Cartoon of the Month – Dexter’s Laboratory

A bespectacled boy genius-cum-inventor-cum-bully to his sibling Dee Dee (“Stay out of my laboratory!”), who has a secret elaborate laboratory down in the basement of his very own house, Dexter’s Laboratory is a cartoon which has always been way ahead of its time – concealed buttons and switches such as the one which can be activated by pulling out a specific book from a bookshelf, passwords which need to be spoken out loud in order to gain entry into a particular room in the lab and so on.  Right from the time the cartoon caught my fancy, I’ve been thrilled at the way his secret laboratory was unknown to his parents too; I mean, here I was trying (unfortunately) to have a secret drawer to myself, and this young superhero had a whole, extensive laboratory. Not fair.

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Image courtesy: YouTube

  • The popular cartoon series holds the distinction of being the first original animated series in the history of Cartoon Network.
  • It may sound absurd, but the idea for Dexter started off with a drawing of a ballerina; definitely the stark opposite of what our cartoon hero is. However, it is precisely this play of opposites which came to the mind of creator Tartakovsky – ‘a short little brother with a love of science’.
  • Apparently, it was three different women (and not men) who voiced our little genius – Christine Cavanaugh, Candi Milo and later Tara Strong (credited with voicing cute little Bubbles from Powerpuff Girls).

Such is the popularity of Dexter’s Laboratory that speculation about the cartoon series refuses to die down. For instance, some people claim Dee Dee is not actually his elder sister but his ‘time-traveling daughter’, sent back in time to prevent poor old Dexter from working on an invention that had ultimately blown the world to smithereens in the past. Sounds possible, now that one comes to think of it. Wotsay?

Cartoon of the Month – Scooby Doo

While our cartoon of the previous month was all about the sonorous ‘Yabba Dabba Doo!’, this month I’m taking up another favorite of mine, which has the ‘Doo’ part common – the perpetually 7-year-old (49 years old in dog years),  lovable, talking, brown Great Dane – Scooby Doo.

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Image courtesy: CinemaBlend

I loved mysteries and anything to do with solving them as a kid, and hence two things regarding the same which were an inevitable part of my childhood years were, one, Enid Blyton mysteries and two, the Scooby Doo cartoon series which was also about mysteries, albeit of a relatively comical, supernatural kind solved by the four teenagers – Fred Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley and Shaggy Rogers.

  • This children’s all-time favorite holds the distinction of a Guinness World Record for the maximum number of episodes of a cartoon comedy series.
  • The show was initially supposed to be called ‘Mystery Five’, then ‘Mysteries Five’, followed by ‘Who’s Scared’ (which was then believed to be a tad too scary for the targeted kids’ audience) and finally the ‘Scooby Doo’ that we know of.
  • Scooby Doo is not just about cartoons – it has major motion pictures, board games, computer games, video games, comic books and even novels.

Be it the creepy background sounds at the beginning of each episode or the wonderfully relatable characters – the stylish Daphne, the popular and sought-after Fred, the intelligent bookworm Velma and the true-to-his-name Shaggy – Scooby Doo will always make for a fascinating watch, at least for me.

“Zoinks!” as Shaggy would put it!

Cartoon of the Month – The Flintstones

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Image courtesy: Zazzle

The very first animated series to be shown on prime time American television in the 1960s was, surprisingly, set in the Stone Age, somewhere dating back to around 10,000 BC. That was that – and then before we knew it, the two cheerful cavemen families went on to become the second greatest TV cartoon of all time, and one of my favorite shows ever.

A couple of fun facts about Hanna Barbera’s The Flintstones – Fred and Wilma Flintstone, Barney and Betty Rubble, not to forget Pebbles Flintstone and Bamm-Bamm Rubble too:

  • In the age of The Flintstones, there was no electricity, but there were dishwashers; no shoes, but cars ran swiftly on bare feet. Contemporary situations set in prehistoric times were what we call the USP of the show.
  • The Flintstones was known by several different names before it became The Flintstones. Initially it was ‘The Flagstones’, then it turned into ‘The Gladstones’ and finally came the flint as we know it.
  • Did you notice that almost every episode had new, changed furniture in The Flintstones’ residence? And that their pet dinosaur, which barked like a puppy, also changed colors from its basic purple throughout the show?

I vividly remember how melodious The Flintstones opening and closing credits were and Fred Flintstone’s heartful, full-throated ‘Yabba Dabba Doo!’

Cartoon of the Month – Tom and Jerry

The year before last we did a series in which we talked about a different mathematician great every month of the year. This 2017 let’s do something a little less dreary than dry old math… Hence, it’s cartoons raining this year, with a favorite of mine lined up for every month of the year. Let’s begin!

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Image courtesy: Wallpapers Pictures Photos

An intensely lovable pair that has been fighting like cats and dogs (read: cats and mice) from as far back as we can remember; 1940, to be precise. Brought to life by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, this series of comic fights including the mayhem and destruction that follows have found themselves a special place in every heart, kids and adults alike.

Some fun facts about this indomitable cartoon pair which apparently once won an Oscar:

  • In the initial stages, Tom was called Jasper and Jerry was called Jinx (Jasper and Jinx? Doesn’t sound as good as Tom and Jerry!)
  • In spite of their immense popularity, this duo hardly ever speaks in their cartoons; it is music which lends the major emotions to their scenes. (However, soot-blackened Tom’s haunting ‘Don’t you believe it!’ line after being involved in a nuclear explosion struck a chord with many.)
  • Ever heard of the ‘Spike & Tyke’ cartoon? This bulldog father and son series was a spin-off of Tom & Jerry, but didn’t work out eventually. Ditto for the cartoon that went by the name of ‘Herman & Katnip’.

I absolutely loved Tom and Jerry as a kid, my kids adore them now and I’m pretty certain my grandkids will go gaga over the duo too!

Like they say, ‘Some relationships are like Tom and Jerry… They tease each other, knock down each other, irritate each other, but can’t live without each other!’

The ‘Little Women’ in Us

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Image courtesy: QuotesGram

The oldest and most conventional March sister, Meg, who is always on the lookout to please the people around her with her good behavior. The headstrong and independent Jo, rebellious at heart and the most outspoken member of her family. Next comes Beth, the bashful and quiet girl, who unfortunately loses her life along the way. Then there’s Amy, the youngest sister who is akin to a perfect lady of sorts and has a mind of her own. And, of course, Mrs. March, without whom the whole family is incomplete.

Today, November 29, happens to be the American novelist Louisa May Alcott’s 184th birthday, the author who penned down the one novel which I have held close to my heart all these years – Little Women. This masterpiece took the author a mere ten weeks to write, and the words in it ring true till date. While Louisa herself was quite like the character Jo in the book, the other three sisters were characterized on her own real sisters. A great number of Broadway plays, ballets, operas, musicals, TV series and seven different movies – these are some of the ways Louisa’s outstanding work took wings in later years.

Why do I love the story so much? Because these lines from the book continue to stay with me even now:

“I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.”

“The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.”

“Watch and pray, dear, never get tired of trying, and never think it is impossible to conquer your fault.”

And last but not the least, this one:

“Let us be elegant or die!”

Here’s hoping that the Little Women in us continue to live on for eons to come!

Make Your Own Cloud in a Bottle

The other day it was damp and overcast early in the morning, with a hint of rain in the air. With my steaming cup of coffee, I sat myself down in front of the computer, hoping to get some work done while the kids were still peacefully in bed. And in my quest for simple science experiments which could be easily carried out at home, I chanced upon this interesting experiment in which you could make a cloud in a bottle.

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Image courtesy: wikiHow

Here’s how it works.

What You Need

  • A large mason jar
  • A rubber glove
  • A torch
  • Boiling water
  • Matches

The Procedure

  • Pour a little bit of boiling water into the mason jar – just enough to cover the bottom – and swirl it around a bit gently.
  • Seal the air into the jar by fitting the rubber glove wrist around the mouth of the glass jar such that the fingers point downwards towards the boiling water.
  • After about 10 seconds, insert your fingers into the glove and move it upward so that the fingers are pulled out.
  • Now light a match and drop it into the jar, covering its mouth again with the rubber glove. You will observe smoke forming in the jar and the water at the bottom will put out the lighted matchstick.
  • Again, pull out the glove by inserting your fingers into it. You will observe a cloud forming inside the jar. If you re-insert the glove, the cloud will disappear.
  • Shining a torch into the jar through the glass sides will enable you to observe the clouds better.
  • In about 5 minutes, the cloud formed will gradually disappear with the particles settling down at the bottom.

The Science Behind it:

Inside the mason jar, the warm air is full of water vapor molecules from the boiling water. When the glove is inserted into the jar, it occupies some space; pulling it out frees that space and cools the air inside the jar to a certain extent. The water molecules present attach themselves to the smoke particles emanating from the lighted matchstick, eventually condensing into droplets which form the cloud.  Every time the glove gets re-inserted into the jar, the air present within gets warmed up again and the cloud disappears.

After all, if there can be a storm in a teacup, there can also be a cloud in a bottle! :)

‘A Little Magic Can Take You A Long Way…’

The year 2016 marks the centenary of the birth of British novelist Roald Dahl, touted by many as the world’s number one storyteller and rightly so. To mark the occasion, the Oxford English Dictionary decided to add a range of new words connected to his writings to its ever-increasing repertoire of words – such as ‘splendiferous’, ‘Oompa Loompa’, ‘human bean’ and ‘Dahlesque’ amongst others (read more here). These reminded me of my favorites when it comes to Dahl.

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Image courtesy: Pinterest

Here are three of his classics, which I love to read even today.

‘It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you.’

 (The Witches)

This fantasy novel for children elicited the following response from the judges who presented the author with the prestigious 1983 Whitbread Award for his work: “Funny, wise, deliciously disgusting, a real book for children. From the first paragraph to the last, we felt we were in the hands of a master.”

From the very beginning, this story had me chuckling at every other line. ‘Deliciously disgusting’ hit the nail right on the head – how else could you describe a tale that involved witches with claws in the place of finger nails, enormous-sized nostrils, blue spit and heads with no hair? Endearingly deliciously disgusting, I would say. Add to it the wonderfully done up illustrations by Quentin Blake and you have the perfect package of a story; a brave young boy battling England’s witches along with his Norwegian grandmother.

‘We must hurry! We have so much time and so little to do! No! Wait! Strike that! Reverse it!’

(Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

Here is a kids’ story which is silly and fun, as well as dark and serious. Instances of silly and fun – pillows that are made of marshmallow and are edible, chocolate bars that are invisible and hence can be eaten right in front of the teacher in class, a swimming pool filled with fizzy lemonade and many similar objects that will invariably catch any child’s fancy. My younger one remarked the goodies in the story were quite similar to those of the virtual games he plays and was pretty excited to add a couple of new ones to the list.

Talking about dark and serious, one of the chapter’s names itself is ominous in a way; it is called ‘The Family Begins to Starve’ and goes on to talk about how Charlie’s family members are hungry, poor, destitute and cold. But then there are the chanting ‘Oompa Loompas’ – orange complexioned and green haired dwarves working in the chocolate factory who eat cacao beans; punishments perfectly befitting the bad behavior of the kids and pretty comical caricatures alongside the story to keep the kids laughing all through the read.

‘Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world.’

(Matilda)

In 2012, Matilda found pride of place in the top 30 all-time popular children’s novels in a survey carried out and published by the School Library Journal. The story revolves around the protagonist – Matilda Wormwood – who is a child prodigy; awe-inspiring, brilliant and unconventional all rolled into one.

Then there’s the much-loved Miss Honey who makes sure newcomers in her class feel at home; the nutty and supposedly wicked headmistress aptly named Miss Trunchbull; the girl with two plaited pigtails who goes by the name of Amanda Thripp and other amusing characters. The story of the little girl is heartwarming yet unpredictable; all in all, a compelling and creative tale which is both a bit funny and a bit sad, in ‘Dahlesque’s’ characteristic way.

Try as I might, I still find it hard to put down any of Roald Dahl’s masterpieces once I begin reading one of his novels. And this line continues to resonate with me even now, years after I read it first:

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Image courtesy: Quotefancy