August 21st, 2010

Forgotten '80s Cartoons - M.A.S.K.

So in this installment of '80s cartoons, I'll be talking about M.A.S.K. That stands for "Mobile Armored Strike Kommand." Yeah, I know that's not how you spell "command." Yeah, that bugs me too.

This one really is more of a "forgotten" '80s cartoon, at least by me, because I honestly remember almost nothing about this show, despite the fact that I used to love it and owned at least a dozen of the toy vehicles (which I actually remember a lot better than the actual show).

Anyway, it's about a secret task force named M.A.S.K., led by billionaire philanthropist/crime fighter Matt Tracker, who owns a car that can transform into a fighter jet:

MASK 80s cartoon

In fact, every hero and villain in M.A.S.K. has some sort of normal vehicle that turns into a more badass vehicle -- a motorcycle that turns into a helicopter, a jeep that turns into a speedboat, a helicopter that turns into a fighter jet, a truck that turns into a tank, etc. Each of the heroes and villains also has a high-tech super-powered helmet:

MASK 80s cartoon

So far so good, right? Now we come to the characters:

MASK 80s cartoon

Um, yeah, who are you guys? Have we met? I sort of remember that the guy on the left is irrepressibly cheerful, and the guy in the middle is pissed off all the time (though you probably would be too if you'd been assigned to wear the yellow/magenta Sgt. Pepper uniform). But names? Not a clue. And who's that guy on the right? I don't remember him at all. That's really not a good sign.

Half an hour later...

Okay, so I just went and re-watched the first episode. It basically makes no sense whatsoever, and just consists of showing off all the awesome abilities of the helmets and vehicles in a "Hey, isn't this shit cool? Don't you want to bug your parents to buy you some of this cool shit?" kind of way. I mean, it is the first episode, so I guess they have to establish what the different powers are and stuff, and maybe subsequent episodes have more of a story, but I find myself unwilling to soldier on in order to find out.

In fact, I only remember the actual plot of one M.A.S.K. episode. In it, the good guys and the bad guys are racing to uncover buried treasure, and at the end the good guys fail and the bad guys get to the treasure first, but then it turns out that the "treasure" consists entirely of worthless Confederate currency. The idea that cash could become completely worthless if the government that had issued it collapsed was a new concept to me at the time, and struck me as very cool.

Each episode also ends with a few seconds of helpful advice for kids, stuff like "Look both ways before crossing the street" and "Don't lie to your parents" and "Always wear a condom" and "In the event of a fire, don't try to save your pets, just let them burn" and "Never get involved in a land war in Asia." I guess some of that advice actually did come in handy, so I guess watching M.A.S.K. wasn't a total waste of time. Thanks, M.A.S.K.!

MASK 80s cartoon

Podcast Interviews with Christopher Nolan, Tim Powers, and Alexander Zaitchek

Here are three interesting podcast interviews I've listened to lately:

KCRW interviews Christopher Nolan about Inception. Particularly interesting to me were his thoughts about using film techniques such as slow-motion as storytelling tools rather than mere stylistic gimmicks.

The Agony Column interviews Tim Powers. This will be familiar ground for most Tim Powers fans, but if you've never heard Tim discuss his fascinatingly quirky approach to writing a fantasy novel, this interview covers the topic pretty well.

Point of Inquiry interviews Alexander Zaitchek about Glenn Beck. Beck's paranoid rants may be harebrained, but Beck is no fool, according to Zaitchek, who just wrote a book on him. Rather, Beck is cunning and sophisticated, a master at manipulating the media into giving him exactly what he wants -- attention. Zaitchek also touches on Beck's dark history, such as once getting drunk and phoning the wife of one of his radio rivals to mock her for her recent miscarriage.

Horror World Reviews My Story "The Disciple"

"The Disciple" is a story I wrote right out of college. It was my very first anthology appearance, and it's still picking up reviews, the latest of which just appeared on Horror World. Here's an excerpt:

Some years ago a very small press did a very small print run (less than 100 initial copies, from what I heard) of a new anthology of Lovecraftian-flavored horror called Dead But Dreaming. That publisher, Dark Tales Publications, then promptly went out of business, thereby ensuring no more copies of DBD would be printed. If that book wasn’t any good then no one would have cared, and the little tome would have faded away into the horror history books without so much as a whimper. However, by all accounts Dead But Dreaming was amazing! That meant that very soon copies were being hocked on eBay for hundreds of dollars. Not bad for a small press anthology that was only a few years old. However, it was very bad news for any Cthulhuhead like me that didn’t already have a copy of what everyone “in the know” was calling the breakout book of new Cthulhu Mythos fiction.

Instead of going over all fifteen stories, I’ll just shine a light on the tales that really floored me, or the ones I had the most fun reading ... David Barr Kirtley’s “The Disciple” is one of the more traditional Lovecraftian tales to be found here. However, in no way does that lessen its effectiveness or the enjoyment I had while reading it. The story takes place at the heart of higher horrific learning, Miskatonic University, and centers around a select group of students, a very special professor, and the unusual extra-credit, after-hours study group they all belong to.