The Obscurer

Category: Fimbles

Into The Valley Of Death

Following the drainage work done on our house to prevent it from subsiding into the mud, and the subsequent mayhem of having to cram four rooms worth of our accumulated belongings into a room-and-a-half while the plasterers and painters erased all memories of the cracks in the walls upstairs, we decided to take advantage of our insurance-financed first-floor “year zero” by awarding ourselves all some new bedroom furniture. So it is that my wife and I have been enjoying to the full all the associated pleasures of flat-pack assembly; the dowels, the barrel nuts, the instructions simplified to the point of incomprehensibility, and of course the inevitable accompanying medical complaint of “Allen key thumb”.

Through this chaos we managed to stumble upon my son’s old Fimbo toy, a first birthday present from my brother, if memory serves. Delighted, my son took it away to play with, but soon returned ashen faced, stating that Fimbo was “too scary.” Understandable, I thought; I always felt there was something not quite right about old Fimbo, which is why it was the perfect choice as the picture on my old Blogger profile, and is still the image for my About page, Gravatar, and so on. More specifically, however, I reckoned my son had simply forgotten that this Fimbo was the talking version – if you press its tummy it emits one of its famous phrases from The Fimbles television programme – so when it started to speak my son got a bit of a harmless shock, as anyone would.

But having now heard Fimbo for myself, I wonder if my son may indeed be onto something. Over the past few years has the absence of human contact driven poor Fimbo completely mad, or into the arms of someone or something much darker? See for yourself, if you can stand it. Too scary? I certainly think so.

Animated Liszt

If you were paying attention at the tail end of last year (and there’s no particular reason why you should have been) then you’ll know that I like cartoons, and Tom & Jerry in particular. I’ll regularly watch a couple of their animated shorts with my son last thing before we pack him off to bed, while my daughter sits at our feet massaging a carefully concealed piece of banana into her hair. It would be a cruel assignment, but if anyone were to force me to pick my favourite Tom & Jerry cartoon then I would probably plump for The Cat Concerto; you’ll likely know the one, where Tom attempts to play a piano recital in front of a concert audience while Jerry, apparently a resident of the piano, at first tries to sleep through the performance but in the end decides to play merry hell with Tom, as is his wont.

It is not only a beautiful piece of animation – winning the 1946 Oscar for Best Short Subject: Cartoon – but I think the music featured in the cartoon is fantastic, and so I wanted to find out what it is. Wikipedia was its usual helpful self, informing me that the piece of music in question is Hungarian Rhapsody #2 by Franz Liszt; but it also told me something more. Under the heading “Controversy” Wikipedia reveals the intriguing story that in the same year The Cat Concerto was produced, Warner Bros released a Bugs Bunny short, Rhapsody Rabbit, that – wait for it – features the central protagonist trying to play Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody #2 in front of a concert audience while a mouse inside the piano causes all sorts of mayhem. Both cartoons were nominated for an Oscar in the same category, and understandably there were claims of plagiarism; but who copied whom, or whether it was all just a bizarre coincidence (the same piece of music having also been used in numerous other cartoons) has never been resolved. Instinctively I would assume that if anyone copied anyone it would be Warner Bros that copied MGM, what with a mouse already being an established part of the latter’s star double act, but Peter Gimpel, son of the pianist who played on the Bugs Bunny cartoon, offers a plausible alternative in this fascinating article.

It is unlikely that we will ever know the truth for sure, and due to current terrestrial broadcasting policy we will probably never get the chance to watch either cartoon on telly; but thanks again to the wonder of YouTube there are a number of copies of the cartoons held on their servers, and I present them to you today, as a sort of 29th of February gift. If this blog is still here in four years time I may do something similar then, if I think on, and if you’re good. Which cartoon is the better? Well for me it is a clear win for Tom & Jerry, but I am probably a bit biased, so why not take a look and decide for yourself?

The Cat Concerto

Rhapsody Rabbit

Dropping A Gear

Word arrives of a terrible event in the World of Clarkson.

When CDs containing the banking details of seven million Britons went missing late last year, Jeremy Clarkson insisted it was a storm in a teacup.

To prove no one would be able to access money by using the records, the outspoken broadcaster and columnist published his own bank details.

Now, however, the Top Gear host has ended up with egg on his face – after one entrepreneurial thief removed £500 from his account.

The fraudster set up a direct debit using Clarkson’s bank account details and paid the money to the British Diabetic Association, one of many organisations which do not require a signature to set up a direct debit.

Writing in his newspaper column, Clarkson, 47, said: “Back in November, the Government lost two computer discs containing half the population’s bank details.

“Everyone worked themselves into a right old lather about the mistake but I argued we should all calm down because the details in question are to be found on every cheque we hand out every day to every Tom, Dick and cash and carry.

“To hammer the point home I even printed my own bank account number and sort code.

“And guess what? I opened my bank statement this morning to find out that someone has set up a direct debit which automatically takes £500 from my account.

“The bank cannot find out who did this because of the Data Protection Act and they cannot stop it from happening again.”

A very sad state of affairs. Sad, obviously, that the prankster didn’t manage to set up a direct debit for Friends of the Earth, RoSPA or a similar organisation that would really wind up the fool. Far worse though is that I wrote a fairly sanguine post on the whole HMRC lost discs fiasco back in November that made much the same point that I now realise Clarkson also made; and that is sad indeed.

But there is still some hope. Clarkson now states that

“I was wrong and I have been punished for my mistake.”

“Contrary to what I said at the time, we must go after the idiots who lost the discs and stick cocktail sticks in their eyes until they beg for mercy.”

So he has changed his mind, which is at least something; he is no longer my ally, and even when he was I was blissfully ignorant of the fact. The worry is, though, that if we have agreed on this one matter, could we agree on others? Doubtful; but just to make sure I don’t upset myself I vow never again to read anything written by the silly sod.

Strange Kind Of Urgency

So. This morning we’re trying to get my son ready for school, and not unusually it seems to be taking ages; every time his mother or I turn our backs he stops putting on his jumper, or his socks, he stops fastening his shoes, and when we return we instead find him staring at the TV, or looking at a book, or fiddling with the In The Night Garden figures his sister received for her birthday (yes, one year old yesterday; isn’t that a pip!)

Hard to blame him, I suppose; I too would be taking things at my own sweet pace had I a choice, but the fact is that I don’t. The reason that my wife and I are rushing around while he ambles along is that he has no concept of time. While for us a glance at the clock spurs us on there is no such pressure on a child; while for us running late has real potential consequences, a child is unaware of any responsibility. For my son Mummy and Daddy are forever there to sort things out, and he always eventually gets dressed and to school (more or less) on time regardless. As a result, as my son is getting ready, and unlike his parents, he feels no sense of urgency.

No sense of urgency! Now I remember using that phrase recently in a different context, but when was it? Let me think now…mmm…now then… think, think, think…erm…of course! That’s it! I said it umpteen times last week to describe the attitude of the players as England were contriving to throw away that vital football match against Croatia that confirmed I will have to support another nation – probably Spain – in Euro 2008. Then I used the phrase a number of times the following day too, during the post-mortem at work and in the pub.

And now I remember another couple of things, from a few years back; of Razor “Neil” Ruddock describing how baffling real life seemed once his career as a professional footballer was over because the simplest things such as phoning his GP had previously been done for him; how David Beckham once explained that the reason his car’s tax disc was missing was because he expected someone else would have sorted it out. Are these I wonder examples of a sort of arrested development, a delayed adulthood on the part of our professional footballers? Could this extended childhood explain that lack of urgency on display last week, so that even when the spectators in the stands and on their settees where anxiously staring at the clock, our spoiled and pampered representatives on the pitch meandered on regardless, their lives devoid of any real consequence shy of losing a trip abroad next summer, safe as they were in the knowledge that it would be left to others to pay the price or pick up the pieces of their failure to qualify?

And if this “childishness” analogy is an accurate assessment of the evidence we have all witnessed, then I am left to ponder on that other frequently heard excuse for the poor performances of our teams abroad when they so often fail to bring home the spoils; that our footballers play far too many games, that the rigours of our domestic leagues wear out our talented players, and that you can clearly see from the way they play that our lads are simply too tired. Interesting; because as every parent knows when they offer an apology for their child’s behaviour, sometimes when we say “I think s/he’s a little bit tired” we are purely dealing in euphemism.

Only A Northern Rock

You can keep that one. It’s free. Well, it’s got to be better than “Between a Northern Rock and a hard place” and all the other similar, equally obvious and unimaginative headlines recently. But to be honest, I don’t want to talk about the current turmoil in the financial markets. I mean honestly; pensioners being criticised for being naïve as they take their life savings out of Northern Rock, while city institutions do the same thing with their money but without censure; laissez-faire, capitalism-red-in-tooth-and-claw-government-should-just-get-out-of-the-way free-marketeer types squealing for state intervention; it all seems beyond parody to me, but then fortunately I don’t really know what I’m talking about.

No, far better to simply announce, albeit late in the day, that we still have a few minutes left of…

International Talk Like A Pirate Day! Quick quick, me hearties, there be not much time to go!