– by William Cooper
R2-D2 was my favorite robot when I was a kid, even though I obviously knew he is a droid and NOT a robot. I won’t bore you with an explanation as to the difference, but suffice it to say, nerds everywhere were just jolted awake in a cold, confused sweat by my mere typing of that sentence and are even now grasping for inhalers and lunging toward their keyboards. Stand down, brothers. My favorite robot was R2-D2 simply because I didn’t have many quality candidates to pick from. Robbie? Get lost. Mr. Roboto? No thank you very much.
Okay, maybe my favorite robot was also Mechagodzilla, but isn’t everyone’s?
Who is Mechagodzilla, I hear you barely asking? Though he took many forms and picked many sides throughout the years, he was best known as Godzilla’s nearly 400-foot tall automaton nemesis in the 1974 film, “Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla,” and was the first giant robot I’d ever seen. I was a huge Godzilla fan and followed his strange, twisting history from Tokyo enemy to Tokyo defender to environmental warrior to the father of Godzuki, the Scrappy-Doo of the kaiju, the giant monsters of the Japanese islands. I knew every character by heart and every film to the letter. The Godzilla movies had everything for me as a young boy – destruction, pre-teen pathos, destruction, smog monsters, destruction, and the Mothra twins who I was desperately, tragically in love with.
In looking up robots for this post, however, I discovered that I had many more to pick from than I had imagined. For instance, The Greek inventor of mechanics, Archytas of Tarentum is said to have created a steam-powered dove that could fly for distances of up to 200 meters and later became the model for Bubo, the mechanical owl in “Clash of the Titans.” Then there was Eric Robot, a suit of armor with lightbulb eyes and belt-and-pulley guts who wowed crowds in 1920s London with his robotic shenanigans and who later went on a world comedy tour with some seriously corny material. There was also Ajeeb, a New York chess-playing automaton made of wax and paper-maché with a penchant for getting stabbed by those he defeated. And finally, there was Fedo, Teddy Roosevelt’s mechanical badger who would famously attack his Senate opponents when prompted by a short tweet from a silver whistle.
To be fair, Eric and Ajeeb were later found out to be men in costume. And I made Fedo up entirely. But still, you get my point.
When I think of the same question now, though, I look around my room. My Tivo, remembering which shows I like to watch, is recording multiple channels simultaneously, having downloaded and updated itself with the latest television schedules. There’s a process running on my laptop that is monitoring my files and backing them up to the Cloud whenever something has changed. My phone is alerting me with reminders based on the calendar it is keeping for me. I can talk to my car, my tablet, and my Xbox, which, by the way, knows what I look like and greets me each time it sees me. Friends of ours have their lights, heat and maybe even oxygen supply controlled by a small device that sits on their bookshelf.
So I guess the real question these days is… which humans are the robots’ favorites? Hopefully, I’m one of them.
In this extra-extended, robot-charged episode, we make with the Mecha! As always, we start with a kidney-pleasing pre-show stretch before powering up our podcasting exoskeletons. How does the Electric Company generate all that energy? Who is the mystery woman William’s parents paid off each week? Why is money so heavy? We answer all of these questions and still have room for Ramen Noodles and water, before we are brought to a sudden halt by the memory-straining case of Kristy McNichol and the Show Note Elves. We continue our dubious guessing about things of which we know nothing by reminiscing about Battle of the Network Stars wherein we consider the athletic capabilities of Gabe Kaplan and celebrate a scandalous Baio/Diller romance. Dubiouser and Dubiouser! William reveals that his wife is having an affair with a dishwasher, which causes us to discover that the cure for sickness is a healthy dose of nursing annoyance. Scott then takes on the mantle of Mister Snake as he greets a newly-identified, mouse-hugging resident to Horn Acres. Turns out Scott has been many former people, from copperhead-leaper to tractor-caster. But wait, there’s more show! Scott finally finds his TV obsession and it’s not what either of us expected. We dive deep into anime, where skirts are raised uncomfortably, the origins of Brony culture is hypothesized, and Subbed vs. Dubbed is debated as 1970s animation co-ops an entire culture. We play the Imaging Game with anime’s version of Game of Thrones and determine that it’s as real as it needs to be. Neal Stephenson has had enough, so it’s on to the thing William did out where the things are. William celebrates progress and rediscovers comic books all in one trip to the data-driven Amazon store, now with extra cables! Thanks, data mining! Then, in hour 200, we finally turn to Music in Rearview. Brian May and friends have something to share, and it’s not good. But hey, we forced his hand, I guess. Old for any age, we endure the iconic 1983 sound of the Starfleet Project. Cheesy, badly-sung cover of a crappy TV show nobody watched? Sign me up! It’s no Triumph in any sense of the word. Finally, there’s Prince, another otherworldly, supposedly immortal artist picked off cruelly by 2016. We pay our respects to an amazing, talented musician who held to a different metric. Please, stop this segment. We don’t want to do it again. After William’s quick 7-Zark-7 flip flop, we tap into the Aldnoah Drive and head back to Terra where there’s always room for some T&A!
The clumsy Sesame Street baker
Battle of the Network Stars – Gabe Kaplan
Battle of the Network Stars – Tug of War!
Battle of the Network Stars – Dunk Tank!
Eastern Milk Snake
Brian May and Friends – Star Fleet Project on Wikipedia
Brian May – Star Fleet Promo Video on YouTube
Prince – Kiss (on iTunes)