Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Good cartoons.

No idea why, but I woke up thinking about cartoons today.

I know we now have adult cartoon shows, like ‘The Simpsons’, and ‘Family Guy’. Younger adults are also well-served by the Japanese animators, with their amazing imaginations. Kids have Disney Pixar and Nickelodeon, and the tiny ones have things like ‘My Little Pony’ and ‘Paw Patrol’.

But I never see any of the old ‘good cartoons’ anymore. Ones like these.

Or the ones I grew up with.

At the cinema, cartoons always added to the enjoyment.

Many became household names, and endured for decades.

When television came along, we had cartoons to enjoy at home too.

I was happy to watch these into my late teens,and always enjoyed the antics of the familiar characters. But then longer cartoon shows took over, like the awful ‘Scooby-Doo’, ‘Hong Kong Phooey’, and many more. Pop groups like the Jackson 5 had their own cartoon show, and very soon the essence of the short cartoon seemed to have disappeared without trace.

Political correctness, merchandising of associated products, and the power of the networks put an end to the cartoons I had enjoyed for years.

Let me know what cartoons you miss, by leaving a comment.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Scientific Studies.

I really should stop watching the news.

Ever since I can remember, we have been bombarded with scientific advice. The source is usually referred to as a ‘study’. Sometimes credited, as in ‘A study by Cambridge University’, or a ‘Study by doctors in Sweden, over a ten year period’.

On many occasions, it conflicts a ‘study’ that was all the rage a few years earlier.

Many years ago, I used to take sugar in my hot drinks, and drink ordinary Coke. Sugar made me fat, and made my teeth bad. I didn’t need a study to tell me that, if my trousers were tight, and I needed fillings at the dentist. Then came sweeteners, like Aspartame. They are the answer, a ‘study’ said. So I swapped, and for the next thirty years I had that sweetener in tea and coffee, as well as buying ‘diet’ drinks containing it.

Then along came another ‘study’. Aspartame was very bad for you. It gave you bladder cancer, if you used it for too long. Oops! Well, a bit more than an ‘Oops’ for me, after more than half my life adding it to drinks. In a panic, I contacted the company, and they duly sent me a very large envelope containing the results of the much-quoted study. They also mentioned that lawsuits were ongoing in America, and that those suing were unlikely to win.

The ‘study’ had used rats, feeding them around half their body weight in Aspartame tablets every day, for months on end. By the end of the study, those rodents were so full of artificial sweetener, they couldn’t avoid getting something seriously wrong with them. So the study was correct. If I consumed around 84 pounds of Aspartame every day for a year, I would get ill. It seems that the ‘scientists’ were unable to see the flaw in their findings, as I was unlikely to ever take in more than half an ounce of the stuff, in a week.

Then we had red meat. Good for Iron, and an ideal source of protein.
Hang on, there’s a study. It gives you bowel cancer, because you can’t digest it.

Delve deeper into that study, and you might discover that you would have to eat a couple of very large steaks every day, for most of your life.

It carried on. Pork gives you cancer. Seafood is too high in cholesterol. Real milk (unpasteurised) carries disease. Red wine? Yes, it’s good for you.
Not too much now, just a sip.
Rice, bread, and potatoes. Best avoided, due to taking in too much carbohydrate. And you might get bloating, perhaps even Chrohn’s disease.

Five A Day! remember that study. A fist sized portion of fruit and vegetables at least five times a day. But how big is a fist? Does orange juice count? Perhaps not, as it produces natural sugars in your digestive system, and you might get Diabetes if you drink too much fruit juice. And too many apples will give you gastric reflux, because of the acidity. Oh, and dentists say that too much fruit is bad for your teeth, because of the fruit acids. And pineapples can cut your gums…and…

You get my drift, I’m sure.

Just had a lovely little baby?. Well, make sure it sleeps on its back. Wait a minute, didn’t a study tell us that a baby will choke on its back? I’m sure it did. Better make sure your baby sleeps on its front then. But no, don’t do that! I’ve read a study that says babies sleeping on their front will smother themselves. You are going to have to find a way for baby to sleep siting up, that’s the only way it will survive.

As far as I am concerned, those invisible scientists can shove their next study up where the sun don’t shine.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

The best camera ever?

(I woke up thinking about this today, but this post is only of interest to photographers and camera collectors)

In 1986, Canon brought out a new top of the range SLR manual focus film camera. It was designed in Germany, and really looked sleek and desirable.

I already owned three other Canon cameras at the time; the basic T50, the slightly better T70, and the older and heavier A1. So, I couldn’t justify the expense of buying this new professional model.

But I really wanted one.

Two years later, it had come down in price enough for me to rationalise getting one. I already had plenty of compatible lenses, so bought it ‘body-only’.

This was a film camera, not digital. It took four AA type batteries in the base, and all picture taking and composition had to be done through the optical viewfinder. There was automatic film advance and rewinding, so no film lever to spoil the look of it. Canon had added the luxury of multi-spot metering, and shadow and highlight control. There was also the ‘safety shift’ feature, which adjusted shutter speed or aperture to make sure you got the shot in awkward lighting conditions.

Despite being aimed at professionals and serious amateurs, it also retained the ‘Program’ option, for easy point-and-shoot photography. A window at the top supplied extensive information about settings, saving the need to look through the viewfinder to see them.

The back of the camera was an object lesson in simple design, with everything you needed, and no more.

It was very solidly built, and though weighty, never felt awkward or heavy in the hand. It could be bumped and dropped, and still work, making it a hit with some professionals.

Despite already owning some lenses and a flash that all worked on this new model, I bought a 24mm wide angle lens, and a 400mm telephoto prime too.

I have never enjoyed using a camera so much, before or since.

Many years later, in 2000, I felt that I now needed autofocus, as my eyesight was not what it was. I traded the camera in, with all the other bodies and lenses, and bought a new Minolta film SLR with one lens, a 24-105mm. As the man in the shop took away all my traded kit, I felt a real pang of regret watching it go.

This summer, I decided to buy one again. I got a decent used version on Ebay, and a compatible lens from the website of a camera shop.

I doubt I will ever use it. Film is a lot of hassle and expense these days, and my eyes are even worse.

But I just love to look at it.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

No News is Good News.

I woke up thinking of that old saying today.

Ever since the events of 9/11 in New York in 2001, I have had something of an addiction to 24-hour rolling news. I often think I might miss something, if I don’t watch it at least a few times a day. Since Brexit, it has become extremely annoying to watch, especially as during the last five years or so, it has also become apparent that the BBC (the news channel I watch) has definitely been dumbing-down the content, and showing worrying signs of bias on many important issues.

As well as that, actual live news is often replaced by opinion pieces, or the use of so-called ‘experts’ who appear on screen pontificating on some issue of the day. Then there is the heavy focus on certain celebrity stories and sports coverage, as well as the long-term adoration of the British Royal Family, and the hordes of hangers-on who surround them. The result is that on the BBC News 24 dedicated news channel, News is actually just a small part of the output.

When I went away to visit relatives and friends in the south of England last week, I had decided not to watch any television, or to look at sites on my tablet. This meant that for the first time in over seventeen years, I had no idea what was happening in the outside world. I didn’t look at the weather forecast, the local news in Essex or Kent, and paid no attention to what might have been happening in Westminster, or The White House.

Last night, I had a quick look online, in case I had missed a war somewhere, or the collapse of the government in Britain.

So here are the ‘beetleypete headlines’, as far as I can tell.

Boris Johnson is trying to close down parliament to force through his ‘no-deal Brexit’. This has happened in the past over other issues, so for me it is a bit ‘seen it before, so what?’

Some government ministers have resigned in protest. ‘Yawn’.

The Queen didn’t stop Boris. Well, she can’t actually do that. Going to ask her for permission is just ‘being polite’. Britain fought the English Civil War in the 17th century so we didn’t have to ask a monarch what we could do.

Boris Johnson is an arrogant conceited man who doesn’t care about anyone but himself and his rich cronies. Well we already knew that, didn’t we?

Some members of parliament changed parties. That has happened since the first parliaments here, and political turncoats are part of our history.

The ‘peace deal’ with the Taliban has been cancelled. Like that was ever going to work in the first place.

India and Pakistan are squaring up to each other. That has been happening since before I was born.

Hurricane Dorian is causing chaos. Sorry to hear that, and I hope all my friends in the path of it are okay.

The Democrats in America still have no viable opponent to challenge Mr Trump. No change there then.

Iran is being accused of all sorts, and Israel and Hezbollah are on the verge of hostilities. Hardly ‘news’.

Brazil is destroying the Amazon in the lust for mining gold and farming for beef. We should have stopped them a long time ago. It’s probably too late now.

Five days with no news, and that’s all I can come up with. Nothing really changed, and everything that was going on before I left on Tuesday is still going on.

I have to come to the conclusion that I didn’t miss anything at all, and that my obsession with The News has now been purged from my system.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Time Alone.

My wife has gone off with her friend to see Ed Sheeran play live, in Ipswich. They will stop overnight in a hotel, after the open-air concert. So for around thirty hours, I will be home alone. Not strictly alone of course, as Ollie will be here.

He will be watching my every move, and making sure I don’t forget his dinner time, his walks, and his dog-biscuit treat. That also means a longer walk for Ollie in the afternoon, with no need to hurry back for any reason whatsoever.

Monday is a public holiday here, so the weekend is extended. The weather is seasonably hot; too hot to want to do any ‘work’ outside, that’s for sure.

So, what to do with that ‘time alone’?

Well for one thing, I can catch up on my foreign-language TV dramas that are recorded. I might watch a film on Netflix too, if only to justify having it. I could do those things when I am not alone of course, but I like to be considerate enough not to inflict my personal watching preferences on those who do not share them.

Perhaps I will make some of those long-promised phone calls to relatives or friends? Maybe write a real letter to someone, when I have the time to properly think about what to tell them.

Rather than cook a proper meal, I will just slide a pizza into the oven, after first ‘pudging it up’ with extra ingredients like garlic mushrooms, red onion, and black olives. Washing up will be minimal, and it will certainly fill me up.

Then there is blogging of course. I can give full attention to the blogs of those I follow, and perhaps develop some story ideas into drafts.

I could go to bed early, and carry on reading my book on the Kindle Fire. I am more than halfway through the big novel at the moment, and keen to see what happens.

Then there is the default option. One that seems more attractive, the longer I think about it.

None of the above.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Disability.

Not for the first time, I woke up today thinking about disability. I will be 68 next birthday, and other than the usual ‘old man’ aches and pains, occasional bad Vertigo, and some eyesight issues, I have managed to escape anything worse so far.

When I was young, Polio was still a common disease. I would see children having to wear metal calipers to brace their legs, and saw documentaries on TV about people who had to spend their entire lives in an ‘Iron Lung’, a cylindrical machine that breathed for them. By the time I was at secondary school, aged 11, I was already counting myself lucky to be fit and healthy.

Many years later, I went to work in the London Ambulance Service, as an EMT. Soon after completing my training, I was shocked to become exposed to disabilities I had never even heard about, let alone seen. I learned about the ‘unseen’ sufferers, those too badly disabled or physically deformed to be able to go outside much, or participate in things that the rest of us simply took for granted. They were sometimes collected in buses, and taken to attend ‘special schools’. Schools that were not only adapted for their needs, but where they could be educated with people who had similar conditions, and understood living with them. Those too disabled to go to those schools might be home-schooled, or have private tutors.

I met young people whose bones were so brittle, they could break them just by coughing. Brain-damaged teenagers fully aware of their situation, but completely unable to communicate at any level whatsoever. One young lady who had been born with undeveloped bones in her arms and legs, so although she was twenty-five years old, she resembled a floppy rag doll, and I could pick her up as easily as I could a pillow. A man with such disfigurement of his facial bones, that he was unable to speak clearly, or eat and drink properly. His elderly mother cared for him, giving him liquid food and drinks through a tube that passed down inside his nose, something he had to keep in permanently. He rarely went out, as he had bad experiences of being mocked in public.

Many I encountered had been born disabled as a result of their mothers taking Thalidomide, for morning sickness. That great drug scandal of the 1950s left so many children without properly formed arms or legs. Or both. Alongside those who had congenital conditions, I also came across scores of people who had become disabled as a result of accidents, or after having to have limbs amputated surgically. They had led outwardly normal lives at one time, until that life was turned upside down by the events of one day, or by contracting a medical condition. Suddenly, they needed help with everyday things, often very embarrassing things to need someone else to do. They had to consider learning to cope with prosthetic limbs, using crutches, or being confined to a wheelchair for the rest of their lives.

This necessitated a re-think about how they lived, and everything they were used to doing. Beds moved downstairs, specially-adapted toilet and bathroom, and restricted access to public buildings, and most forms of transport. The loss of much-loved active hobbies in many cases, and even the break-up of relationships, when partners couldn’t cope, or the disabled person didn’t want to be seen to ‘tie them down’. Before I was 30 years old, I started to get some insight into just how much such things affect peoples’ lives.

Adding to the list were those disabled by Mental Illness, Epilepsy, complications of Diabetes, severe Asthma, Dementia, Arthritis, Blindness, and Deafness.

Most of you will not have worked in a job bringing you into contact with disability on a daily basis. And even those of you who have personal experience of your own disability, or that of a child, sibling, or parent, may well not have ever encountered those with ‘extreme’ disabilities. But over the last 20 years, we have all seen a greatly increased awareness and understanding around the whole issue. The Paralympics, injured soldiers returning from foreign wars, and disabled people working as presenters on TV shows and news programmes; as well as those actively campaigning for better access to buildings and transport.

Attitudes are changing, but there is still a long way to go yet.

What I learned during those 22 years was remarkable. With almost no exceptions, all those people stayed cheerful. Many were in fact much happier than I was, and they coped so admirably with things I could hardly imagine. They had no demands, few requests, and inspired me with their determination to live the best lives they could.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Funfair Rides.

I was talking to some people when I was out with Ollie yesterday. They told me that they are off to a popular theme park with their children for a few days. It is called Chessington World of Adventures, and combines the former zoo with lots of modern pleasure rides. Things like ‘Forbidden Kingdom’, one of those rides where you whizz around at great speeds, mostly upside down.

So that got me thinking this morning…

I grew up with things like the swings on chains, shown in the photo above. The Big Wheel, The Helter Skelter Slide where you came down on a mat, and Dodgem Cars. There were places that had rides that were more exciting. Travelling funfairs added The Whip, or the covered-in Caterpillar. Then there was The Waltzer, with your car being spun by an attendant, as it went around the track. All of this was done to a soundtrack of loud music, often the pop songs of the day, bright flashing lights, and the squeals of the people supposedly enjoying themselves.

Seaside towns had rides that went up very high, like The Mousetrap, or the various wooden roller-coasters that seemed to get bigger and more terrifying every year. They had a Parachute Drop, Water Splash, and the usual Ghost Train and kiddie rides too. Once holiday camps became popular, they built large amusement parks inside their camps that came with the added bonus of all the rides being included in the price. Compared to the white-knuckle attractions seen today, all of these would be considered to be tame indeed.

But I have a confession to make. I hate theme park rides.

Going round in circles at great speed makes me feel sick. Dropping five stories on a roller coaster that sounds as if it will come off its tracks at any second has no appeal to me whatsoever. Travelling upside down at a strange angle is something I have avoided all my life. So paying a substantial amount to be able to do just that seems just silly, from where I sit.

When it comes to funfairs and modern theme parks, I am the least ‘fun’ person you can imagine. I will hold the coats, go and buy the soft drinks, and sit on a bench until your ride has finished. I might even walk around and take a few photographs.

But if you think you will ever get me to go on one of those rides, you’re very much mistaken.