Friday, January 12, 2007

Taking a moment to mourn two American legends

I have been remiss in my responsibilities regarding the goings on in the world of entertainment & pop culture by not covering the passings of two American icons.

Iwao Takamoto died Monday of heart failure in Los Angeles at the age of 81. Who the hell is Iwao Takamoto, you may ask? None other than the inventor of one of the best cartoon characters of all time, Scooby Doo.

Mr. Takamoto went to work for animation giant Hanna & Barbera in 1961 after learning how to draw while he was interred at a California prison camp during WWII. Years later Mr. Takamoto created the character known as Scooby Doo, and the series that began in 1969 remains one of the longest continually-running programs in television history.

I remember back in my days as a cereal-slurping little rug rat I lived for the Saturday Morning Cartoons, and the life blood of my fixation was Scooby Doo. The show came on super early, like 7:30, so it would still be kinda dark and quiet, and I remember that stupid show used to scare the crap out of me. I know, I know, how can a show with 2 hip chicks (Daphne & Velma), their debonair, "platonic" friend (Fred), a kooky, unkempt buddy (Shaggy) and their ravenous dog, Scooby, scare the shit out of a 7-year-old?

It was that freaking haunting music and the creepy way the zombie/ghost/sea creature/insert villain here would moan and ramble after the kids that got my hairs to stand on end. I also remember being relieved when the meddling kids would finally solve the mystery and Scoob & Shag would go share a ginormous hogie that I would feel relieved that everyone was safe for another week.

There is a great article here from Slate that sums up the impact that Scooby and the gang have had on our society for so many decades.

Bottom line is many Americans owe one of the simple pleasures of their childhoods to this man. Domo arigato, Mr. Takamoto, and may you be served Scooby Snacks for the rest of eternity.

The other death that hit many people hard was that of Momofuku Ando, better known as the genius who invented Ramen Noodles.

Yes Mr. Ando is the man behind the food that has fed millions of starving college students and those looking for a fast, filling little meal for decades. He is the sole creator of the dried brick concoction that when combined with boiling water forms a hearty bowl of twisty noodles. Beginning in the early 1950s, Ando came up with his cheap yet satisfying food product as a way to combat the poverty and starvation gripping his native Japan after the WWII. After coming up with the cellophane-wrapped ramen product for his company, he also invented the other coed favorite, Cup O' Noodles.

Was this guy a living God or what?!

As with my Scooby story the roots of my love for Ramen are deeply embedded in my childhood. When I was growing up every one had Ramen or Cup O' Noodles in their home- it was that staple you had to have in case no one wanted to cook or you just needed a quick fix snack. My problem was that the one Cup, or bag, was just not enough to satisfy my appetite.

That's when my stroke of genius was applied to the product that Ando perfected- I put twice as much water in the pot, used two packets of noodles, and then used double broth packs to achieve a super bowl of delicious Ramen delight; brilliant!

I still use this innovation to this very day- in fact I have been on a Ramen bender lately; my wife can't restock our shelves quick enough. Part of that is because I use the two pack method, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

The only drawback to my approach is you must have matching flavors or the plan is ruined. I mean I love the shit, but I would never cross-pollinate a beef flavor with say a teriyaki chicken or a shrimp. That would be freakin' crazy!

(BTW, my personal favorite is the beef)

I just wanted to say R.I.P., Mr. Takamoto and Mr. Ando, two Japanese men (Takamoto was born in America to Japanese immigrants) who have provided Americans with the perfect culture combo since the '60s.

Well I gotta go now; I need a (double) bowl of Ramen beef with a Scooby marathon on the side (original series only, not the bastardized Scrappy version or the hideous movie adaptations.)

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