’t penetrate a knight’s armor. I guess if they hit a spot where the knight wasn’t wearing armor—oh wait—he’s armored on every inch of his body!

5.) Yakuza vs. Sicilian Mafia

Modern warriors in a five-on-five gunfight! And somewhere, a Yakuza boss is being delivered a gi full of dead fish.

6.) Green Berets vs. Spetsnaz

I’m sorry to say, the Ruski’s beat our boys, but it was a fight almost too close to call. So I wouldn’t count America’s special forces out just yet.

7.) Shaolin Monk vs. Maori Warrior

So it turns out, being beefcake is not enough to overcome someone who has rocking-awesome KUNG FU!

8.) William Wallace vs. Shaka Zulu

Everybody remembers Braveheart, and a few people probably heard of that movie Steven Spielberg made. Well, Wallace won, despite Shaka being insane enough to put poison in his mouth and spit it in his enemy’s eyes.

9). IRA vs. Taliban

Erin geo do! The real fighting Irish taught the Taliban a lesson they’ll never forget. Because they’re dead. And dead people can’t forget things. Besides, you didn’t really think they’d let the Taliban win on an American show, did you? If only this country’s leaders would follow that example…

Now, some people on the internet get pissed over the results because they are a bigger expert on ninjas than the experts who came on the show, and they know that a ninja would win. But these people are missing the fun part of the show. It’s not about who wins or loses, it’s about how much ass gets kicked! The real fun of the show is watching them destroy stuff in the tests. And hearing the experts dunk on each other.

Not only that, but their criticisms have no basis in reality. For instance, if you check out youtube, you’ll find people who dissect the fight at the end, coming up with a blow-by-blow account of how their guy should have won. But they obviously weren’t paying attention! The result of the fight is determined before the stuntmen even get into costume. And it’s determined by pure statistics. The computer just calculates the results based on points awarded to each weapon and probably some other variables. But the fight we see is not created blow-by-blow on the computer. That part is just the actors showing how awesome the warriors are.

And as for the statistics, just because the Spartan won overall, doesn’t mean he would win every time. The final score on that episode was 653-347. That’s three-hundred and forty-seven dead virtual Spartans who can attest to the fact that ninjas are hardcore. So quit with the sour grapes “scottbaioisdead!” And if you say you’ve made a better video, at least have the decency to choreograph an actual fight so those of us who took the time to sit through an ungodly amount of buffering aren’t disappointed when they realize the entire video is just a whiny rant by a fifteen-year-old!

So, from the looks of things, season two is going to feature the same warriors matched up differently. I hope that’s not all they do. What I want to see is a few new guys matched up, because, let’s face it, if they only show the same bunch of guys each season, the show will get stale and boring. Not to mention, they’ve already tested the weapons each guy will be using, so if they don’t introduce new weapons, their just going to be running the same tests every time.
Although they could answer the question of Pirate vs. Ninja.

But the show has been awesome before, so I have faith that it will continue to be awesome.

Or else…

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lame is Good. Another group of Cartoon Heroes I Grew Up With.

Dungeons and Dragons. A role-playing game (that’s RPG for non-gamers) created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. You’ve probably heard of it, whether you’re a fan of the game, or if you believe it teaches kids how to worship Satan. But did you know that there was animated series about it? It debuted it 1984, and ran for three seasons, eventually pulled due to low ratings, rather than the controversy surrounding the game as many people believed.

The series is so straightforward that they don’t even bother with an origin episode; they tell the entire story in the opening theme song. Six kids (ranging 8 to 15 years old) get on board a Dungeons and Dragons themed amusement park ride, and are magically transported to the Realm of Dungeons and Dragons. They meet a baby unicorn that’s being menaced by a five-headed dragon called Tiamat. A white-haired balding midget wearing a red robe appears and bestows the children with magical weapons, which they use to fend off Tiamat. They attempt to escape, only to have their path blocked by an evil-looking guy who obviously means them harm. But before he can blast them into atoms, Tiamat comes back, the two lock horns for a moment, and Tiamat chases the bad guy away. The kids wonder who that guy was, and the midget tells them that it was Venger, an evil sorcerer. The midget introduces himself as Dungeon Master and tells them they are in the Realm of Dungeons and Dragons. (although they, and viewers, had probably figured that out already)

So, who are these kids, and why am I including their show in my lame list?

Name: Hank
Class: Ranger
Weapon of Choice: A magic bow that shoots energy arrows, so he never has to load it.
Function: Leader
Lame Factor: Low. His biggest flaw is that he has few flaws. He’s confident and ready to take charge in dangerous situations. He’s also a blonde pretty boy. I imagine him dressing like Fred on Scooby Doo in our world.
Voiced by: Willie Aames. You know, Buddy Lembeck on Charles in Charge.

Name: Bobby
Class: Barbarian
Weapon of Choice: A big club that smashes anything he swings it against.
Function: The Kid
Lame Factor: Mid-Low. It’s more to do with the way the others treat him than any way he behaves. As befitting a barbarian, Bobby is ready for battle from the get-go. He likes to rush in, heedless of danger. And the others do their best to stop him, because he’s the youngest, and little kids simply musn’t be allowed to fight, even though he has the best weapon, and totally saved all their asses in episode 8. Although he does have a pet unicorn, which probably detracts from his coolness, seeing as a unicorn is traditionally a girls’ pet.
Voiced by: Ted Field III. Who seems to have never acted again, as he doesn’t have an entry on Wikipedia. Check IMDB if you actually care.

Name: Presto AKA Albert (which actually sounds a lot less dorky by comparison)
Class: Magician
Weapon of Choice: A wand right? Or maybe a cool staff that shoots lightning bolts? Nope. A green wizard’s hat, out of which he can pull nearly anything, but he hardly ever conjures anything he wants.
Function: Remember Neville Longbottom, of Harry Potter fame? Nuff said.
Lame Factor: High. Did you not notice I compared him to Neville Longbottom? Presto’s spells almost never work the way he intends them, often backfiring dangerously. For instance, instead of squashing the giant carnivorous fly into oblivion, he conjures a second giant carnivorous fly.
Voiced by: Adam Rich. Also known for playing Nicholas Bradford on Eight is Enough, and co-starred with Willie Aames on that same series. He also faked his own death for a spoof article in Might magazine.

Name: Shelia
Class: Thief
Weapon of Choice: Invisibility Cloak.
Function: Coolest character on the show.
Lame Factor: Almost Non-Existent. The only thing might be the company she keeps. In addition to being one of the cleverest of the group, she’s also a friend to all living things. I mean, she got Venger’s sister to turn to the good side. She’s always looking out for the others, especially her little brother, Bobby. She’s daring enough she only fights with her invisibility cloak to protect her. Not invulnerability, invisibility, as in, “my-friend-shooting-lethal-energy-bolts-and-my-little-brother-whose-club-could-break-every-bone-in-my-body-into-a-hundred-pieces-won’t-be-able-to-see-me-if-I-accidentally-get-in-their-way” invisible. And she’s the only character we’ve seen pick up a sword for any length of time. Hell yes.
Voiced by: Katie Leigh, probably known best (to me, anyway) for voicing Connie Kendall on Adventures in Odyssey. I guess D&D didn’t cause her to do a Regan impression. She was also the only member of the cast to return for the radio style presentation of the lost episode, Requiem, produced for the DVD boxed set of D&D.

Name: Eric
Class: Cavalier
Weapon of Choice: A shield that can create force-fields around a small group.
Function: Bitching and moaning.
Lame Factor: High. You’d think a guy whose shield can protect him from anything would be a little braver, but no, Eric usually takes the approach of hiding, or trying to appease a scary monster that’s intent on ripping flesh from bone. Can’t risk harming his pretty face, even Hank is clearly the best looking of the male cast. And when the group isn’t fighting, Eric is complaining. If they get to sleep in real beds instead of on the ground, Eric is griping about their quality, or insulting their host when he thinks the man isn’t listening. I mean, he does have his moments, like rushing in (eventually) to defend someone with his shield, or getting embarrassed when the others realize he really does care about someone other than himself, but overall, Eric is the kind of person one could have conversations with. The kinds of conversations that end in gunshots.
Voiced by: Don Most. Best known for playing Ralph Malph, from Happy Days. I guess Eric don’t “still got it.”

Name: Diana
Class: Acrobat
Weapon of Choice: An magical baton that adjusts its length according to its user’s will. Palm-sized for convenient storage, or nine feet for pole-vaulting.
Function: Token black character.
Lame Factor: Mid-low. Like Hank, she lacks any obvious flaws, but she doesn’t show any obvious strengths, apart from the ones that make Hank a good leader. However, she is a better athlete, and she’s usually the one to rebuff Eric when he’s sniping at someone. If you’re trying to picture that, just remember, this was a long time before, “Oh no, he did-ent!” and the head thing.
Voiced by: Tonya Gail Smith. Check IMDB for her other roles.

Name: Uni
Class: Cute Little Goat-Thing
Function: Cute Little Goat-Thing
Lame Factor: Mid-Level, at least. I mean, to take the majestic animal of legend, and turn it into a cutesy little useless creature that speaks with a lot of heavy bleating? So wrong. And aren’t unicorns supposed to have powerful magic? Yet she’s always finding herself in some peril or another.
Voiced by: Frank Welker. This guy was basically born to voice act. He did the voices for eight of the fourteen original Decepticons on Transformers, including Megatron. That should tell you something right there. And they cast him as the Cute Little Goat-Thing.

Name: Dungeon Master
Class: Dungeon Masters don’t have classes, everyone knows that.
Function: Mysterious Old Guy
Lame Factor: Mid-Level. Only ever speaks in riddles, when he could really just tell the kids what they need to do to get home. And despite possessing powerful magic, he’s rarely seen to use it. My guess is he taught Albus Dumbledore how to be a wizard. Then again, if he ever gave a straight answer to a question, there wouldn’t be a show. Way to go, Dungeon Master!
Voiced by: Sidney Miller

So that’s the cast of heroes, now here are the two main villains.

Name: Venger
Class: Half-Fiend Sorcerer
Function: Primary antagonist. Always tries to steal the children’s weapons for purposes which are not elaborated upon.
Lame Factor: High. Seriously, this guy tries way too hard to be scary. He’s got this all red and black thing going, and his face is like a vampire, all pasty and fangey, and he’s got a horn on the side of his head, like the Devil, or something. He can’t decide who is scarier, so he’s trying to incorporate everyone into his look, or something.

VENGER: “Fear me! (silence) No, seriously FEAR ME!”

He also has a disagreeable habit of not dying when he’s killed. Despite this, he’s always ready to hose himself if Tiamat ever shows up, despite also commanding whole armies of orcs, lizardmen, and frog-things and the powers of darkness besides.
Voiced by: Peter Cullen. Guy who voiced Optimus Prime in Transformers. (the show, and the blockbuster fims) All right, I guess Venger is not that lame.

Name: Tiamat
Class: Five-headed dragons don’t need classes.
Weapons of Choice: Well, she has claws, and impenetrable scales, and a wicked huge tail, and five sets of jaws. Not to mention, her five heads breathe five different breath weapons. Her main head breathes fire, her blue head shoots a bolt of lightning, her white head breathes ice, her green head breathes toxic gas, and her black head spits corrosive acid. And she can fly, despite being way too heavy and non-aerodynamic. But apart from that, she doesn’t have much going for her.
Function: Killing you to death if you happen to run into her.
Lame Factor: None. Unlike Venger, Tiamat is actually scary. We’re talkin’ serious nightmare fuel here. And this is supposed to be a kids’ show.
Voiced by: Frank Welker, once again. They probably gave him this role to make up for casting him as the Cute Little Goat-Thing. (by the way, how many times have I used that phrase?)

Why the show is cool: Hey, this is a show about kids adventuring in a magical world. Children raised on The Wizard of Oz, and The Chronicles of Narnia eat this stuff up. I know I did. Still do. Which is probably why I still live with my parents.

But you’d better be wearing some +20 armor if you’re going to make something of that. Feelin’ lucky, punk?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another Lame Cartoon Hero I Grew Up With.

Another lame show I enjoyed as a kid (and now for that matter) was one created by Ted Turner. You know, the guy who said that global warming is going to force us to resort to cannibalism? Well, just in case he’s right, I know who I’m going to eat first. I’ve got a list.

Anyways, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the show he created was one with an environmental message; Captain Planet and the Planeteers. They’re out to save the planet. While most superheroes waste their time stopping muggers, or bringing twisted crime bosses or corrupt rich guys to justice, the Planeteers are out there fighting the real criminals; the ones who pollute the environment for fun and profit. Or just because they’re mean jerks.

The Planeteers fight with magical rings, given to them by Gaia, the spirit of Earth. The rings give them the powers of the five elements. And when there’s a problem too big for five teenage kids to handle, they combine their powers and summon Captain Planet. That’s right, Captain America. This guy is captain for the whole planet.

Name: Captain Planet.
Occupation: Earth’s Greatest Champion.
Supporting Cast: The Planeteers. Five teenagers from different parts of the world, to ensure an ethnically diverse cast.

Name: Kwame
Place of Origin: Africa
Power: Earth
Noteworthy: Kwame is the unofficial leader of the group, ‘cuz he always says, “Let our powers combine,” when the Planeteers go to summon Captain Planet. Loves plant life. Usually the voice of reason when the other Planeteers begin to lose hope.

Name: Wheeler
Place of Origin: North America (Brooklyn, specifically)
Power: Fire
Noteworthy: As his element suggests, Wheeler is hotheaded and reckless. He’s also courageous and compassionate. He’s usually the least knowledgeable about pollution problems. Has an obvious crush on Linka, but usually manages to piss her off.

Name: Linka
Place of Origin: Eastern Europe (from her accent, Russia)
Power: Wind
Noteworthy: She’s the no-nonsense one of the group, with a good head for strategy, and extensive knowledge of computers. Loves birds. Sometimes likes Wheeler, but never actively pursues him.

Name: Gi
Place of Origin: Southeast Asia (Malaysia, specifically)
Power: Water
Noteworthy: Loves marine life. Contributes enthusiasm to the group.

Name: Ma-Ti
Place of Origin: South America (of Kayapo descent)
Power: Heart
Noteworthy: Youngest member of the group. His youthful innocence and love helps keep the group together. In case you’re wondering what kind of power “heart” is, it allows him to telepathically communicate with animals, and his fellow Planeteers. It also allows him to instill compassion and caring in peoples’ hearts. Despite how useful an ability this would be in getting people to care about the environment, we hardly ever see him use it.

Archnemeseese: There are several recurring villains, all with their own M.O. as “eco-villains.”

Name: Dr. Barbara Blight
Occupation: A mad scientist who sees the world as her own personal science lab. She has no compunctions with causing environmental disasters, just to see what would happen. Her other schemes revolve around her vanity. Because, you know, she’s soooo beautiful with that rotting patch of flesh over her eye. She’s also the only mad scientist I know of who details her death machines in pink. That's disturbing all on it's own.

Name: Duke Nukem (not to be confused with the badass videogame hero of the same name)
Occupation: Hideous mutant who wants the rest of the world to be as radioactive as him. Basically exists to teach us that nuclear power is not a toy. Like we hadn’t learned that when Godzilla began stomping through town.

Name: Luten Plunder
Occupation: Luten Plunder is out to make a killing, both figuratively and literally. Often teams with professional poacher Argus Bleak. When he’s not into poaching he often causes environmental disasters in cities and other communities, then charges the locals big money to fix the problems he caused.

Name: Hoggish Greedly
Occupation: A fat pig of a man who lives his name to the fullest. He’ll use any dirty trick to make a quick buck, and the more wasteful the scheme, the better. Employs a wormy little man named Rigger, who seems to have a conscientious attitude about environmental problems, but this never leads him to stand up to his boss.

Name: Sly Sludge
Occupation: Like Plunder, he’ll make messes and then charge to clean them up.

Name: Verminous Skum
Occupation: Sewer dwelling rat-mutant who desires to drag everyone else down into the gutter. He does this by polluting recklessly, supporting his local street gangs, and in one episode, even stoops so low as to try and turn a town against a local teen because the boy has HIV. Oh, and he also kills Linka’s favorite cousin with drugs.

Name: Zarn
Occupation: Used to be the spirit of Earth, like Gaia, but he decided he’d rather destroy worlds than preserve them. Wherever there is greed, hate, or reckless destruction, you can be sure he’s got his hands in it. He’s basically an environmentalist’s version of Satan.

Why the show is kind of lame: Well, Captain Planet is summoned to fight against environmental devastation, right? Well, here’s the thing: Pollution kills him. It’s his kryptonite. It’s like sending Superman to fight only villains who are made of kryptonite. Methinks Gaia didn’t think it through very well before creating Captain Planet.

GAIA: “Should I make him invulnerable to pollution? Naw, what are the odds he’d run into that?”

Fortunately, Cap’s powers can be recharged by exposing him to the natural elements. Good thing the kids have those rings, right? Just zap him and go, right?


See, I forgot to mention that when Captain Planet is active, the rings are useless. So if Cap gets covered in toxic waste and needs water to wash him off, the Planeteers need to bring water to him by mundane means. Strangely, nobody brings a bucket with them on their missions. Not in the first episode, anyway.

And sometimes the environmental messages get heavy-handed. Especially when overpopulation is the subject. For example, in one episode, Wheeler gets hit on the head and dreams about an island full of mouse-people. Despite their small size, the mouse-people have almost completely destroyed their ecosystem because they love having babies. One brave mouse-man, Piebald, tries to convince his people that, “we can’t keep having babies like there’s no tomorrow.”

Seriously, he said that.

Piebald is looked upon with scorn, because he has only one child, and no one listens to him. Eventually, the island is claimed by the sea and Wheeler wakes up, having learned a valuable lesson about keeping his own family small.

(sound of axe breaking down door)
WHEELER: “Heeeeerrrrres Wheeler!”

Okay, just kidding, Wheeler doesn't really show us his Jack Torrance impression, although that seems to be the next logical step if it is imperitive that we curb human reproduction.

But seriously, chill out on the overpopulation thing. Most of the kids who watch the show probably aren’t thinking about how they want to have more babies than Nadya Suleman. And may I be so bold as to suggest that an environmentalist’s time would be better spent searching for more renewable resources than dictating to people about their right to reproduce?

Okay, coming down off the soapbox.

Anyway, another factor that heavily contributes to Caps lameness is that he can’t not pun. Seriously, it’s like a tic. I mean, Spider Man puns lamely all the time, but Captain Planet has it down to an art. And by “art,” I don’t mean the Mona Lisa, I mean the paintings made from elephant feces. (again, not making that one up)

Why Captain Planet is kind of cool: Why is Cap cool? Well, the draw might have something to do with him being superstrong, invulnerable, and capable of flight. And he has command of the five elements that made him. Top that, Superman! And he can create technologies out of thin air that don’t even exist today. Problem with a dirty coal-burning plant? No problem, he’ll replace it with a solar plant that runs at superior efficiency.

Also, when the message is handled reasonably, it really does inspire viewers to care about the environment.

So, on that note, if you REALLY care about the environment:

Don’t just recycle your plastic grocery bags, because they can never become plastic bags ever again. Has to do with the material degrading. Get some reusable canvas bags so that you reduce the number of plastic bags you use. Three R’s, right there.

Don’t litter. Please don’t. Throw the trash in the trashcan, not the recycle bin or the grocery cart. Some people seem to think it’s okay to just dump their trash anywhere as long as it’s not directly on the ground.

Research alternate methods for pest control, instead of indiscriminately spraying poison around your food, children, and pets. And neighbors’ children and pets.

And speaking of poison... CFL bulbs. Lose em'. I know, they're more "energy effecient," but do you know what's in them that makes them that way? Mercury. Last I checked, mercury is a serious environmental poison, and I don't think that's going to change any time soon. So, if your kid breaks one of these, you get to put on his tombstone that he was killed by a lightbulb. Instead of replacing all your lightbulbs with these pocket-kid-and-pet-killing-devices, write a letter to the people that make these things, and put some pressure on them to make an energy efficient bulb that's actually good for the environment.

Plant some trees, preferably fifty feet from power lines. They’re not going to plant themselves. I’m talkin’ to YOU rainforest cutter-downers.

Turn off your computer if you’re not using it. Seriously, just turn it off. I promise, unless it needs replacing, it will come back on when you need it again.

And there is plenty of other meat to eat in the world, whales and dolphins shouldn’t have to die. Try some sea urchin instead. There are plenty of those, trust me.

Nuclear power can be a good thing. France has it, for crying out loud. If the French are man enough to risk another Chernobyl, which was not nearly the radioactive apocalypse naysayers have been predicting since Hiroshima, then we should be willing to try. And if we need a place to dump the waste, we can just do what Captain Planet would do, and hurl it into the sun. And when you're building a plant, don't have it constructed by the lowest bidder, like the people on Captain Planet always seem to do.

Al Gore, stop flying a private plane and take a commercial flight. You'll waste a lot less fuel and contribute less to carbon emissions. Or better yet, drive the family car cross country, and see some of the sights you're trying to preserve. And quit harassing Man-Bear-Pig, he's an endangered species!

People’s Republic of China, this one is for you: Instead of giving pandas to other zoos with an eyedropper, why not create a more extensive breeding program working with other zoos to get the panda’s numbers up globally? And try to get them to eat some meat. Really. This is from the experts. Pandas can only digest twenty percent of the bamboo they eat, because they have a carnivore’s digestive system. No wonder they don’t feel like making love in captivity, all their energy is going to eating and sleeping.

And before we all go signing the Kyoto Protocols, so that we can surrender more governing power to the U.N., please try to remember that saving the environment is a choice everyone needs to make for themselves. Change can’t be forced upon people, and when governments try, they inevitably find they don’t have the resources to make it happen, except by taking more from the people whose interests they are supposedly watching out for.

So think about the consequences of your actions. And encourage others to do the same. That’s all we need to do. Really. Okay, I’ve done my part here. (so hopefully Ted won't get mad at me for calling his cartoon character lame) Please comment on this post and include your own suggestions to help the environment.

And after you're finished doing that, turn off the computer.

I mean it.

Don't test me.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Baby Whale Dies. Boy I wish that were a euphamism.

Today I’m taking a break from my latest series of blog topics, and writing about something else. A while ago I watched a series called Blue Planet: Seas of Life, by the BBC. It was an awesome nature documentary all about life in the ocean. We see many different aspects of sea life and many diverse environments in the ocean; the abyssal depths, the pelagic, the reefs, the coastline, etc. We see all kinds of creatures and behaviors, all with a killer score and expert narration. Definitely one to check out.

But be forewarned. One of the episodes contains some of the most depressing animal footage I have ever seen. Except maybe the cat-torture video produced by a fourteen-year-old future serial killer.

So without further ado, here is the story of a mother blue whale and her calf. Blue whale calves are the cutest baby animals longer than a city bus in the world. Everybody loves whales, right? Who would’ve guessed this story ends in a way that instills in viewers the desire to make toast in the bathtub?

Blue whales only feed at certain times of the year, in places where the plankton is richest. So most of a blue whale’s time is spent conserving energy. Then, they make their annual journey to their feeding grounds. Usually they do this in groups, because the ocean hates whales, and they’re much safer if they stick together. But one unfortunate whale can’t keep up with the group because her kid is slowing her down. So, mother and calf must make this perilous journey alone, just the two of them against the world.

Sounds like the plot for the latest inspirational feel-good movie of the year, right? Boy, are you all gonna be disappointed. They’ve been traveling at a whale calf’s pace for several weeks, when they receive the unwelcome attentions of a pod of orcas, commonly known as killer whales. Now, everyone knows killer whales are delightful clowns, who like nothing more than to do nifty tricks with giant balls, wave to the audience with their flippers, and jump over rocky atolls in great inspiring shots that Michael Jackson simply must sing about. They couldn’t possibly be a danger to a mother whale and her calf, right? Especially when they’re about one-fourth her size. Right?

Wrong! In real-life, Shamu is a heartless murderer who has no compunctions with devouring baby seals, dolphins, and belugas. You know, the pretty white whales Raffi sings about all the time. If a human being thought like a killer whale, he would eat your baby. And then wipe his mouth with your puppy.

And lest I forget to mention, blue whale calves are on the menu today. Despite being one hundred plus feet long, the blue whale mother has (surprisingly) virtually no ability to defend herself or her calf against an organized attack. For hours, the pod harasses the two whales until they no longer have the strength to go on. Of course, we’re treated to the tragic sight of the mother continuing to defend her calf long after it’s already dead.

And to add insult to injury, the killer whales only eat the calf’s tongue and lower jaw. The rest of the meat is allowed to sink to the seafloor to be picked apart by scavengers. Specifically, hagfish. Do you know what a hagfish is? It is a loathsome parasite, just fishlike enough to be called a fish. It’s also known as the slime eel. Because that’s what it does when it’s not rasping bits of flesh off of both dead, and living animals. In other words, the last animal you would want to be eaten by.

And the mother, who has delayed her own feeding journey to try and keep her calf alive, is left to make the journey alone, severely weakened by the fight with the killer whales. Methinks that if whales had major arteries in their wrists-and wrists-this is the time she would open them.

How freaking depressing is that?! I mean, seriously, who wants to see that? Who thought it would be a good idea to use that footage? We all know nature has a darker side, but where whales are concerned, I think most people would prefer to remain ignorant of certain facts about their lives. Like the fact that baby whales die.

I think most people would rather see footage of a killer whale attack where, just as it looks hopeless for the mother and her calf, a nuclear submarine shows up just in time to torpedo the hell out of Free Willy and save the baby blue whale. Everyone goes home feeling good about themselves, knowing that there is still justice and compassion in the world,

and babies never die, ever.


Monday, May 11, 2009

MOON PRISM POWER! Being part 2 of Lame Cartoon Heroes I Grew Up With.

In the name of the moon, I will… POST THIS ENTRY!!!

One of my favorite anime series ever is Sailor Moon. It ran for five seasons back in the nineties, four of them making it over to U.S. soil. For the uninitiated, anime (pronounced annie-may) is Japanese animation. Now, it’s worth noting that many anime that reach this country have been edited for American audiences. Unless otherwise noted, I will be referring to the U.S. version of the show, as it is the one I’m most familiar with.

Sailor Moon is about a group of magical girls called the Sailor Scouts. Sailor Moon, Sailor Mercury, Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter, and Sailor Venus get their magical powers from their respective planets. Exactly what “planet power” is isn’t specifically defined, but it probably has to do with the idea that planets have their own life force. Also, the powers each girl has bear some similarity to the gods the planets were named after. And, in case you were about to ask, yes, there is a Sailor Saturn, Sailor Uranus, Sailor Neptune, and Sailor Pluto. But they don’t appear until season three. Pluto’s not a planet anymore? Try telling her that. Go on, I dare you.

The story goes that thousands of years ago there was a kingdom on the moon. (creatively called the Moon Kingdom) The Moon Kingdom was a peaceful utopia, until the forces of the Negaverse, a place of ultimate evil, attacked them. The Sailor Scouts were the guardians of the Moon Kingdom, but even their great power failed to prevent its destruction. The Moon Kingdom’s ruler, Queen Serenity, did the only thing she could to save her daughter (also named Serenity) and the Scouts. She sent their spirits into the future, where they were reincarnated as ordinary girls.

Now, the Negaverse has returned, and they’ve set their sights on Earth. But, fortunately, the Scouts are here to defend us. And Princess Serenity, now Sailor Moon, is determined to make the bad guys pay, “In the name of the moon, I will punish you!”

So, here’s a bit more about our titular heroine.

Name: Sailor Moon
Real Name: Serena
Occupation: Japanese schoolgirl by day, savior of the world by night.
Supporting Cast: Amy AKA Sailor Mercury, Raye AKA Sailor Mars, Lita AKA Sailor Jupiter, and Mina AKA Sailor Venus. Also appearing is Luna, Serena’s pet cat, and Artemis, Mina’s cat. Other regulars to the cast are Melvin and Molly, two of Serena’s friends who have no idea about her double life. And we can’t forget Serena’s boyfriend Darien, who, when danger threatens, transforms into the amazingly well-dressed hero Tuxedo Mask.
Archnemesis: Queen Beryl, ruler of the Negaverse. She’s defeated at the end of season one, but it would seem the Negaverse has no shortage of villains named after jewels and minerals to threaten the world. Want do they want from us, you ask? Our very lives. Pretty much every plot cooked up by a Negaverse villain involves sucking the life-force from people.
Why she’s lame: Like I said, Sailor Moon is the protector of the world, champion of justice, blah blah blah. And she’s hating every minute of it. The first time I saw the show, I couldn’t believe what a wimp she was. In her first appearance, she actually sat down - in the middle of a fight! - and bawled because she couldn’t hack it. And not real crying even, like “poor me,” but comical crying, like tears shooting out of her eyes like faucets. And her distinctive hairstyle, two long ponytails attached to two buns on top of her head, only looks cool until you hear someone, usually Darien, call her “meatball head.” That literally becomes all you can think about when you see her hair.
Also, there is a bit of the show that gets lost in translation. If you compare the voice acting in the U.S. version with the original Japanese, you’ll find there is much more emotion in the original. See, when most foreign programs come to us, there usually presented by companies that are after one thing – money. So they slap together the American production as cheaply as they can. The anime as an art form is usually a secondary concern.
Why she’s kinda cool: While Serena might not be thrilled about being a superhero, her friends take it seriously. Sailor Mars has the power of fire, and she’s trained as a Shinto priestess, so she can banish evil spirits. Sailor Mercury is the brains of the team, and she has water-based powers, which at first only create a mist to blind the enemy, but later she can freeze things. Sailor Venus used to be a secret agent for the British government, and she can shoot lasers from her fingertips. And Sailor Jupiter is just SCARY! She’s not only an expert martial artist, but she can also fry you with lightning, and she’s apt to do so if you piss her off. Tuxedo Mask is also pretty cool, swinging his cane like a sword. But what you usually see him do is throw a rose, stem-end first at the enemy. That’s gotta hurt! Of course, Tuxedo himself has a tendency to get badly hurt as well. (contributing to his personal lame factor)
Also, while I stated that Sailor Moon is a wimp, there is some good news: She doesn’t stay one. Yes, that’s right, and cartoon character that shows actual character development! Granted, she still has a tendency to pout and cry, but at least she stops doing it in the heat of battle. Also, her powers are pretty decent. She has a tiara that can throw like a lethal discus, and a magic wand that blows the crap out of anything she points it at. She gets a new one every season to complement her increasing power level.

Overall, the series is not just about saving the world, it’s about finding strength that you never knew you had. Strength that comes from the love of your friends, and the will to do what’s right.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Lame Cartoon Heroes I Grew Up With

Okay, I know it’s been a long time since I’ve updated, but I’ve just finished classes for the summer so I have a bit of time on my hands. I’m going to do a series of entries about Lame Cartoon Heroes I Grew Up With. Looking back, a lot of the series I thought were cool were actually kind of lame. In some cases, a lot lame. But so what? They taught me everything worth knowing about the world. Kinda sorta.

Just so we’re clear, I’m not out to harsh on these characters, this is more a monument to their lameness. ‘Cause lame doesn’t equal bad, sometimes it’s just a glorious lack of coolness.

So who’s first? I know!

Name: Inspector Gadget.
Occupation: Police Inspector.
Supporting Cast: His 10-12 year-old niece, Penny, and her dog Brain. Penny has a computer book, (a laptop before these were actually invented) which she keeps all her important data in. She’s the one with the keen detective instinct in the family. Brain is usually assigned the task of keeping Gadget safe from harm. He’s also unusually smart for a dog, but since he’s a cartoon, this shouldn’t be surprising.
Archnemesis: Dr. Claw, head of the crime syndicate M.A.D. A man who’s so dark and sinister that his face never even appears on screen. All we ever see of him is his iron fist. And he had a creepy cat named M.A.D.Cat. He must be evil, ‘cuz he’s got a cat while the hero has a dog!
Why he’s lame: He’s an inspector, right? Well, Sherlock Holmes he’s not. In fact, he’s the Anti-Holmes. While Holmes could always spot the tiny, seemingly insignificant clue that would turn out to be the most important piece of the puzzle. Gadget will often try to emulate this, focusing on one small, seemingly insignificant clue that turns out to be completely insignificant after all. For instance, Dr. Claw distracts him by dropping a tennis ball down the stairs. Gadget spends the rest of the episode searching for what he believes is a secret tennis court upstairs. Meanwhile, Penny and Brain solve the case and thwart Dr. Claw’s evil plans. Also, his gadgets don’t always work like they’re supposed to.
Why he’s kind of cool: He’s a man with bionic gadgets built into every conceivable (appropriate for a children’s cartoon) area of his body. Who wouldn’t want to be this guy? In fact, his most shining moments on the show involve Penny and/or Brain being in some sort of danger and Gadget has to use his gadgets to save them. He usually goes through a few hiccups before the gadgets actually work; his coat will inflate, roller-skates will come out of his shows, but then, “Go-go Gadget Arm!” and his arm will extend and pull his loved ones to safety. Plus he’s got a cool theme song.

And that’s usually what you’ll see in a typical episode. That, and the dog dressing up in various disguises that the Inspector himself can’t even see through, and will often mistake the disguised Brain for a M.A.D. agent, while mistaking the real M.A.D. agents for friends or allies.

So, what kinds of gadgets does Gadget actually use? Well, there doesn’t seem to be any limit to what he can do, but here are a few more familiar ones:

Gadget Copter – Helicopter blades extend from Gadget’s hat, accompanied by a pair of handgrips which presumably act as controls. They probably also take some of the tension off his neck by giving him something to hold onto and distribute his weight to his shoulders as well, ‘cuz otherwise he’s just dangling in the air by the top of his head.
Gadget Arm – His hands telescope from his forearms to grab things from a great distance away.
Gadget Legs – His legs can also extend to allow Gadget reach platforms high above him. Why needs extendable legs for this is anyone’s guess since he can fly, or he could just grab the edge of the platform with his Gadget Arm and reel himself up.
Gadget Head – His neck telescopes upward to allow him to see above ground level. Which he could do as easily with his Legs. Anyone noticing some redundancy?
Gadget Hand – A mechanical hand pops out of Gadget’s hat. It’s usually holding something useful, like a magnifying glass. Every detective needs one of those, right? Just as often, it’s holding something useless.
Gadget Coat – His trench coat inflates, allowing him to float like a blimp.
Gadget Skates – Roller-skate wheels come out of his shoes. Of course, he doesn’t actually skate worth a darn.
Gadget Siren – A flashing police siren that pops out of his hat. We see it in the opening theme song, but we hardly see it used otherwise.
Gadget Cuffs – What’s more convenient for handcuffing a bad guy than a cuff that’s already attached to you?
Gadget Springs – Springs in the bottoms of his shoes that allow him to bounce. He a also has one in his hat, depending on if he’s about to land on his head.
Gadget Binoculars – Binoculars from his hat. Saves having to carry a pair.
Gadget Ears – A metal cone extends around his ear, improving his hearing.
Fingertips – Gadget has a couple of devices in his fingers that he accesses by unscrewing his fingertip, rather than using a verbal command. These include, but are not limited to: a flashlight, a screwdriver, a drill-bit, a skeleton key, a laser, and a fire-extinguisher.
Top-Secret Gadget Phone – This is a phone in his hand that uses by extending his thumb and pinkie finger, just like you’d do with an imaginary phone. His boss, Police Chief Quimby is presumably the only one with the number.

So there you go, there’s one of the heroes I grew up with. He was inept and clumsy but he was cool enough for Matthew Broderick to play him in the movie. And he taught me that… Um… Uh… I don’t know! I’ll go ask someone’s ten year old niece for advice instead.