ThunderCats Are Back With A New 2011 TV series

Of all the animated series I watched as a kid back in the 80′s, ThunderCats was probably the one I enjoyed the most, and that popped up first in my mind whenever I took a little trip down memory lane throughout the years.

I’m not sure what it was exactly that fascinated me about it all and what got me so hooked on it and attached to the different characters and storyline; but it’s safe to say that it stuck to me, and still is to this day in some way; in fact, one of my favorite t-shirts that I wear whenever I can is a ThunderCats shirt I bought a few years back from an HMV store.

Enough about the past though, let’s return to the present; the ThunderCats are back!
Yes, Warner Bros. Animation have rebooted the series with animation provided by the Japanese Studio 4°C, and it’s currently airing on the Cartoon Network every Friday night.

I realized this after the series had already started, and only got to catch up with all the 7 episodes that have been aired so far this past weekend. And it was really fun watching it; the little boy in me just loved it!

Initially I was afraid they’d mess it all up and ruin it for me and other fans, but I have to say they’ve done quite a good job with it. The only thing that irked me a bit is the new look the different characters got, I like their looks from the original series much better; in this version they all have this Japanese anime elf-like look, which is annoying and doesn’t fit some of the characters at all (especially Lion-O and Cheetara).

Other than that though, it’s really good and fun; they took the story back and gave the characters more history and personality, developing the story slightly differently than the original, but still in an interesting way, where instead of the Cats being stranded on a new planet as in the original, they actually rule Third Earth and are seen by some as the powerful oppressors, who are attacked and their city of Thundera targeted and destroyed.

The story at this point follows Lion-O as he takes on the role of King after the passing of his father, and as he goes on a quest to find the Book of Omens.

Another great thing about this new 2011 series is that I got to introduce my 5 year old son Adam to it, and he just loved it too. In fact, as I was writing this he saw the image I included above and started asking if we could watch some other episodes of ThunderCats today.

At the end of this post, all I can say is that I really enjoyed watching the new series and will be making sure to watch the new episodes every week.

As for you dear reader, if you were a fan of ThunderCats in the 80′s, then you should definitely check this out; if you weren’t, well this is your chance to redeem yourself and discover a great series.

My Wimpy Memories

WimpyMark just posted about his bad experience with Wimpy yesterday, which reminded me of my own experience with the same fast food chain.

Let me start from the very beginning, somewhere around 20 years ago or even more, back when I was a little kid in Zimbabwe, we used to have this routine as a family, where we’d go to the movies and then on our way out have a nice meal at the next door Wimpy.
It was so delicious, their burgers were some of the best you could find, juicy fresh and simply awesome, the taste stayed with me for years.

Then we came back to Tunisia, and as there are no international food chains here, there was no Wimpy, well no official one, there’s this small rip-off of a fast food place in La Goulette that has a Wimpy logo on it, but well that doesn’t count.

Years later, in 1996, when I moved to Jordan to study university, I was greeted with a couple of Wimpy restaurants, one near the northern gate of the University of Jordan, and one in downtown Amman.

The childhood memories came rushing back through my head and taste buds, and I told my dear friend and room-mate at the time about it and how we had to go eat at Wimpy asap.

Unfortunately, that was one of the biggest food-related disappointments in my life, they totally sucked, it was nothing like the Wimpy I remembered, the burgers were tasteless, and when we ordered chicken it wasn’t well cooked, pretty much raw, and when we told them that they said the chicken was especially made using their secret formula and cooking method, to which I could only answer that I didn’t care what they called it, in the end the chicken was raw and inedible.

I never went back, and the two spots I knew of in Amman shut down a short time after that.

After a little search online, it seems the chain isn’t doing much better elsewhere. It’s really a shame. Wimpy will always hold a nice spot in my old childhood memories, but it obviously ends there.

Childhood, Illness And Missing School

While doing some random surfing, I came across a list of the top 5 illnesses that cause kids to miss school.

These illnesses are as follows:

1. The Common Cold
2. The Stomach Flu
3. Ear Infection
4. Pink Eye
5. Sore Throat

The main two that I personally got hit with as a kid, and that kept me from going to school sometimes, were the common cold and sore throat.
Until I ruined it for myself, that is…

The thing is that after a few times of falling sick and not having to go to school, I found that the best solution to not go to school on those days when I just didn’t feel like it was to act like I’m sick.
So I’d fake coughing, sneezing, having a sore throat, fevers and whatever was necessary to get me out of going to school, and it worked like a charm. It was almost the perfect crime.
But the problem is that once my father left, and school had already started, I’d be up and about, perfectly healthy, jumping around, running, playing and having the time of my life.

Needless to say, everyone noticed that, it’s hard to stay discrete with all your fun and games at that age, so after a number of times of me doing it, and then getting myself caught in the act, a decision was taken…

The decision more or less went as follows: No matter how ill you are, you’re going to school. Even if you’re dying, you go to school and then come back home and die.

Of course, I’m exaggerating a bit, and of course I did get to stay at home when I was really sick, but my acting days were mainly over and I had to cope with going to school everyday whether I felt like it or not, well at least most of the times.

Things I Miss From My Childhood In Tunisia

I miss, oh do I miss:

– The 5 millime biscuits we used to eat so much of.
– The Stil yogurts we used to shake, bite a hole in and drink.
– The cheap granite (lemon & strawberry) ice cream.
– The collectable cards (tsawer) and marbles (bees) we used to play with and collect.
– The small bunny-bunny firecrackers.
– The soccer matches in the middle of the neighbourhood.
– The hours of watching kaaboul, baseet, sasuki and the other cartoons.
– The trees we used to climb up.
– The times we were almost caught for doing something naughty but were able to run away.
– The way we used to sneak into strangers’ weddings to get some sweets and then leave before getting caught.
– The way we used to get out of being forced to take a nap after lunch in the summertime.
– The long summer days spent at the beach and the sandwiches we eat there peppered with sand.
– The afternoon sandwiches made with whatever we found around that was edible.

Those and so many other things I miss from my childhood in Tunisia, but most of all, I miss that beautiful and pure innocence of childhood, the freedom and irresponsibility.
Oh what beautiful days those were. I wish I could revisit them just for a day.

Manimal (The 80’s TV Series)

Today at work while joking about something, the idea of morphing images came up (ok we’re geeks!), and somewhere in the back of my head a little thread was launched down memory lane, reminding me of this short-lived TV series called “Manimal”, that I used to watch in my childhood.

The series was about a certain Dr. Jonathan Chase, a shape-shifting man who could turn himself into any animal to fight crime. The role of Jonathan Chase was played by actor Simon McCorkindale.

Only 8 episodes were made of this series before it was axed due to poor ratings, which I thought was a shame.
Of course, those days being the 80’s and it being a TV production, the special effects used were less than spectacular, but still as a child I really enjoyed it and loved the idea of a man who could tranform himself into any animal.

In reality his onscreen transformations were almost always into a black panther or hawk, using the exact same backdrops each time, in order to save on the budget by using the same footage. I remember he also became a snake once, which was a bit weird and left me a bit confused for some reason. In other episodes he also turned into a bull and horse, but the transformations occurred off-screen.

Anyway, it was a nice series, that I was allowed to stay up to watch, and I really enjoyed every episode of it. I think that if given a second chance with today’s technologies, it could work out better and maybe become a hit.
Until that happens, it’ll just have to live on as another little piece of my childhood memories, and the memories of others who watched it.

[More: IMDB, Wikipedia]

Summertime Naps

Summer is here, it means the most to children, soon school will be over for this year, and all the different summer activities will begin taking place. I remember how great it felt when summer came at last, promising us a 3 month break from school, and the rigid serious routine we had to keep up with for a whole 9 months.

I have many great summertime memories that I might get around to sharing here, but in this post, I’m going to write about a specific memory that flashed back to me a couple of days ago.

As a kid, I spent most of my summer away from home, either in Bizerta, my home city in the north coast of Tunisia, with my uncles enjoying the best beaches in the country or in Manouba, an agricultural area, on my late grandfather’s farm playing away with my cousins.

I remember in Manouba how one of my aunts, a different one each day, used to gather all us children up after lunch, put us into a room full of beds and tell us, actually force us, to take a nap. I hated naps, and I didn’t want to waste any valuable day time sleeping. I wanted to play, run, climb up trees, and just have as much fun as possible.
But, the aunt, whose role it was to put us to sleep that day, would stand in my way of doing that; she’d put us into beds, and keep checking on us until she was sure we were asleep.

But, no way was I going to let someone impose their will on me! So, again I tap into my acting skills, and I play the good boy who does exactly as he’s told, and I’m the first to jump into a bed, and the first to fall into this angelic like sleep.
The other kids go to sleep one by one. My aunt checks on us and finds us all deep asleep, including me, but little does she know that even though I seem to be away in slumber land and my eyes seem shut, I’m actually just acting as if I’m asleep and watching her by not closing my eyes too tightly.

The moment she leaves the room, and I hear her footsteps going out to sit with my other aunts to drink some green tea and talk about whatever it is that women talk about, I get up and I start waking up all the other children.

When they’re all awake, with me making sure they don’t make any noises, I’d take them slowly to the window of an adjacent room. The window overlooks some sort of pool that old Tunisian houses have, it had fish in it and it wasn’t that deep, but deep enough to be dangerous for some children. I actually remember someone telling me that some kid drowned in it once.

I’d step out of the window onto the narrow ledge seperating it from the cold waters that lie beneath, then I’d help the other children out one by one, slowly getting them along the ledge to safe ground.
Once I got everyone out, I’d lead them out of the rear door to the fields, and there we’d either start playing a game together or break up for everyone to go and do whatever he feels like.

I’ll never forget the time when we decided to play catch, and we started running after each other, all around the field and the house, and how everyone, especially my aunt were shocked to see us run across the yard in front of them, shouting and trying to catch each other, when they thought we were deeply asleep in our beds.

After me doing this a number of times, they gave up on me, and started putting the other children to sleep, while I got to roam around freely, climbing my favourite trees, picking and eating the freshest fruits, and doing whatever I wished, free like a bird.

My Little Story With Racism

I think that my upbringing, plus the fact that I grew up in Zimbabwe and also my getting to travel a lot, meeting different people and having friends from all races and nationalities, makes me one of the people who are the farthest from racism as possible.

I’m not just one of those people who go on about how they’re not racist but then say that it’s impossible for them to marry someone from this race or that, or who feel somehow superior to people from a certain nationality or race, and that list of contradictions goes on…
No, I’m someone who is genuinely un-racist. I wouldn’t have even hesitated to marry a woman from any other race or nationality if I truly fell in love with her. I have friends from all over the world who are different from me in race, nationality, religion and more; yet when I’m with them I don’t feel one bit of difference.

Anyway, what reminded me of all this is this experience I had when I was a kid in Zimbabwe, in which I was a victim of racism and not the opposite.

I must’ve been around 8 years old or so, and we lived in this compound which mainly consisted of families of foreigners, who were there for work or who newly settled in the country.

I had a number of friends from England, Greece and Portugal within the compound, and I had a bunch of Zimbabwean friends who lived in nearby buildings.

One of my black Zimbabwean friends belonged to a poor family that lived in a little house made of tin, not too far from the compound we lived in.
I really liked him and enjoyed playing with him a lot. I’d go around with other Zimbabwean friends sometimes and other times on my own, and we’d go out and play all kinds of games; Almost anything is enjoyable when you’re a kid.

Our friendship grew, and all was great until his father knew about it and he started telling his son not to play with me because I was white.

I thought that was unfair, and I didn’t understand why such a thing could matter at all, so I didn’t give up and I kept sneaking over to my friend’s place to take him out to play.

His father caught me while sneaking in a number of times and started running after me with a stick, trying to scare me away from coming back to play with his son, but I’d just outrun him, jump over fences, go through some of my other friend’s houses to lose him, and then just run back to take his son out to play before he got back.

It was a challenge for me. I wouldn’t tolerate someone judging me by my colour. How come he let his son play with other black kids, but stopped him when it came to me?!
And so I went on coming back time and time again.

In the end he just gave up; I think he finally realized I was unstoppable and that I would go on playing with his son whether he liked it or not.

That memory still passes through my mind every now and then, and makes me wish that we were all more like children, and that we’d stop judging each other for all the stupid reasons we put between us. Why can’t we all just accept each other for what we are and embrace our differences and accept them as enriching elements that make each one of us unique.

Dogs & Me

I remember when I was a little kid, I had this big fear of dogs, especially ones that liked to bark a lot when running up to you, no matter how small they were.
It scared the hell out of me, I’d panic and run away at the sight of a dog.

My mom used to tell me that dogs smell fear and that I had to try and act all cool about it so they wouldn’t bother me. But being a kid, that was all blah blah to me, how was I supposed to keep myself together while a dog was running towards me, barking their ass off and showing me their shiny teeth. Impossible.

Until one incident made me change my mind…

In Zimbabwe, for some years we lived in a penthouse on the ninth floor of a building. It was really cool, and had a great view. I also remember when Hayley’s comet passed by, all the neighbours came up to see it from our roof.

Anyway, one day when my mom and I were waiting for the elevator to go up to our place, one of the neighbours walked in with her dog. The woman was one of those snobby short-haired blondes and her dog was a small white poodle, but a nasty ferocious one, or at least that’s how I saw it then.
It was unleashed and this hairy little thing just came running at me, barking in this annoying tone. I panicked and ran for the stairs and started leaping up them like my life depended on it. By the time I got to the ninth floor, I was breathless and totally pooped out.

That day I took the decision that no dog was going to make me have to go through that again, especially not that tiny dumb one, and that I’d just have to learn how to deal with it. I started turning my mother’s words around in my head, trying to find a solution for my problem and putting a plan together.

Luckily enough, I had the gift of acting, and so my plan was to act as if I wasn’t scared of dogs and as if they weren’t even there in the first place. Pretty shaky for a plan, but hey I was just a little kid at the time and that’s the best I could come up with.

Time went by and yet again we ran into the same neighbour and her stupid dog. I panicked, but I was determined to stick to my plan. The dog, as if with pure evil in his eyes, ran up to me, barking and all, and I just stood there, about to do it in my pants, but doing my best not to show it, trying to keep up a conversation with my mother, which I’m almost sure became pretty senseless.
The dog turned around me a few times, sniffing around, like the fear detector that it is, was dissapointed, threw me a bad look from the corner of its eye, and then just shut up and left. That moment was one of ultimate victory for me, I had prevailed.
From that day on, I would never be afraid of any dog no matter how big they were, how scary they looked or how loud they barked.

And that’s mostly true, if I count out the occasional huge rabid dogs jumping at me out of nowhere on a dark night.

Lately I’ve been thinking that maybe the same approach could work with people.

What’s My Name?!

Having two names was never an easy thing for me, even though I don’t think it’s that complicated or weird. Plus it’s a very normal and common thing in Tunisia.
I actually see it as one name: “Mohamed Marwen” as a whole entity. Although I did amuse myself sometimes by thinking that “Mohamed” is the good side of me, while “Marwen” is the dark one.

Anyway, it seems that some people just need to have one name or else they get a system failure error somewhere in their mental address book.

So, as a child growing up in Zimbabwe, all my friends called me Mohamed because they thought it was my first name and Marwen was my second one. Plus I guess they found it easier to say than Marwen in english.

Then when we moved back to Tunisia, everyone called me Marwen. This is due mainly to the popularity of Mohamed as a name, so if there is any another option that’s the one they’ll go for. Still, some in the family called me Mohamed for no particular reason.

And then I went to Jordan, and that’s where the real problems started. When I’d meet new people, I’d start to tell them my name was “Mohamed Marwen”, but then to avoid the whole story of me having two names and why, which isn’t as common there, I’d just say “Mohamed”.
But, the problem is that some other people were introduced to me through some Tunisian friends of mine. These people would come to know me as “Marwen”.

So as if it wasn’t enough that some people felt I had so many personalities mixed up in me, I was also known to people by two different names, and they thought that I was two different people.

I remember once in university, two people were talking and one of them was telling the other about this Tunisian guy they know who’s called “Marwen”, and the other said they also knew a Tunisian guy whose name was “Mohamed”, and they were both talking about how they should meet these two interesting Tunisian guys.
As they talked, they found so many similarities between these supposedly two different people, and they started feeling a bit weird. By coincidence, I was passing by, and both of them saw me and were like “There’s the guy I’m talking about” at the same time, and then they sure felt a lot weirder.

Other times, I’d be with someone who knows me by a certain name, when someone else comes up and uses the other one, only leaving the first person feeling lost, confused, tricked even.

Each time I’d have to go through the process of explaining how I have this compound name, that I didn’t know why the hell I did, and that they could call me whatever they wanted to. I had to have my receivers ready to be called by any combination of the two names anyway.

Now, there’s a new trend some people I know are starting, they’re calling me by my last name “Meddah”. That’s neat. As if I needed more names in the first place.
Oh and let’s not forget the people who choose to call me “Subzero” or “Subzero Blue”.

It seems the nightmare will never end…

Acting My Way Out Of School

When I was a kid, I remember how I used to fake being sick so that I could stay at home and not go to school. I’d fake everything, from the fever to the exhaustion to the cough or the throat-ache, to every single detail.
My mother would find me in that situation and after some inspection declare me sick, and my father would just go out to work without having to drop me at school on his way.

15 minutes after my dad’s departure, as if by a miracle, I’d be up and well again, running, jumping and doing all sorts of things all over the house; partly because that’s what children always do and mainly to announce my victory over my parents and how I was able to get my way.
Pretty evil for a kid, maybe, but weren’t we all little devils at that age.

After doing the same routine a number of times, with different variations to keep it working, it seems my mother got fed up of me winning, and so she decided that “even if I was dying, I’d go to school and then come back home to die!”

Of course she didn’t mean it, and of course I got away with a number of other acts, but well it’s one of those sweet funny memories that will remain engraved in my memory forever.
I love you mom 🙂