Here is a foolproof, ironclad, never-fail method to keep your kids from being bullied. Ready? This is worth a million dollars. Here it comes.
DON’T HAVE KIDS.
Ralph Reese is a brilliant illustrator whose art I first discovered in Choose Your Own Adventure books; he was my personal favorite. His work leapt off the page more than the others, owing to his apprenticeship under the great Wally Wood. In my teens, I found reprints of Ralph’s collaboration with Byron Preiss for National Lampoon, “One Year Affair”. I dreamed of being able to draw like Ralph Reese.
When Ralph did a feature in CRAZY magazine, it was a cause for celebration. Because Ralph wasn’t just a master illustrator.
Ralph was also a master of making you crap your pants.
I came to love and appreciate Steely Dan over the course of my twenties. I did not enjoy them while I was growing up in New Jersey. I lacked the wisdom and experience required to truly absorb their music. I was like Jonathan Richman when asked to cover a Steely Dan song for the awful Me Myself & Irene soundtrack; I never could figure out what them fellas was singin’ about.
As I grew older, Steely Dan lyrics became clearer. The words were honest poetry, sometimes inscrutable, each syllable chosen for its sound and rhythm as well as its meaning. The music was simply too complex for me to grok as a teenage punk. I had to experience the proper amount of loss, beauty and hardship before I really “got” it.
I didn’t know what a “squonk” was, but I knew that somehow, the most incredible song ever written and performed used to play on the radio. You could hear this masterpiece for free.
Mad medicine was everywhere in the 80s and 90s. There were toys and playsets endorsed by mad doctors, for use by kids. Every time you watched cartoons, you saw a skinny dude with crazy hair in a white lab coat, maniacally mixing chemicals and potions for some nefarious purpose. Under the influence of this, I created my own mad medicine man; Dr. Kill-Everybody.
Either the trope became shopworn around 2001, or something happened that discouraged children from playing with chemicals. You don’t see mad doctors and scientists like you used to. Maybe this is a good thing; maybe the concept was subconsciously driving impressionable kids away from lucrative STEM-field careers. I don’t know.
What I do know is this. Mad doctors once flourished in our society, even though they were annoying, and generally sucked.
In the early 1980s, video games were simple in concept, much like the “game apps” on phones nowadays. At heart, they were demonstrations of your skills with a joystick, paddle, or “track-ball” controller, performing one or more challenges. Eating all the dots, or climbing a scaffold to defeat a giant ape, to cite a couple of well-known examples. Navigating a maze while being pursued by killer robots. Killing a centipede, segment by segment. Swinging on vines over bottomless pits.
Or, flying planes into buildings. For fun!
A long, long time ago, on a website far away, there was a thing that pulled in page-views like a drunken champion. It was about 50% my creation. The rest was appropriately and totally ripped off.
It was called “Name Your Rock Band”.
For the first handful of years of the 21st century, it was the most popular page on my site, Mike The Pod. In truth, it goes back even farther than that.
Yea, I say unto you, I was in the right place at the right time for two major moments in American history. You must believe that what I’m about to tell you is the truth; it will seem like so much legend and myth.
The first: I was gifted a copy of E.T. (the game) for the Atari 2600, on Christmas, but that is a tale for another article.
The second, and more significant: I talked my father into buying me Pac-Man for the Atari 2600, one of the most notoriously disappointing games of all time. Second only to E.T.,of course.