Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Top 9 Snakes of All-Time

Snakes have traditionally gotten a pretty bad rap from us humans. They are easily the most feared and reviled species around, except for perhaps sharks and The Jacksons. Nowhere is this more evident than in the various snake-based characters depicted in music, literature, films, television and religion. Need an instant badass for your movie or show? Just add snake! Instant villainy! Of course, most of these villains spend most of their existence getting creamed by the so-called good guys. But some of them manage to have a little fun and wreak a little havoc first.

So in honor of our misunderstood belly crawling friends, Attack of the 15.24 Meter Blog! presents the Top 9 Snakes of All-Time. Why nine? Because I’m too lazy to come up with ten, that’s why.

#9 – Tung Lashor, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

Tung Lashor (left) about to be scolded yet again by Skeletor.
While the name might indicate he was a villain is a Charlie Chan film, Tung Lashor was in fact one of the Snake Men, a band of evil-doers only loosely affiliated with Skeletor. And as was tradition with most He-Man characters, his name was incredibly unimaginative. Apparently the creators of these characters felt their audience was so stupid that they needed names that actually described what the characters did. Tung’s lame representation in the original cartoon was remedied in the 2002 Cartoon Network version, restoring some dignity to the character.

#8 – Kaa, The Jungle Book


Kaa was one of the first fictional serpents I saw as a child, and he definitely creeped me out. In hindsight my fear was totally unfounded. He was a Disney character after all, which meant that his role was one part villainy and two parts comic relief. In the original Rudyard Kipling stories Kaa was actually a hero, believe it or not. Kaa’s coolest trait was his ability to hypnotize other creatures, except that little punk Mowgli.

#7 – Coily, Q*Bert

Coily prepares to lay the smackdown on Q*Bert.

Coily’s story is one of missed opportunities. He began life as the silent, springy nemesis of Q*Bert in the cool game of the same name. Of all the villains in Q*Bert’s world, Coily was easily the best. It was almost worth it to let Coily win the game, if only because it caused the hero to spew forth a Dagwood Bumstead-esque string of profanities. Unfortunately, Coily was ruined when the Saturday Supercade TV version of Q*Bert appeared. Apparently feeling that just being a purple snake wasn’t evil enough, the writers decided to dress Coily up in what looked like some kind of S&M biker outfit. $@!#* that.

#6 – Apep, Egyptian Demon

Apep gets bushwhacked by a killer Egyptian rabbit.

OK, so maybe ‘Apep’ doesn’t invoke the sense of dread it should. But he was not to be trifled with. He was credited with being the one to swallow the sun every evening, only to be defeated by the sun god Ra in the morning. The Egyptians routinely prayed to the Ra in the hopes that he would continue defeat Apep, the personification of evil. So basically, Apep had an entire kingdom routinely rooting against him. Most artistic depictions of Apep are of his defeat at the hands of other Egyptian deities. Poor dude.

#5 – Dangling cord, Bugs Bunny PSA

Mr. Coffee Pot can only look on in horror at the evil of the dangling cord.

The late 1970s and early 1980s were the end of the Golden Age of Public Service Announcements, or PSAs. One of the all-time classics appeared in 1982. In it, Bugs Bunny hipped kids to the hidden dangers of the kitchen. One of these dangers was a dangling cord from a coffee pot. What looked like an ordinary power cord morphed into a sinister snake, voiced by Mel Blanc. He revealed that he was a danger to kids “especially if they grab hold and yank me.” Um, yeah. Not gonna touch that one. Anyway, I guess back in the ‘80s it was commonplace for mom or dad, in a rush to get to work, to just yank the cord out of the outlet and let it hang over the edge of the counter. It’s safe to say that the reason more kids today aren’t maimed or killed by coffee-pot head bonkings was this scarily effective PSA.

#4 – Serpentor – GI Joe

"Be honest. Did I go overboard with the snake motif on my costume?"

I’ll admit it - I HATED Serpentor when he first arrived on the scene. In my mind, Cobra Commander was the ultimate Cobra badass, and I wanted nothing to do with any other so-called Cobra leader. It was like finding out that Darth Vader was really just Emperor Palpatine’s puppet. In time, I grew to accept Serpentor, mostly because I had no choice after Cobra Commander was offed in the GI Joe Movie. But hey, anybody who gets to ride around in a personal hover-chariot can’t be all bad.

#3 – Satan, The Bible

"You guys are starting to pack on the pounds. Try some fruit!"

Snakes 1, Humans 0. Satan’s appearance in the Hebrew Bible is probably what set the stage for all the bad vibes thrown the snake’s way. After all, before the serpent in the Garden of Eden showed up, we had it all. But in one of the earliest examples of man’s ego, we listened to the serpent because he told us what we wanted to hear. Bad move. Although we’ve spent ever since then beating up the snake, he did get on the scoreboard first.

#2 – Cobra Commander, GI Joe

Not even a blast of radiation from behind can stop Cobra Commander!!!

If you’re going to start a paramilitary terrorist organization, I don’t think you could do any better than to put this guy in charge. Oh sure, the cartoon tended to focus on his mistakes, but I really think it’s unfair to pin the blame for Cobra’s failures on Cobra Commander. You could put Joe Torre in charge of the Kansas City Royals, and they’d still be the Royals. In a further testament to his coolness, Cobra Commander came in three varieties in the ‘80s – The classic helmeted look, the hooded style and the super-slick Samurai battle armor. In a colossaly stupid move, the writers of GI Joe actually had Cobra Commander turned fully into a snake in the movie. A rather undeserved end for a glorious character.

#1 – Thulsa Doom, Conan the Barbarian

"Thissssssssssssss is CNN!"

Thulsa Doom had it all. Not only was he the unquestioned ruler of the land, he was a hit with the ladies. When you have so many nubile women available to you that you can get rid of some of them in ritual sacrifices, you are doing something right. Befitting Doom’s status as the supreme serpentine baddy, he was portrayed in the movie by none other than James Earl Jones. Doom’s favorite pastime was attending orgies at his palace, although he seemed to be more of a voyeur than a participator. And once he had his fill of the action, he simply transmogrified from the James Earl Jones form into that of a giant boa constrictor. Awesome. Only at the very end did Doom meet his match, when a misguided attempt to win Conan over to his side went horribly wrong and Doom’s head (sans body) went tumbling down the steps of his own palace.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

But can it core a apple?

I’m a sucker for a good infomercial. There were times (before I graduated college) when I would literally stay up all night and watch nothing but infomercials. This was in the mid 1990s, or what I refer to as the Golden Age of the Infomercial. Perhaps not coincidentally, the mid 1990s were also the Dark Ages of My Dating Life. I challenge anyone to name five primetime shows of that era that were as consistently entertaining as the infomercials of that era.

The granddaddy of all 1990s infomercials was Amazing Discoveries, hosted by that late, great Mike Levey and featuring his assortment of Amazing Technicolor Sweaters. Amazing Discoveries specialized in products that could typically be found at any mall kiosk, but for twice the price. The “discovery” that stands out most in my mind was for Auri’s line of car care products (wax, polish, etc.). Not for the polish itself, mind you, but for the hyperactive little English guy pitching the product. Tony was his name, and dental hygiene was not his game.

Tony extolled the virtues of Auri with an almost child-like eagerness. He showed me why no car wax was worth a damn if it couldn’t protect your cherished automobile from an eyedropper full of acid. I’m not really sure what audience the acid test was meant to appeal to – research chemists fearful of bitter ex-colleagues?

Levey was the glue that held AD together. His appeal lay not just in his ├╝ber-dorkness, but in his feigned astonishment at even the shittiest of fad gadgetry. He could watch a demonstration of the most mundane household cleaner and produce a look of wonder on his face, as if someone had just used a ballpoint pen to poke a hole in the very fabric of space and time.

If Levey was the King of the Infomercial, Richard Simmons was the queen. I can’t remember how many hours I wasted watching infomercials for “Sweating to the Oldies” and “Deal-A-Meal.” These shows were unintentional hilarity at its finest. I’ve read enough about Simmons to know that the guy is either completely sincere about everything he does or one of the best scam artists in decades. That being said, I’ll be damned if I didn’t laugh my way through every minute of those maudlin sob-fests.

If a half hour with this doesn't curb your appetite, nothing will.

And for those of you who thought it was funny when he would appear on the Tonight Show or Late Night with David Letterman and get skewered, you ain’t heard nothing if you haven’t heard his old appearances on the Howard Stern radio show. If at all possible, seek out recordings of those appearances. Comedy gold.

Long before gangsta rappers showed us the beauty of bling, Tom Vu, Vietnamese real estate magnate, was livin’ large. Or keepin’ it real. Or whatever the hell they do with their Escalades and their spinners. The guy was a nicer version of Kahn from King of the Hill, with more cash and babes. But believe me, he was no less a cartoon character.

"You not from government are you? No? Then come to my seminaaah!"

I could go on and on about all the other lesser gods of the infomercial pantheon. In fact, I probably will again when I run out of material.

"Buy my crap or I will rip your arms out of the sockets!"

Sadly, my schedule these days simply does not allow me the opportunity to take in modern-day infomercials. But luckily, the Mike Leveys of the 21st century seem to have found their way to TV shown during regular hours. That means even a working stiff like me can bask in the glory Billy Mays.