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C.S.I killed Swat Kats

When I was a mere child, I used to live by the clock thanks to school and my mother trying to beat some punctuality in me. And there was another more overt reason why I paid such close attention to the clock. Yes, there are a few things that can make a kid conscious of time. And one of the most important of them was the cartoons we watched. They made us who we are, and its not education that shapes the future generation, it's the stuff they watch.

I remember how I used to be restless in class, unable to stay still, because I knew that back home, the switched of TV was slowly ticking of one show after another that I would have to watch in the evening. School made watching Centurions on a regular basis hard. That and the fact that my parents made it clear that I would only get 2 hours to watch and only if I finished my homework. It was hard those days, but those 2 hours made all the blood, sweat and toil trying to understand Bangla grammar worth it.

On days when our school was out meant we would wake up at the crack of dawn just to watch the morning Looney Tunes, while chewing extra sweetened cornflakes. We actually sacrificed blessed sleep to watch the shows we loved. To a school going kid, sleep is one those commodities that fast become the rarest of luxuries.

These days, with the advent of a gazillion channels that each have their own version of Cartoon Hour showing the classics and Cartoon Network and Animax dishing out one good show after another, cartoons aren't something the new generation would toil behind to watch. But it's not same is it?

We had shows like GI Joe, Swat Kats, Centurions, Johnny Quest, etc, stuff that had us hooked so hard that missing one show meant sacrilege. Swat Kats had me dreaming of one day owning a garbage dump and then building my own jet fighter, only that dream got crushed when in grade 7 I realized physics just wasn't my thing. Johnny Quest re-invigorated my interest in computers and GI Joe just plain brought out the macho-ness me while centurions had me dreaming of space travel.

These days, though the kids don't even know who or what the Swat Kats are. These days what with Beyblades and Pokemon flooding the market, the only things kids want to be when they grow up is to be a guy who goes around spinning tops. At least we learned to dream big with the cartoons we watched. Dexter's Lab probably inspired all the science freaks to go into the physics lab day in and day out to get that coveted astrophysics degree (yuck).

Ask a kid who's growing up today, what he looks forward to in the day and he is gonna say something like Pokemon every evening. And it's all the same show for everybody. We had more in the form of different things for everybody. Those who didn't like the advanced action in GI Joe watched Adam's Family, those who didn't like the creepy Fester punching himself out watched Captain Planet, and if tree huggy goody goody wasn't your thing, there was always Disney to save the day. There was enough to keep a kid satisfied for hours at an end. These days I've seen 9 years olds watching CSI because there isn't much on Cartoon Network. Way back when, we didn't even acknowledge that the TV could be used for anything other than watching cartoons.

Kids these days don't know what cartoons where all about. With spiffy graphics making everything almost realistic, they don't know what losing yourself into the imagined world of a cartoon is all about. I'm just glad I was born earlier and got to see and experience what I did.

By Tareq Adnan


Remembering Enid Blyton

Once upon a time, long, long before Hogwarts was dreamed into existence, young girls (and maybe a few boys) around the world were wistfully wishing they were in one of two schools - St Claire's and Malory Towers. Instead of Quidditch, they cheered over perfectly real-world tournaments of lacrosse. There was no Hogwarts Express yet, either, but any child wanting a break from reality could climb up the Magic Faraway Tree and escape into marvellous adventures. Harry and the gang hadn't even been conceived yet, but there were the Secret Seven, The Five Find-Outers, and of course, the Famous Five. JK Rowling may have taken the world by storm now, but a long time before she was even born, the literary world had another dream weaver. Her name was Enid Blyton.

Enid Mary Blyton was born on 11 August 1897, in London. The eldest of three children, Blyton's father was a cutlery salesman.

From 1907 to 1915, Blyton was educated at St. Christopher's School in Beckenham, where she excelled at her endeavours, enjoying both the physical activities as well as the academic (save math), and leaving as head girl. Although a talented pianist, she gave up her musical studies, choosing instead to train as a teacher. She taught for five years at Bickley, Surbiton and Chessington, writing in her spare time. Her first book, Child Whispers, a collection of poems, was published in 1922.

In 1924 Blyton married Major Hugh Alexander Pollock, editor of the book department in the publishing firm of George Newnes, which published two of her books that year. The couple had two daughters. The marriage ended in divorce; Blyton subsequently married a London surgeon by the name of Kenneth Fraser Darrell Waters, and had the surnames of her daughters changed to Darrell Waters. The second marriage was a happy one, and when Waters died in 1967, an Alzheimer-stricken Blyton shortly followed him the following year.

Blyton's most famous series was The Famous Five, whose central characters were Julian, Dick, Anne, George, and the dog Timmy. Her works celebrated good food, spirit of comradeship, and honesty. During World War II, when publishing was restricted, Blyton managed to get her works printed. In the following decades she ruled the field of juvenile literature. Blyton could write 10,000 words a day, which enabled her to keep up her prodigious output. By the 1980s, her books had sold some 60 million copies and had been translated into nearly seventy languages. In her lifetime, she published over 600 children's or juvenile books during her 40-year career.

With the children's books market now flooded with a thousand new names, child readers have found new heroes in Potter and Eragon to name a few. The appeal of Blyton's simple and relatable characters, however, remains undiminished. Growing up as I had, with Noddy, and Darrell, and George and her cousins, joining them on their adventures, or learning life lessons with them, I can say that my childhood reads were charming indeed. Here's celebrating you, Enid.

By Sabrina F Ahmad
Reference: wikipedia.org, enidblyton.net

Book review

Wolf Speaker

One thing I hated about school and university was group work. Our teachers would randomly assign different people to work together on some project. If we were very lucky, our group-mates would be people we knew, and we'd complete the assignment without much fuss. Usually, though, there would be at least one stranger, an unknown factor, which meant adjusting to that person, ego tangles and a lot of last minute frustrations. Looking back, now, I realise that these assignments helped me learn a lot about teamwork, empathy and delegation.

Daine finds herself in a similar position in Wolf Speaker, the second book in Tamora Pierce's Immortals series. For those just tuning in, the Immortals series revolves around Veralidaine Sarrasrin, or Daine, a girl gifted with wild magic, which allows her to communicate with, heal, and even command animals.

In this book, Daine answers a call for help from her old friends from the Long Lake Wolf Pack. This takes her to Dunlath, a province in Tortall where she finds that the duke and his courtiers are responsible for unauthorised logging, mining, and employment of magical creatures and monsters for mysterious ends. After consulting with her animal friends as well as her mentor, the great mage Numair Salmalin, she manages to discover that the duke, with the help of the Emperor Mage of the kingdom of Carthak, are plotting to overthrow the king of Tortall, whom Daine serves.

Around this time, Daine also discovers that her powers are growing, so that she can now see through the eyes of her animal friends, if she so chooses, and even shape-shift to take on their form. She also finds that creatures like ogres, and even the half-man half steel bird monsters called Stormwings, which she had previously had to fight, and thus mistrusted, could be potential allies in her quest.

Will she be able to use these new talents to overthrow the conspiracy and warn the king? Will she be able to set aside her dislike of ogres and Stormwings to work with them? Furthermore, could these creatures be trusted? You'll have to read the book to find out.

As mentioned before, this book was written for a young audience, and so the language is simple and flowing. Pierce tries to make some points about ecology and zoology, and similar life sciences by incorporating trivia and scientific terms into her story, so that the book can be at once entertaining and educational. Watch this space for a review of Emperor Mage, the third book in the series, coming your way next week!

By Sabrina F Ahmad



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