Voting Coda

I want to try to avoid off-topic posts from now on, but now that the election is over and the results are known, I do want to take a moment to thank everyone who voted. I don’t know how many, if any, of you were persuaded to vote because of me and my story, but it doesn’t matter. The fact that you voted is the important thing. Thank you. 

If there are those of you who didn’t vote, for whatever reason, it’s okay. Fortunately, thanks to the outcome, I feel confident in saying that you will get another chance someday. I hope you’ll take it.

If there’s one lesson I hope all of us will take from this election, as well as the one before it, it’s that we cannot take our democracy for granted. It can’t just coast on cruise control; we need to take the wheel and steer, or it will go completely off the road and into a ditch. 

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Fraggle’s Original Sin

“I had a professor one time […] and he said, ‘You know, Fred, there’s one thing that evil cannot stand, and that is forgiveness.'” 
                   —Fred Rogers (my emphasis)

Dear John Tartaglia,

I first want to congratulate you on the recent Fraggle Rock short-form series that you and your colleagues created in response to the pandemic. Fraggle Rock is exactly the right content for this peculiar moment in history, and I appreciate you bringing it back into the public consciousness. Because re-imaginings of existing properties tend toward self-parody, I initially had some misgivings about it, but the new Fraggle content mostly seems organic and consistent with what came before.

Nevertheless, there is one aspect of the whole endeavor that rings false for me. As you are obviously aware, in the last episode of the original Fraggle Rock, the Trash Heap tells the Fraggles, “You cannot leave the magic.” Even if that is true, it appears that someone can be barred from the magic pre-emptively. I refer, of course, to Steve Whitmire.

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Voting Is REALLY Important!

To keep the focus of the blog consistent, I try never to post content on the main page that doesn’t relate in some way to the Muppets or the Jim Henson universe. If I can’t find a way to relate it, however obliquely, I put it under a separate tab. 

Unfortunately, however, it seems that the pages I post under a separate tab don’t go out to subscribers, so most of you didn’t see my voting story. I linked to it in a recent post that related it loosely to Sesame Street, but that didn’t get the attention that I hoped for either. 

It’s really important to me that you see this, take it to heart, and learn from my mistakes, especially if you are an American who is eligible to vote but thinking about not doing so. So I’m making an exception to my rule and posting this completely off-topic post on the main page where it will remain, pinned to the top, until after the election.

The first presidential election I was eligible to vote in occurred in the year 2000. I had taken government class in high school but ended up getting a C and didn’t glean much from it. In the year 2000, which was two years later, I was excited about the primary, but when my chosen candidate was not nominated, my enthusiasm waned following the conventions.

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Sesame Saturday: The Democratic Way

I remember this sketch from my childhood. Apparently there was a series of these sketches about the American Revolution, but this is the only one I remember seeing back then. 

Watching it as an adult, it took me a while to figure out that the point of it was not to give an accurate account of history but to illustrate the democratic process in a concrete, relatable way. 

I recently wrote a piece about why I think voting is important, about how I didn’t vote in the 2000 election and why I’ve regretted it ever since. It has nothing to do with Muppets, but I think it’s important to share.

Matt Vogel’s “Below the Frame” Podcast

Today, October 6th, is Matt Vogel’s 50th birthday. I want to wish him good health and happiness, and I want to let all of you know that I’ve been listening to his new “Below the Frame” podcast, and I enjoy it very much.

New episodes drop every Wednesday and feature usually one but sometimes two people from the Muppet/Henson universe. The conversation delves really deep not only into the interviewees’ Muppet/Henson work but their background and life in general. Then there are also puppetry tips and little short tidbits and an ongoing tribute to Jerry Nelson. 

I haven’t listened to all the episodes yet, but I have enjoyed all the ones that I’ve listened to so far. If I had to pick favorites, I would name the one with Cave-In’s own Jim Lewis and the one with Bill Barretta, who says some very nice things about Steve. 

Maybe it’s because he’s talking to his friends, but Matt has a very engaging interview style that makes me wonder what other career avenues he might have explored if he hadn’t been such a gosh-darn good puppeteer. There are a lot of Muppet and/or puppet-related podcasts out there, but this is one that I can recommend unreservedly. I sincerely hope you will check it out if you haven’t already.

Jim Henson and Friends on The Tonight Show

Today would have been Jim Henson’s 84th birthday. I’ve been thinking for six months to a year how I wanted to mark the occasion.

Occasionally, I reference things that I’ve seen on YouTube but can no longer find, only to run across them later. This is an appearance that Jim made on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1975 to promote the Muppet Show “Sex and Violence” special, although it’s interesting that Johnny only refers to it as “The Muppet Show.” Maybe the rest of the title wouldn’t have flown on network TV, even late night.

When I saw this clip before, it was only the Kermit bit. It was remarkable to me in that it was the grumpiest I had ever seen Kermit, and I think it still is. I had never seen the Dr. Teeth interview before. It’s fascinating to see him make a solo appearance without the rest of the Electric Mayhem. It’s incredible how real and alive he is even though the bottom part of his body is absent. It’s revealing to see how Jim pulls his mouth into a grin while performing him.

There was another clip that I referenced once without being able to find it, then rediscovered it again, only to lose track of it once more. It’s the pitch reel for the Jim Henson Hour. I’m disappointed not to be able to feature it here, but maybe I will run across it again someday.

Hindsight

I’m always impressed and a little embarrassed when I find that someone has been able to express a point in less than 10 minutes that I have spent literally hundreds of hours and thousands of words trying to explicate. Such was the case when I found this incredibly succinct, accurate, and fair-minded assessment of the Schism on YouTube a couple weeks ago (Warning: It contains NSFW language):

Apart from a few minor quibbles, I agree with everything said in this video, which does a really good job of calling out the responsible parties without being unfair to the puppeteers. But there’s one point that I really want to emphasize:

“We’ve now seen what’s come to pass. We’ve now got hindsight on this matter. Kermit the Frog no longer sounds consistent. He no longer really sounds like Kermit the Frog.”

Admittedly, not everyone agrees with this opinion. But it seems to me that most everyone who thinks Matt’s Kermit voice sounds like Kermit are people who accepted the recast with little question. The casual fans don’t seem to be buying it, which strongly suggests it is yet another example of belief affecting perception. In other words, people who believe that the recast was justified and/or who need it to be okay, are more likely to hear Kermit when Matt speaks, whereas casual fans with no preconceived notions think he sounds off. With that said, if there are casual fans who didn’t already know about the recast and don’t notice it, they are unlikely to comment on it, which means there’s no way of ensuring an accurate data pool.

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Cave-In Episode 13: Happy, Crappy, Scrappy Anniversary

I don’t really know what to say about this episode, other than that I can’t think of a better way for Weldon to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Cave-In. I’m especially happy about outcome of the Gimme Award. I still think there should have been another category specifically for musical numbers, but maybe that’s something to save for next year.

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Some Thoughts on the Short-Form Fraggle Rock Series

Back in the spring, the Henson Company released the clunkily titled short-form series “Fraggle Rock: Rock On!” I reviewed the first episode and didn’t expect to watch any more, but someone kept posting bootleg copies on the Cave-In Discord server. Curiosity got the best of me, and since each episode is less than 10 minutes long, I thought, “What the hey?” and watched them all.

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Weldon ne parle pas français (Cave-In Episode 12)

 

You know what? Let’s skip ahead to the musical insert: 

 

So, Weldon’s fingers can suddenly move on the neck of his guitar, and I didn’t notice it at first because I expect people’s fingers to move when they play the guitar. Then I remembered that Weldon is a puppet and usually his fingers don’t move, and then I got freaked out. It was exactly the feeling I had the first time I noticed Lips’ fingers moving on the valves of his trumpet. 

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FAQ About the Disney/Whitmire Schism

Well, folks … here we go again. 

I don’t think Disney purposely timed its promotion of the new streaming Muppet series on Disney+ to coincide with the anniversary of the kerfuffle over the Schism three years ago. Nevertheless, a lot of casual fans are somehow still confused over the recast, and so the story is getting rehashed again in the press, sometimes fairly accurately and other times considerably less so.

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Cave-In Episode 11: Pasture-ized

I just realized that I haven’t posted anything here since the last Cave-In, at least not on the main page. Where did this month go? Straight to hell, if there’s any justice. Although one could say that this month WAS hell, and that’s a valid argument, too. It’s just a good thing that Weldon taught us all coping strategies last month, because boy, do we need them. 

Fortunately, this was a really fun episode that provided a welcome respite. The premise sounds vaguely familiar to us Muppet Pundit veterans. Coincidence? I think not. (I don’t KNOW, but I THINK not.)

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