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.