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The following front page article appeared October 12, 2006 in the




  Robo-Invasion!
Robby and B-9 Take Boca

 Conversation between Robby the Robot, the courtly and groundbreakingly human automaton from the 1956 movie
Forbidden Planet, and Robot B-9, the barrel-chested mechanical Man Friday with the clear-plastic noggin from the 60's TV series Lost in Space, overheard by Tailpipe last week in Boca Raton:

B-9: Warning! Warning! Starboard functionator is 11 seconds from melt-down. O-rings on the teppezoid are failing. Unless replaced immediately, the ship goes into deep-space signoff.

Robby: Say what?

B-9: Warning! Klingon death ship — approaching fast in the eastern vector.

Robby: Wake up, ballbearing brain.

B-9: Code Orange? Death ship is now at oh-247 and accelerating.

Robby: Wrong show. This isn't even TV Land, bubbletop. You're in some guy's garage. In Boca.

B-9: This does not compute. This does not compute.

Robby: Exactamundo. Our days as kitschy television technology icons are over, B-9. People don't want to see robots with blinking flashlight bulbs and tank-tread pedal extremities talking like mechanical zombies. The movies are much too sophisticated for the likes of us. The studios now have something called CGI. Computer-generated imagery. They can swoop into a scene out of the sky like a speeding bullet. You know. The bullet's-eye view. They can turn a rural landscape into earthquake-racked rubble in five seconds, morph a skyscraper into a parakeet, make a human being fly like an albatross.

B-9: Morph? What's this morph?

Robby: It'll take too long to explain. You don't have enough 21st-century smarts, big guy.

B-9: I... I am a general utility nontheorizing environmental robot.

Robby: Look, your movie days are over, B, unless they start making campy spoofs of early television shows. We're not even the originals of our characters. We're clones. The originals — or what's left of them — are in the hands of private memorabilia collectors. This guy Rick Newman bought us for $50,000 from Fred Barton, who built us from the ground up using original blueprints from Lost in Space and Forbidden Planet. Newman is a Boca Raton technophile who collects space souvenirs. I guess that includes you and me, though the closest I ever got to space was the vast empty distance between your ears.

B-9: I am here to serve humanity.

Robby: Well, thank the galactic force for that. Newman wants to use us to encourage kids to study science. In December, he's sending us to the South Florida Science Museum in West Palm Beach for an exhibit of robotics. We're going to give the kids some face time. Tell 'em to study their science and eat their spinach. (Well, hold the spinach for now.) For the moment, we're just about giving dull old Boca a little glitter. We're a couple of ex-TV stars in a town whose only celebrities are Marilyn Manson and Andy Roddick.

B-9: This does not compute. I am —

Robby: Stuff it, B. They could assign you to a SWAT team, you know. Make you the hostage-sit crew's first robot through the door. You ever take a bullet? Or maybe you want to be put back into mothballs.

B-9: Dubba-dubba splurg.


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