Tuesday, March 17, 2015

My Favourite Characters: Self-Portable Sapient

What little hacker boy or girl wouldn't want a Banana Junior 6000 for Christmas, 1984?

Oliver Wendell Jones of Bloom County, U.S.A., for example.

Little wonder (considering the havoc caused him by his son's previous computers) that Oliver's father Floyd was reluctant to part with $2500, and indeed may have put it on an overzealous department store Santa's very own VISA!

But there is was! On Xmas morn! The cheery, yellow, walking, talking, 9000 series personal computer from Banana Electronics, Inc.

When not assisting Oliver by engaging in nefarious schemes to bring about the collapse of their own decadent Western civilization, the Banana Jr. could be found contemplating the nature of the electronic mortal soul, or offering lesser appliances in sacrifice to its mercurial god: the Jones family television set.
Both characters were the inventions of Berkeley Breathed, an insane Texan. I guess that's redundant. A Texan, then.

Along with all their huggable, liberal, MERCHANDISABLE pals (like Mr. P. Opus & Bill The Cat), Banana Junior and Oliver have amused me greatly this week in volume after volume. Just as they did when I was a precocious young scamp, save that thanks to Breathed's annotations I now get some of the more esoteric jokes.

I also admire Mr. Breathed for his ongoing efforts to conserve living things, and look forward this year to Disney's adaptation of his adorable kids' book "Mars Needs Moms".

Favourite Kid-Friendly Catch-phrase from the Banana 6000: "Ted Koppel is a Waffle."

Monday, March 16, 2015

My Favourite Characters: Captain Crash

Superheroes tend to have code names. The closest Ralph Hinkley ever got was "Super Guy" or "Captain Gonzo". As you probably know or can recall hearing an old man jabbering about, Ralph was 'The Greatest American Hero' from 1981-1983.  When I was six he was the best. Ralph tried really hard and he crashed into things... a lot! In my early 20s, GAH became synonymous with making rash purchases based on nostalgia. One of my first complete season DVD acquisitions... turned into bitter disappointment. My arrogant opinion back then: the show was bland, only sporadically funny, hellishly repetitive, and inconsequential.

Trying again is what a superhero is all about, so when all it was costing me was time and my sanity... I watched all 44 hour-long episodes on YouTube. And (much like using a powerful alien spacesuit when you've lost the instructions), I CANNOT recommend it. GAH is a phenomenal concept, executed by well-meaning people, and it was NEVER intended to be shotgunned in this way. I got SO bored during season 2 that I tried screening 4 episodes at once on all 4 devices at my disposal- TV, laptop, iPad, and iPhone. Does this count? Was I even following the story at that point? Don't Care! I finally watched it, and I'm never doing it again. Until next time.

With the assistance of mysterious alien voices on the radio, snarling FBI agent Bill, and long, long, LONG suffering girlfriend Pam, Ralph overcomes adversity, often caused by his own inability with his abilities. He breaks his own home, and doors, and friends. His ESP has him wearing women's clothes and reacting to things that aren't there. His invisibility is unreliable and his shrinking is pretty damn unconvincing. He flies as low as he dares and as rarely as he can. He ends up looking silly all the time, and would rather not be caught dead in his own magic jammies. But he can always shrug it off. Ralph's a teacher, and from Ralph I learned something valuable: I will fail. I will look ridiculous. And I will not stop trying even when the payoff is mediocre. Here's to ordinary people who help others- especially if the only cost is your dignity.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

RIP Leonard Nimoy

(Illustration credit Paul Hanley)

I never met Leonard Nimoy, but his work had a powerful influence in my life. I am saddened by his passing, and I have to add my small element of gratitude to the outpouring of tributes I'm seeing online. As Star Trek's Mr. Spock, Mr. Nimoy was a touchstone for all nerd culture. In my mind, his voice is the very voice of reason. A passionate heart guided by a disciplined mind. I have no doubt whatsoever that he will be remembered for centuries.

Writer, director, musician, artist, and actor, he was most inspirational. There are depths to the person that I will never know, but the character I loved and will always love.
We outsiders needed Spock, and we loved him. For bringing that eerily alien yet so-familiar human being to us all, especially to me, I am sincerely grateful.