Thoughts

Cloudy – the cartoon

This is a super-happy cartoon about the life of clouds. It’ll perk you right up! 🙂

Created by Samuel Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III. Animation by Matías Fernández. Music by Norman Bambi.

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Thoughts

What cartoons are your children watching?

This is a question I keep asking myself every time I turn on the TV and look at the Cartoon Network, or The Disney Channel, or Nickelodeon these days. It’s unbelievable how much thoughtless, cheaply made programming they shove into their slots, with little or no thought for substance, style, quality and most of all, for values.

Just like most foods you can buy at the store these days are made up mostly of fillers and devoid of nutrition and natural goodness, most cartoons on TV are nothing but patina, a modicum of presentation pulled over a steaming pile of dung.

The Disney Channel is in the most shameful state of all. They have a legacy to live up to. They have a heritage, which is something no other channel has. Back in the early 90s, when I came to the States, The Disney Channel was way up there on a pedestal in terms of programming quality. It was heaven for a boy with a hunger for good cartoons.

Now, it’s 95% garbage. They’ve got terrible live-action shows geared solely toward filling programming slots and selling merchandise and hurriedly-done computer-animated cartoons.

What happened to shows like Duck Tales, or the Rescue Rangers, or Tale Spin? What happened to the old cartoons with Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Daffy Duck and the rest of the gang? Aren’t there any people who still have good ideas at Disney’s TV subsidiary? There are obviously very talented people at Pixar, where great movies still get made. Can’t Disney recruit some more people like that? They’ve obviously got the money, since they just spent $4 billion on Marvel. Only a small fraction of that money would go a long way toward turning around The Disney Channel.

Overall, the industry is in decline, precisely because they’ve been focusing on quantity, not quality and substance. They’re trying to spend as little money as possible and churn out as much footage as possible, without any foresight or real planning about a show’s direction, character development, plot, dialogue, character animation (movement, drawing style, aesthetic appearance, etc.), progress (generally, if characters are doing something or striving to achieve something, progress or setbacks toward an overarching goal ought to be achieved with each show), and most of all, since these cartoons are shown on children’s channels, they ought to be kid-friendly, they ought to promote good values, and they ought to appeal to one’s artistic sensibilities.

As for those who give these shows the go-ahead, I can only describe their approach as auto-pilot. They’re throwing stuff at a wall in order to see what sticks, and instead of trying to figure out why stuff doesn’t stick, they’re looking for more stuff to throw. They care little about any of the things I mentioned above. They care about filling slots, preferably with stuff made by people they know, and about selling ads during those slots. They’re trying to hock merchandise instead of realizing their jobs involve a much higher responsibility than that of a vendor at the local flea market. They ought to care deeply about what they put on the air, and instead of examining the merchandise they’re selling through the critical lens of someone who is helping shape young children into responsible, caring, sensible adults, they’re looking at these cartoons as a means to an end — the end being solely the channel’s bottom line.

What they don’t realize is their revenues are decreasing not because they need more live action shows on a cartoon channel, or because less people are watching TV because they’re spending more time on the internet, or because they need to spend less money and cut more corners — they’re decreasing as a direct result of the crap they are putting on TV. If only they took their time to find quality cartoons and filled their programming slots with them, they would see revenues and ratings increase, not to mention that we’d have happier, healthier children all around.

You may ask yourselves, how do I find good cartoons when the good offerings are so slim? I outlined a few good rules of thumb in this post. The most important part is that you should use your good judgment to find shows that are worth watching. Don’t give into popular opinion or into what kids may ask for, because at younger ages, they need guidance. They’re not ready to save the world, in spite of what’s portrayed in run-of-the-mill cartoons. Ask your friends, or go online to sample what’s available in stores. Go to YouTube and look for video clips from quality cartoons you can purchase, or if you hear of a good cartoon show that’s not televised, go to their website and see if they show clips. Now, more than ever, there’s real choice, because you’re not limited by what’s on the TV channels, and it’s so easy and affordable to get to the good stuff if you only put a little effort into it.

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Thoughts

Ce Soir by Monogrenade

Stop-motion music video from a Montreal band called Monogrenade, for a song called “Ce Soir”, from the EP entitled “Le saveur de fruits”.

Monogrenade – Ce Soir (HD) from Monogrenade on Vimeo.

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Thoughts

Where's the Solar Coaster when you need it?

Lamenting the absence of a practical, usable solar car…

In an episode of The Raccoons which aired in 1985, entitled “The Evergreen Grand Prix“, Cedric, one of the protagonists and Cyril Sneer’s son, comes up with a design for an innovative solar car that Cyril promises to mass-produce in a new deal struck with a big car manufacturer, a Mr. Mammoth. Once the manufacturer hears the car is solar-powered, he objects, because he sells other tie-in products like gasoline and oil, and they can’t be used when the fuel source is sunlight.

Cyril quickly changes his mind, trashes his son’s brilliant design, and builds a road-hog prototype instead. When it comes time to demonstrate his prototype’s abilities publicly, Cedric and Bert come up with a surprise. They rebuild the trashed solar car and propose to Cyril that the two prototypes race together to see who wins.

the-solar-coaster

Mr. Mammoth is eager to see what happens, and gives the okay. Naturally — or, I suppose, unnaturally, given the current status quo — the solar car wins, to Cyril’s dismay. The manufacturer then agrees to mass-produce self-assembly kits of the solar car, which goes on to be a great success.

So I ask, given that this episode saw the light of day in 1985, has anything progressed in the area of solar cars since then? After all, it’s been 29 years. That’s a long time, during which many new developments could have been architected. The answer is sadly no.

To put things in perspective, the Solar Coaster used a single rectangular solar panel which also doubled as a rear spoiler, and it was enough to make the car “peppy”, as one of the lines in the show went. Today’s solar cars (actually, all solar cars since their inception, sadly) have placed photovoltaic panels over the entire top of the car, and it’s still not enough. They have had to adjust the design radically in order to increase the top surface area, so the cars have no side height at all. They’re basically tapered tops and bottoms, packed full of solar cells, and yet their performance cannot be described as peppy.

borealis-iii-solar-car

I realize the Solar Coaster doesn’t exist. It’s only the fancy of the show’s writers, but still, it’s a good standard by which to judge the solar car’s progress within the last three decades, simply because the idea has been around for that long, if not longer. From my point of view, R&D in photovoltaic cells has stagnated sadly, and this is what’s holding back the solar car. Incredible leaps have been made in computer technology, building technology, and even the performance of petrol-fueled cars, but unfortunately the solar car is still the sickly step child no one likes to play with. To paraphrase Terry from “On the Waterfront”, it could have been a contender; it could have been somebody. [Sorry for the clichĂ©.]

Instead of a serious contender, we’re offered a glorified solar fan in the form of the 2010 Toyota Prius, whose solar cells will be used to cool the car while it’s parked. Thanks, but we’ve had that stuff around since the 80s too.

solar-power-car-vent

If you want to watch the full “Evergreen Grand Prix” episode, it’s available on Youtube in three parts: part 1, part 2 and part 3. If you’re seeing this on my site, not on my feed, you can also watch the videos below.

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Thoughts

Sometimes you need to use a book the right way

There’s a Looney Tunes cartoon from 1944, entitled “Brother Brat“. It stars Porky Pig and speaks eloquently about child discipline. In it, Porky becomes the unwitting baby sitter for a Rosie the Riveter type super-woman who’s pulling long shifts at the factory, helping out with the war effort.

When she leaves her brat, Butch, with him, she also hands him a book, which she says always helped her. It happens to be a book on Child Psychology.

Child Psychology - 1

Porky takes the offer at face value, and believes the book will really help him. When baby Butch starts acting out, he checks the book for advice.

Child Psychology - 2

He soon finds out the book is no good, as he applies the wishy-washy, sound-good nonsense from the book to his real life situation and things go from bad to worse.

Child Psychology - 3

By the end of the cartoon, he’s running for his life, with an axe-wielding maniac baby on his tail.

Child Psychology - 4

Then Susie the Riveter comes in, notices the mayhem, and asks him if he used the book. Desperate, still running, he screams, “Yes, but it didn’t work!” Then Susie grabs the book and shows Porky how it’s done: “Maybe you didn’t use it right. It always works for me!”

Child Psychology - 5

The punchline is obvious, and yet it teaches all of us, to this day, a valuable lesson: sometimes the only thing that works is a spanking. As for child psychology books, I share the opinion of the animators — those books are a bunch of hooey, fit to be printed on toilet paper and used that way. I’m not alone in that sense. Most people shared this opinion when classic cartoons were made. Cartoon studios of all sizes lampooned child psychology books, including Disney.

Spanking has sadly become a tabu practice in this “enlightened” age. If you spank your child now, the state will take it away from you. Surely the state must know what it’s doing, right? Because governments in all developed countries have shown us they manage everything else to a tee, beyond reproach, right? Naturally, we ought to trust what they tell us to do with our children?

I see parents these days, stressed to the breaking point because of children who haven’t been properly disciplined, and they’re afraid to discipline them. They try talking to them, they try to reward them for good behavior, they try timeouts, but seriously, sometimes a child just needs a good spanking. The Bible knows what it’s talking about when it says in Proverbs 13:24: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” It has the benefit of thousands of years of experience on its side when it gives that advice.

If you’re interested, my father wrote a couple of articles several years ago. One is on the duties of children toward their parents, and the other is on the duties of parents toward their children. The articles are a compilation of verses from various books of the Bible on those topics, and they’re not doom and gloom stuff — they’re thoughtful, fascinating stuff. To make things even more interesting, my father is a psychiatrist who is keenly interested in the proper development of one’s character and personality.

On an unrelated note, thank goodness for Google Video, which indexed the cartoon from Dailymotion! I wouldn’t have been able to provide you with screenshots from the cartoon otherwise, because I couldn’t find it in regular web searches. I don’t have it in my collection, and only saw it a few times on TV, including once on Boomerang recently. I encourage you to watch it.

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