Chris Latta, voice of Starscream and Cobra Commander

Children of the 1980s know few voices better than that of Chris Latta, who played the roles of both Starscream and Cobra Commander. (That’s like ninety percent of a Reagan-era childhood right there.) Latta, who was sometimes credited as Christopher Collins, was a voice, stage, and screen actor who died in 1994. Here are a few things you might not have known about him.

He knew both ends of the social strata in Springfield.

In the third episode of The Simpsons, Homer is fired from the nuclear power plant and becomes a social crusader. After successfully petitioning for a stop sign and, later, speed bumps, he takes on the plant. It’s here that we first meet Mr. Burns, the plant’s devious billionaire owner. To mollify the people of Springfield, Mr. Burns offers Homer a new job as plant safety inspector. Excellent.

Chris Latta was the first voice of Mr. Burns. Notably, he was also the first voice of Moe Syzlak, the local bartender. (Yes, he of the Flaming Moe!) Latta’s voice track for Moe was later swapped for that of Hank Azaria, though his work in that episode as host of America's Most Armed and Dangerous remains for all posterity.

Latta left the show early on to pursue his standup career.

He was a standup comic.

Latta began a career in standup comedy in Boston in the 1970s. He was a better standup comic than he was a poker player. According to the Los Angeles Times, he once had to play the same club in Boston for eight months to pay off a gambling debt. He said of comedy, "If you're an engineer and you've been a good engineer for a while, people don't say, 'Well, prove to us you're an engineer,' Comedy means starting from zero every time. The audience sits sedately and hopes to be amazed... Every time I go up on stage I find out if I'm funny again."

In 1990, he won the San Francisco International Stand-Up Comedy Competition.

He’s in the Transformers hall of fame.

You already know that on the cartoon The Transformers, he was the iconic voice of Starscream, the malevolent and duplicitous Decepticon lieutenant. You might not know that he was also the voice of Wheeljack and Sparkplug (Spike’s dad). In 2012, Hasbro inducted him posthumously into the Transformers Hall of Fame, which is an actual thing.

(In a bit of bonus trivia, Latta voiced an arms dealer named Old Snake in an episode of The Transformers that took place in the year 2006. It’s hinted that Old Snake, whose face is concealed throughout the episode, once led a massive terrorist organization. At the show’s end, Old Snake eludes capture and muses of his defeated, arrested client, “They simply don't make terrorists like they used to.” He then attempts a rally cry of “Cobra!” but breaks into a coughing fit.)

He was Cobra Commander. Really.

While Starscream never quite took leadership of the Decepticons (but for a few minutes during a coronation ceremony), Chris Latta did lead an evil army into battle. On the cartoon G.I. Joe, he voiced Cobra Commander, leader of Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world.

This identity once spilled over into real life. (Well, realer life—am I right, Joe fans?) Latta said in an interview that he was called into the office of his son’s school guidance counselor. The school official was alarmed that Latta’s son kept saying that his father was Cobra Commander. “Well?” asked the counselor. “Doesn't that concern you?”

“But I am,” replied Chris Latta.

He was once a Klingon. Qa’plaH!

In an episode of Seinfeld, Latta played the role of a thug on the New York subway. In a bit of a meatier role, he played a homeless man on Mr. Belvedere. (Yes, Mr. Belvedere, who is definitely dead.) He was on Star Trek: The Next Generation, where he played a Klingon starship captain. Latta was also on the superior Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. (Save your hate mail, Picardophiles.) For those keeping track, this means there is a direct link between Transformers, The Simpsons, G.I. Joe, Seinfeld, Star Trek, and Mr. Belvedere. It’s a miracle that the universe hasn’t divided by zero.

Top image courtesy of

MGM Home Entertainment
The Beatles’s Yellow Submarine Is Returning to Theaters for Its 50th Anniversary
MGM Home Entertainment
MGM Home Entertainment

The Beatles are coming! The Beatles are coming!

In early 1968, at the height of Beatlemania, The Fab Four lent their voices—and visages—to Yellow Submarine, a somewhat strange and slightly surreal animated film, purportedly for children, which saw the band travel to Pepperland aboard the titular watercraft in order to save the land from the music-hating Blue Meanies. (Hey, we said it was strange.)

Though it would be another year before the film’s iconic soundtrack was released, 2018 marks the film’s 50th anniversary. To celebrate the occasion, Pitchfork reports that the psychedelic cartoon will be making its way back into theaters in July with a brand-new 4K digital restoration and a surround sound remix, to have it looking—and sounding—pristine.

To find out where it will be screening near you, visit the film’s website, where you can sign up for updates.

[h/t: Pitchfork]

Stephen Hawking's Big Ideas, Made Simple

On March 14, 2018, visionary physicist Stephen Hawking passed away at the age of 76. You know his name, and may have even watched a biopic or two about him. But if you've ever wondered what specifically Hawking's big contributions to science were, and you have two and a half minutes to spare, the animation below is for you. It's brief, easy to understand, and gets to the point with nice narration by Alok Jha. So here, in a very brief and simple way, are some of Stephen Hawking's big ideas:

If you have more than a few minutes, we heartily recommend Hawking's classic book A Brief History of Time. It's easy to read, and it's truly brief.

[h/t: Open Culture]


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