W is for Wacky: The Wacky Races!

Wacky: funny or amusing in a slightly odd or peculiar way.

Back to the etymology dictionary!

“crazy, eccentric,” 1935, variant of whacky (n.) “fool,” late 1800s British slang, probably ultimately from whack: “a blow, stroke,” from the notion of being whacked on the head one too many times.

Wacky can only mean one thing to me. Wacky Races! If you’ve never heard of them, where have you been (or where were you in the late 60s to 80s?). Wacky Races was a Hanna Barbera cartoon that Boomerang describes as:

A never-ending, gag heavy, race around the globe. The world’s wackiest racers constantly compete to win and be crowned “World’s Wackiest Racer”.

This Dan Dare site has a great list of all the cars and their crews. The Boomerang Wacky Races page has info about the series too. It started in 1968 but ceased production in 1970, due to protests from parents about violence in children’s TV (according to IMDb).

Penelope Pitstop from Wacky RacesDespite this, I remember seeing it again and again (and I wasn’t born until after it stopped!). There were also two spin-offs started in 1969: Penelope Pitstop and the Ant Hill Mob were in their own series called The Perils of Penelope Pitstop.

Dick Dastardly and Muttley had a spin-off series called Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines (it’s this series that the famous Stop The Pigeon song comes from – it was its theme song and apparently its working title too). Both series ran for two seasons.

Dick Dastardly and Muttley from Wacky Races

Dastardly and Muttley were my favourites:

“Sneaking along last is that Mean Machine with those double dealing do-badders Dick Dastardly and his sidekick, Muttley”.

For me they were the funniest, most lovable ‘do-badders’ ever!

V is for Vibrant: Ronald Reagan and Indira Gandhi

Vibrant: having or showing great life, activity, and energy; very bright and strong; of a sound: loud and powerful.

You can probably guess it didn’t always mean this. The Online Etymology Dictionary tells us that it originally comes from ‘vibrantem’ (swaying), which is from the present participle of the Latin verb vibrare ‘to  move to and fro’ (or in other words, vibrate).

In the 1550s it meant ‘agitated’; by the 1610s, ‘vibrating’ (especially “vibrating so as to produce sound” from a string, etc.) The first record of it being used to mean ‘vigorous, full of life’ is recorded in 1860.

On www.finedictionary.com I found two quotes containing the word vibrant:

“Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged.”


Ronald Reagan

File:Official Portrait of President Reagan 1981.jpg

But whose religion should be vibrant, Mr Reagan? Yours? Someone else’s? What about those people who don’t follow an organised religion and, shock horror, have their own moral code -without having to be told what’s right and wrong? You really think freedom prospers when we’re ruled under ‘the law of God’? I think that if you start insisting on ruling under God’s law (by which I presume you mean the God referred to in Christian and Jewish texts), you’re actually taking away the freedom of many people.

I’m not too keen on that God’s law, if I’m honest. Recorded by a succession of people with varying degrees of literacy and a variety of agendas, those laws were written over a long time period by people relying mainly on hearsay and accounts of events that happened decades and often centuries before. Written in several languages and dialects, not to mention being expanded, abridged, lost, found, translated and re-translated, then manipulated to the whims of various religious groups, state leaders and monarchs… it’s no surprise that what we’ve ended up with is wildly inconsistent, vague, bigoted and anachronistic advice, some of which turns my stomach.

As a female panellist said ON TV this week (sorry – her name escapes me!), while she respected the desire of homosexuals to get married in a Christian church, she couldn’t personally understand it; the bible clearly says that homosexuality is wrong and homosexuals should be stoned, so why would a homosexual couple want to get married in, and condone, a faith whose teachings said that? She had a point.

I far prefer the quote below.

File:Mohandas K. Gandhi, portrait.jpg


“You must learn to be still in the midst of activity and to be vibrantly alive in repose.”
Indira Gandhi

Yep. That’ll do.

U is for Underrated: The Disney Film Nobody Knows

Underrated: rated or evaluated too low; underestimated.

A-ha! I remembered! Here we are at last on ‘underrated’, as promised in my E is for Enthralling: The Fantasy and Sci-Fi Books that Got Me Hooked post:

Lloyd Alexander: The Chronicles of Prydain 

They’re brilliant, and based on Welsh mythology. Never heard of them? Er… ever heard of the Disney film, The Black Cauldron? That’s not that surprising either. Taking its title from the 2nd book, yet loosely based on books 1 and 2, it was “the first Disney animated theatrical feature to receive a PG rating. It even had to be edited twice to avoid being released with a PG-13 or R rating” (IMDB).  It’s popularly known as ‘the film that nearly finished Disney’. I’ll explain why in my ‘U for Underrated’ blog post. 


So let’s look at the film.

First, according to Wikipedia, ‘The Black Cauldron is notable for being the world’s first full-length animated feature film to incorporate the use of computer generated imagery in its animation.’ Well that sounds ok. 

Second, Lloyd Alexander, the author of the books on which the film was based, had an interesting complex reaction to the film in an interview with Scholastic about his books: 

“First, I have to say, there is no resemblance between the movie and the book. Having said that, the movie in itself, purely as a movie, I found to be very enjoyable. I had fun watching it. What I would hope is that anyone who sees the movie would certainly enjoy it, but I’d also hope that they’d actually read the book. The book is quite different. It’s a very powerful, very moving story, and I think people would find a lot more depth in the book.”

I have to agree there. But I think there are two reasons why the film wasn’t popular: the characters and story were too complex for the audience, and the story was too dark.

Because third: the story is very dark and this horrified just about everyone.

File:The Black Cauldron poster.jpg

According to IMDb’s notes, after changes in Disney management during production, ‘new studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg screened the mostly-completed film and was appalled by its darkness’ and asked the producer, Joe Hale,  to cut 10 minute of it. Joe and Roy Disney managed to cut 6 minutes that they thought would have little impact, But Katzenberg wasn’t happy. Despite their protests he ‘brought the film into an editing bay and began cutting it himself’. Joe Hale said that eventually [Katzenberg] cut out about 12 minutes, which really hurt the picture.” The cuts were very clumsy and the Horned King wasn’t much of a villain once his habit of zombie-making was glossed over.

It was supposedly Disney’s attempt to gather teen fans, but it backfired.

According to animation artist Michael Peraza Jr., when Disney started having screenings for the public at the studio theater to gather their reactions to the rough cut of this film, he knew that the “un-dead” section would most likely be revolting to some in the audience who would not expect to see a bunch of rotted corpses slowly fermenting. When the film reached the “un-dead” sections close to the end of the film, the doors opened and a mother was angrily leaving with her two wailing children. She was followed by another, and soon there was a sizeable exodus of crying kids and upset parents fleeing from the theater. The un-dead sections were quickly cut from the film. IMDb

With its dodgy editing, changes in animators and producers,  5 torturous years in production and the loss of the grittier and more compelling scenes, it was a massive flop financially and critical reviews were mixed but often negative. It took years of nagging to get a VHS release (1998), then a DVD release (2000). Finally in September 2010, Disney released a 25th Anniversary Edition DVD, which we own, with one of the deleted sections featuring The Fairfolk. Wkipedia

And we own it because it is underrated. Yes, it could be a lot better, but you do get a sense of the story and it’s refreshing not to be confronted by the  nauseating, weak ‘judge-me-by my-looks-because-I-don’t-have-any-brains, kiss-me-without-my-permission (or even my consciousness), save me, save me, I’ll-sacrifice-anything-for-you, marry-me-oh-my-hero’ Disney Princesses. It was a great book and the film does have a dark charm.

So should you get the chance, I recommend a watch.


T is for Timid: Timid Creatures

For some truly beautiful pictures of timid creatures, look no further than this amazing photo post by Tanja Askani that I found on Pet Junction, called, aptly enough, Timid Creatures.

Since we’ve moved to Cambridgeshire we’ve experienced some timid creatures of our own. We have lots of squirrel visitors (sometimes timid, sometimes not!) and birds – I’m a bit biased towards the Blue Tits and Robins as I’d only seen Blue Tits in real life in Scotland, and Robins never! So they’re still a novelty for me after 7 years.

File:Long eared owl young gfdl.jpeg
Photo by Tom Maack


What I love most though is hearing the owls call to each other at night. Previously we’ve had small Long-Eared Owls, with their ‘rusty gate’ or ‘squeaky hinge’ call – of course we can’t see them in the dark, but if we could this is what they would look like!


Cute, huh? And they really DO sound like a squeaky hinge.



File:Tawny Owl (4570449055).jpg
Photo by Magnus Manske




Last night we were lucky enough to hear Tawny Owls for the first time.

They were calling to each other and their call is a lot more like the typical ‘owl noise’! It was lovely.


I rather enjoy being surrounded by timid creatures – even when I only hear them!

S is for Sentimental: The William Morris Rule

Sentimental: of or prompted by feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia.

Short of time today, so… what am I sentimental about?

I’m very rarely sentimental about things just for their own sake. Someone said to me recently that you should hand nearly everything down in families because throwing someone’s possessions away is like throwing them away. I don’t agree. How long do you keep things for? How many generations are expected to keep this stuff as it grows into piles around them, cluttering up their lives and their homes long after the person they were owned by has faded from people’s memories decades ago?

File:Clutter in basement.jpg

No, things only have any sentimental value for me if they remind me of a time, place or person I care about. And I don’t believe we need to keep everything that belonged to a person to remember them; a few things that have a meaning for us, or a happy memory attached, are enough.

Not sad memories – things that make us sad should go. Life’s too short to put yourself through that kind of misery. If something reminds you only of a time you failed, lost someone, hurt somebody or made the wrong decision, then ditch it.

I’m sentimental about the letter-rack in my hallway because my Dad bought a plain one and varnished a cute picture he knew I would like on to the front. I’m sentimental about certain pieces of music because he loved them.

And I’m sentimental about a collection of small shoes and socks, the odd baby toy, photo, picture or simple story that I’ve tucked away as my children have grown up (and grown and grown until they’re taller than me). I’ve also got some photos and mementoes of holidays, and some cards that are special to me.

Other than that, I try to stick to the William Morris rule:

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

Obviously I check my husband daily to make sure he still fits the criteria…








R is for Relevant:

Relevant: Having a bearing on or connection with the matter at hand.

Writers, you’ll be pleased to know that this post is relevant to you. That’s not even a pun.

The first interesting hit I got for relevant – and I emphasise, interesting – was this:

Young, Fresh and Relevant

is a yearly open submission journal with the aim of carving a space for writing within the visual arts. YFR hopes to be accessible for a new generation of young (in their practice rather than age) artists who may never have had their writing published, as well as aiming to attract practitioners who are more familiar with the Art Writing / publishing scene.

The editors say ‘There is currently no open call but email us anyway with texts, images, questions or invitations.’

The journal is available from a select group of libraries and bookshops in London, Glasgow. Ghent, Berlin and Tokyo – addresses are on the home page.

And as I’m behind again – that’s all, folks!