Saturday, September 16, 2006

Cartoons R Fun

I know I've wittered on a lot about finding old cartoon videos in charity shops lately, but that's only because I've found such a lot of them. I'm most fascinated by a range called "Cartoons R Fun". I had never heard of this particular packager of public domain toons a month ago, although they're dated 1990, and in the last couple of weeks I've found five of their releases - one in London, two in Boston and now two in Derby. Is there someone out there with a complete collection who's following me around and planting them in charity shops for me to find? If so, I'm very grateful. You obviously appreciate that I prefer finding them like that to having them given to me. You should be a psychiatrist. Perhaps you are.

They come in cheap cardboard packages with a badly-drawn representation of a scene from the cartoon on the front - these people obviously couldn't afford plastic or screen captures. They also seemingly couldn't afford the effort of taking the copy-protection tabs off the tapes (so one of today's finds is enhanced by a couple of seconds of early-nineties Grange Hill presumably taped on it by mistake by the previous owner), although they did splash out on some sticky plastic labels that look surprisingly professional.

On the back of the each box is a picture of a gorilla and an organ-grinder's monkey (probably inspired by that Bugs Bunny cartoon, what was it called?) holding a sign detailing the cartoons to be found on the tape (usually just one cartoon with "and many more" written afterwards, to give the impression you're getting more than three seven-minute toons for your money. To be fair, these tapes would have been a complete ripoff when they were new, but for 50p from Oxfam they're a bargain!). The ones I found today even have the listed cartoons on them, which is more than can be said for the previous three. Good cartoons too - five late-thirties/early-forties gems from Warner Bros: "Porky's Hired Hand", "Farm Frolics", "Hamateur Night", "The Fifth-Column Mouse" (war propaganda at its very best) and the really brilliant "Robin Hood Makes Good", plus a Noveltoon from 1946 called "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" with an extensive follow-the-bouncing-ball singalong of the title song. Must have gone down well in the cinemas.

While I'm on the subject of cartoons (am I ever off it?), I've been indulging in some deep self-analysis today. You may recall me mentioning that Furrball is probably my favourite character on Tiny Toon Adventures? Well, having been watching an episode a day for the past two weeks, I've realised that the character I most look forward to seeing is Calamity Coyote. And I have not the faintest idea why! I always have a favourite character on a cartoon, but I can normally provide a rational explanation as to why. My preference for Calamity, though, seems to have bypassed my brain completely - he's almost exclusively a minor background character (he takes centre stage in a couple of shows, but not any of the ones I've seen this past fortnight), he doesn't really have any of the personality traits that normally appeal to me, he's not especially cute, I just really like him. Does there have to be a reason?

See, how many other blogs give you ruminations as to the writer's preference of characters on a decade-and-a-half old children's cartoon? You get something unusual here.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Spick and span

I remember about a month ago mentioning that I'd got a new oven that looked very out of place because it was so clean and shiny. Well, you'll be pleased to hear that it fits right in now after a slight setting-kitchen-on-fire incident while cooking my tea last night. If I can be bothered at the weekend, I'll have to try to clean up the smoke damage.

I should also do something about the smoke detector in my flat. We noticed at my birthday party last year during an episode involving indoor fireworks that the smoke detector either doesn't detect smoke at all, or chooses not to tell anyone about it if it does. That was eleven months ago and I realise now that I never did do anything about the thing. It's a wonder that I've lived to such an advanced age, really.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Dulce Domum

It was a quiet day at home for Ethelbert and Ethel. They both had jobs to go to, but had decided not to bother, as it looked like rain outside. Ethelbert was sitting in his armchair in the lounge reading a newspaper published several years previously and Ethel was practising swimming in a paddling pool on the dining room table. In the kitchen, a man was attempting to convert the oven from gas to electric. Ethelbert and Ethel each assumed that the other had arranged for this man to come round, but in fact he should have been at their next door neighbour's house and had been confused by the fact that both houses had the same number.

"Margaret Thatcher says she won't step down," observed Ethelbert.

"Doesn't surprise me," said Ethel, trying to remember how you're supposed to move your legs when doing the butterfly stroke.

"I'll turn on the telly and see if she's still saying it," pronounced Ethelbert.

The television, which was either psychic or just paying attention to the conversation, turned itself on without human intervention and tuned itself to BBC News 24, where a dancing gorilla was eating Portuguese food for the entertainment of an audience of Senegalese septuagenarians.

"Telly's not showing the right thing," observed Ethelbert.

"Ask it whether you're supposed to move your legs up and down both together or one at a time," Ethel requested.

"It doesn't know," Ethelbert replied without asking.

"You're not supposed to move them at all," called the man from the kitchen. "Sort of stretch them out behind you. Streamlining. Hydrodynamics. Like dolphins, only with legs stretched out behind you."

"Do you know anything about tellies?" Ethelbert shouted back.

"Yeah, you see that button on the remote control?" asked the man, "Press it a couple of times."

"It didn't work," said Ethelbert, without trying it.

"What's the problem, exactly?" asked Doris next door, opening the hatch in the connecting wall and looking into the lounge.

"Telly's showing a gorilla instead of the newsreader," said the vicar, passing by the window.

"It'll be the vertical hold," opined the portrait of Gladstone on the wall, which wasn't up to date with the workings of modern television apparati.

"I only wanted to know about Margaret Thatcher," sighed Ethelbert.

"Oh, that's not on the news any more," scoffed the vicar. "It's all about this plane today. Seems the pilot didn't turn up for work this morning because it looks a bit like rain, and now it's going to crash."

"Not my fault," protested Ethel, inaccurately, "I haven't got an umbrella and I've just had my hair done."

"You've got three umbrellas and no hair," said the man.

"Have you converted my oven yet?" asked Doris.

"So is Margaret Thatcher still the Prime Minister?" asked Ethelbert.

"No, I'm wearing a swimming cap, so it looks like I've got no hair," explained Ethel.

"Any chance of a cup of tea, while I'm here?" asked the vicar.

"I've nearly finished," said the man, still under a misapprehension as to his job.

"You might need to go up on the roof and adjust the aerial," said Gladstone.

"One lump or two?" asked Ethelbert.

"I think she's dead," said Doris.

"And those are ornamental parasols, made of paper and cocktail sticks, designed to decorate exotic drinks, not to protect against the elements," elaborated Ethel.

"Two please," said the vicar. "And I'll have the sunday roast with cabbages and radishes."

"It's cable, there isn't an aerial, she can't be dead because I saw her on telly last year before the gorilla came on, this isn't a pub, it's a private house and we don't serve meals, and you don't have radishes with a sunday roast, you have them as part of a salad and they don't taste very nice anyway, if I don't move my legs I don't move forwards at all, I just sort of bob up and down, and who are you anyway?" asked Ethel.

"Me?" asked Ethelbert.

"No, that man in the kitchen," explained Ethel.

"He's working on my oven," said Doris.

"Oh yes, that's right, I was getting confused," said the vicar. "I came round to tell you about that plane that's going to crash on your house, on my way to the pub. Then when you offered me a cup of tea, the drinks theme made me believe I already was in the pub, so I ordered lunch."

"In my day, we didn't have radishes," mused the portrait of Gladstone.

"Here's your tea, anyway," said Ethelbert, without having got out of his chair or made any drinks.

"Oven's done. Runs on gas now," said the man, wiping his hands on the teatowel in satisfaction.

"It ran on gas in the first place," muttered Ethel to herself, being too polite to say it to the man.

Then the plane crashed on the house, and although it killed everyone in it, the tip of the wing banged the television and fixed it.

"Told you that would sort it," lied the portrait of Gladstone, lying on top of the rubble.

"Hope the builder hurries up and fixes their house," said Doris. "It lowers the property values having a crash site next door."

"I wouldn't hold your breath," laughed the vicar. "Ethelbert was the local builder, and he didn't go to work today because it looks like rain!"

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The special stuff

I'm watching the League of Gentlemen movie on Film 4. I didn't go to see it at the cinema because I thought it would just be a tired, money-grabbing rehash of the TV series. Turns out that it's brilliant, and now I feel guilty about not paying to see it, and thereby depriving the creators of some money. It must be at least 50p each. I'll have to send them a cheque.

I've done a tiny bit of memory training tonight, in amongst installing internet explorer 6 on this old desktop so that I can install MSN Messenger whatever-version-it-is. I don't know, you start installing something and then it forces you to install something else. I'd complain to Bill Gates, but he probably hears that enough as it is.

At the weekend, I'll sort out a proper kind of training schedule for that and the mental calculations. And by that I mean "I'm making an excuse not to do it for the next couple of days, and then come the weekend I'll find something better to do..."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Quote unquote

I've just had the Alzheimer's press release sent to me for my approval:

Ben Pridmore, a memory master and former world memory champ has signed up in support of the Million Memories campaign to offer top tips on memory. He says,

‘Your memory is a marvellous tool – I have trained my memory to do incredible things. If you want to improve your memory then a top tip is to think in pictures, your brain process pictures more easily than words. It is hard to imagine how devastating it must be to be affected by a disease like Alzheimer’s, which robs people of their memories. That’s why I am supporting the Million Memories campaign – and telling people memories do matter.’

I never said anything even remotely like that. The phrasing is horrible, for one thing. I don't ever say I can do incredible things, for another. The top tip (which, unlike the rest of it, is at least a paraphrase of something I did say) comes across like a complete non sequitur. On the other hand, I'm not so picky as to insist that people who claim to quote me actually quote something I said, so I'll just ask them to get rid of the "I have trained my memory to do incredible things" bit rather than insisting on wholesale changes. They have captured my tendency to overuse dashes in my writing, though - that's quite impressive, even if it was just by accident.

I still need to ask my boss if I can have next Tuesday off to do a couple of radio interviews and things for the Alzheimer's people. I've technically already taken more holidays than my entitlement, so they'd be within their rights to not let me. But on the other hand, since they've done nothing about recruiting a replacement and asked me to come back on a consultancy basis for a week or so in early November, I've got a strongish bargaining position.

As previously mentioned, several times, I'm not keen on doing radio interviews anyway. But I suppose it would help my renewed fame-and-fortune campaign.

Monday, September 11, 2006


I'm definitely struggling just at the moment to force myself to do anything, anything at all other than sitting around not paying attention to what's on telly. I really should snap out of it. Last night, after posting about my birthday, I looked back at last year's posts, and noticed that I haven't actually achieved any of the things I resolved to do the day before my birthday last year. Which came as quite a surprise, since I was thinking this had been a pretty good year, all in all. Should I make more resolutions on October 13th this year, or just give it up as a bad job? I vote for the latter. That way, anything I do accomplish will be all the more impressive!

There was a really cool thunderstorm here earlier this evening, but it seems to have stopped now. It's been hot for the last week or so after a cold and miserable August, so maybe that's it for summer this year. Not cycling to work in the winter will be a pleasant change (I imagine I'll be cycling to other places rather than sitting at home all day, but if it's not work, it doesn't count as unpleasant).

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Happy Birthday To Me

In just over a month, anyway. I need to arrange some kind of party. I feel like hiring a room somewhere and having a big bash. With karaoke. And a magician. It'll double as a leaving-work party, because I can invite my colleagues to this kind of thing now I don't have to worry about them meeting my friends and the resulting collision of accountant-Zoomy and fun-Zoomy causing the universe to explode, which means it'll have to be quite a big deal, and I think last year demonstrated that fitting more than ten people in this place would be a bit on the tricky side. I've been meaning for weeks to look into getting the bar and lounge at the Dragons health club, where I went to a party last year - the place has a very appropriate name, plus it's right by the train station and so perfectly located for a party to which most of the guests will be travelling from afar. Obviously, anybody reading this blog can consider themselves invited. More details if and when I sort them out.

I also need to get back into the habit of memory training. With the MSO and work overload, I haven't done any since the world championships last month, but I've given my brain enough of a rest now. If I can find the time and inclination, I should do a bit of mental calculation and a bit of memory every evening. We'll see how it goes.