Cartoon lessons

Posting thoughts I wrote in 2007…

WHILE spending light moments with friends, the name of Muttley popped up. I can’t recall how he came into the conversation, but he was there all right.

The young ones might ask, “Who is Muttley?”

And so I will walk you to the world of Davao televiewers of the 1970s and early 80s. Yes, dear children, a century ago (joke!). Muttley is the dog in “The Wacky Races”. “The Wacky Races” is a Hannah Barbera cartoon that came along with “The Mighty Mightor” and “Shazzan” and was all about… racers. Like how to win, what to do to cheat on your opponents, and why Double Zero always loses. Double Zero was the car of the villain, Muttley’s master, whom the dog doesn’t really share the villanous streak with. Muttley, to all of us televiewers of the 1970s and early 1980s (at the time Janice de Belen was still popular as Flordeluna and still had cute chubby baby fats instead of motherhood poundage and Aga Muhlach, much less Richard Gomez, was not discovered yet) was most remembered for his snickers whenever his master fell into the booby trap the villain master has set for other racers.

And then the problem…. darn, what was the master’s name????

Like the last song syndrome, this set off that never-ending search through long-retired braincells in a grand search for the name of Muttley’s master, you know, that darn restless state we get into whenever we try to recall something that is just flittering in the almost forgotten fringes of our memory, and couldn’t quite really grab it?

The question lingered, popping up when I’m alone, with no one to ask from not talk to because the days have been so busy, such a question is shoved into the forgotten realms during regular hours and pops up anew when things and the world have settled down… to sleep, usually at around 2 to 3 a.m.

Finally, three days (make that nights spent lying in bed, wondering whom to ask at the wee hours of the morning) a name pops out from the near-forgotten fringes of aging braincells — Dick Dastardly. Gotcha.

By then, you have already seen the whole race pass by, several times.

Dick’s favorite victim-to-be Penelope Pitstop; Rufus Ruffcut on the Buzz Wagon; the Bullet Proof Bomb by The Ant Hill Mob (those cute little mosters called Clyde, Ding-a-Ling, Zippy, Rockets, Snozzy, Softy [yes, a mobster who doesn’t have the heart to be one]); Ring-a-Ding Convert-a-Car driven by Prof. Pat Pending, a vehicle that constantly changes shape and looked like some lab experiment; the Turbo Terrific driven by Peter Perfect, who was always trying to woo Penelope Pitstop; the Creepy Coupe driven by Gruesome Twosome (Big and Little Gruesome), their car looking like a haunted house; the Bouldermobile driven by the Slag Brothers named Rock and Gravel (these cavemen brothers powered their car by hitting their heads with clubs)… there were several others that never made it even in the half-forgotten folders of aging braincells… maybe they were not impressive enough, maybe they were not given enough airtime, maybe I didn’t like them when I was a kid… who would ever know how a kid files memories, anyway?

And like that question about who Muttley’s master was, I was stopped on my tracks again. Indeed, who would ever know how a kid files memories? Which stays in, which are forgotten, which are not even noticed? Maybe we will never know, because by the time we start wondering, we are already old, and have forgotten how it is to be a child.

At least my childhood brains remembered The Wacky Races, because somehow there was something good learned as well that remained in the half-forgotten fringes of aging braincells. In a race with so many characters, only one actually cheated, and he would always fail to win anyway. And that was Dick Dastardly. Those were the days when simple values held so much fun and there will alwasy be just one bad guy.

Today, we watch the news and see the dastardly acts both private and public personas can hatch up, and then we move on to the telenovela and see more kontrabidas than bida all of them raising an eyebrow or giving out a modulated belly-jinggling laugh (depends on the gender), and then we long for the days when our afternoon started with the voice of the man shouting, “And here come the Wacky Races!”

“Contemplate the workings of this world, listen to the words of the wise, and take all that is good as your own. With this as your base, open your own door to truth. Do not overlook the truth that is right before you. Study how water flows in a valley stream, smoothly and freely between the rocks. Also learn from holy books and wise people. Everything – even mountains, rivers, plants and trees – should be your teacher.” — Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido

And I say, yes, even the cartoons of long ago can be our teachers, we simply have to contemplate… lose some sleep maybe in that restless dance of a half-forgotten memory trying to be remembered, and then… learn. (saestremera, Sun.Star Davao, January 14, 2007)


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