Your Favorite Jim Henson Moments?

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I had so much fun doing 60 for 60 last year for Steve’s birthday that I’ve been toying with the idea of doing something similar in honor of Jim Henson—who was, after all, the founder of the feast. The year 2020 not only marks the 30th anniversary of Jim Henson’s death (as unbelievable as that seems), but it also would have been his 84th birthday. Now, 84 is not a milestone the way we usually think of it, but it is divisible by 12. So in theory, I could do what I did for 60 in 60, only with seven pieces a month instead of five. 

Nevertheless, it’s a daunting prospect. Jim was so prolific that even with an extra two pieces a month, it would be difficult to cover everything. I could make an entire year-long tribute out of Sesame Street clips alone. Also, so much of his career happened before I was born, and there’s a lot of material that I have never even seen. 

I haven’t decided yet if this is an idea I will follow through on, but it got me wondering: What are your favorite Jim Henson moments, friends? What are the songs and skits that make you laugh or cry? What would you cite to represent the best of him and his work? Why do you gravitate toward the productions that you do? What about a specific work resonates with you?

Share your ideas in the comments, and please feel free to include video clips as well!

The Final Pieces to the Puzzle: Steve Whitmire’s OCon Q&A

I originally drafted this back in August but held off posting it in hopes that the OCon organizers would post video of the Q&A. They have yet to do so, but I revisited this entry and discovered that it is as complete as it can be under the circumstances, so I’m posting it now. 

When I first met Steve on that Sunday morning in Omaha Council Bluffs, one of the first things we talked about was the Q&A that he was scheduled to do at noon that day. I told him that I intended to take notes at the Q&A so I could write about it on my blog later. I also pointed out that I’d never really done anything like that before, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to go.

If I’d been more savvy and better organized, I would have tried to record it rather than taking notes. That way, even if I wasn’t able to post the video online, I would still have it as a reference and memory aid to help me write it.

Nevertheless, my notes of the Q&A probably would have been sufficient if I hadn’t spent the day at Steve’s booth and then devoted most of my mental energy towards remembering everything else that happened there. I should have reviewed my notes a few times in the immediate aftermath to encode those memories properly. Alas, I did not.

All of which is just to say that even with the benefit of notes, my memory of the Q&A is woefully incomplete. There are multiple phrases included in them that I have no idea what they mean. So unfortunately, (and ironically) my account of the Q&A is going to be less detailed than those of the rest of my day. I apologize. I’ll know better next time.

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Australian Bush Fire Relief

“In times of great peril and shared suffering, all of us should set aside our differences and reach out to one another in a spirit of love and understanding.”
                   –-Sprocket (Steve Whitmire) as interpreted by Doc (Gerry Parkes), Fraggle Rock, “Marooned” (written by David Young)

It may not be a shocking revelation to say that I have issues with the most popular Muppet fan sites. They also seem to have issues with me, and it’s a whole thing, and I don’t want to get into it right now. 

But the reason I bring it up at all is because I also believe very strongly that good deeds deserve recognition. At the moment, the two most prominent fan sites, Tough Pigs and The Muppet Mindset, are engaged in a fundraising campaign to support relief efforts in response to the devastating bush fires in Australia which, as I’m sure you already know, have killed so many animals, displaced so many people, and laid thousands of acres to waste. The fundraising effort is a worthwhile cause, and I am happy to support them in their noble endeavor. 

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CF3 Podcast on YouTube

Hi, all! Happy New Year. Sorry I’ve been a bit quiet lately. Life is crazy. I’ve got a lot to say, and a lot of it is kind of cranky, and I don’t know when I will have time to get it all out of my system.

But in the meantime, I wanted to start off with something positive, and I’ve got something cool to show you. Remember last year when I went to OCon and I met Steve in the midst of his CF3 Podcast interview, and they recorded part of it? Well, they put that episode up on YouTube:

And because it is on YouTube, I can link specifically to certain parts of it, so here’s the start of Steve’s interview, and then about 30-35 seconds after that you can hear me getting all nervous and giggly. And then here’s the part where they ask him specifically about The Dark Crystal.

I want to say a thank you to Ethan, aka Captain Vegetable, who got in contact with me to tell me that this was on YouTube. I actually knew it already because I follow CF3 on Twitter, but I’m always, ALWAYS grateful for tips, so thank you so much for that.

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Remembering Caroll Spinney

Today would have been Caroll Spinney’s 86th birthday. I knew that I didn’t want to let the occasion pass without comment, but at the same time, I didn’t know what I could say that hadn’t already been said. Then I ran across a tribute that I hadn’t seen yet from Good Morning America

Here’s what makes it most noteworthy for me: On the occasion of Mr. Spinney’s retirement, I wrote about how when I was little, I couldn’t figure out Oscar’s raison d’etre. In this video, there is footage of Mr. Spinney himself expressing similar confusion, and it’s nice to know that I wasn’t the only one. 

I know that I need hardly ask, but I hope you will all join me in holding the Spinney family in your hearts during this time that should have been joyous but is instead steeped in tragedy.

Muppet Masters Q&A

Boy, did I discover an unexpected Christmas gift today! I was on YouTube, and one of the videos recommended to me was a Q&A from GalaxyCon Louisville back in November featuring Steve Whitmire and Kirk Thatcher:

It’s so great and entertaining and informative just in general, but here is what I particularly like about it: 

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Muppet Christmas Double Feature

Merry Christmas, all! By the time I post this, it will technically be Christmas Day, but in my mind, at least, it is still Christmas Eve. This evening I watched Christmas Eve on Sesame Street and “The Bells of Fraggle Rock” back to back. I decided to do that merely because I hadn’t watched either of them yet this season, but in the process I found that they are more closely related thematically than I ever realized, and probably more so than anyone involved intended. 

I have some deep thoughts about that, and I’d like to share them, but it’s really late right now (or early, depending on your point of view), and I am tired. So I’d just like to observe that if Cantus had been on Sesame Street while Big Bird was having his crisis of faith, he probably could have explained to Big Bird how Santa gets down the chimneys. 

However, knowing Cantus, he probably would have done so in an oblique, metaphorical way that would probably just have confused and frustrated Big Bird, so he probably would have ended up on the roof anyway. 

Nevertheless, that’s a scene that I wish existed, because I would love to see it. 

Adventures at GalaxyCon Minneapolis, Part 2

(Although I’m only finishing and publishing this now, I started drafting it well before the sad tidings of Caroll Spinney’s death. So if it seems inappropriately light-hearted in tone, that’s why.)

George Takei’s Q&A finished at about 1:00, and my brother Michael suggested that we find something to eat (“forage for food” were his exact words). I had been just about to make the same suggestion.

Like the Mid-America Center where OCon had been held, the Minneapolis Convention Center doesn’t allow outside food. Since it was cold and snowy, and since we had parked several blocks away, and since I didn’t have an extra $5 to check my coat again, there was nothing for it but to purchase overpriced lunch items from one of the several concession stands spread throughout the center. In addition to his wrap, Michael purchased a cookie and offered me half, and it reminded me of my favorite Cookie Monster sketch on Sesame Street:

After we finished eating lunch, Michael wanted to look around the vendors’ area, so we did, and I found that the vendors, though equally polite, weren’t as aggressive as they had been at OCon, meaning that we could pause by their tables without having to listen to pitches, which was a relief.

As we were walking around, we ran into three people that Michael knows in short succession. The first was a guy named Bruce (I think) who made a joke about Michael “dragging” me along to GalaxyCon, or words to that effect. I suppose I should have been annoyed by the implication that “gurls” don’t like nerdy stuff, but I just laughed and informed him, truthfully, that coming to GalaxyCon had been my idea in the first place. Michael tried to say that I was in a fandom, but at first he said that I had a fandom, and I wondered if that might actually be true from a certain point of view. I ultimately decided that it would be most accurate to say that I am in a fandom and within that fandom, I have a following. (And thanks for that, by the way!)

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Never Prepared

It’s a curious thing about this human life we live. We know that it’s temporary, we know from a young age that eventually each of us is going to die, and yet when it happens to someone we care about, we are never quite prepared. 

I’m sure you’re all already aware by now that Caroll Spinney passed away today. It is not such a strange thing that an 85-year-old man should die, especially when he was in ill health and had been for some time. But grief is not beholden to logic; it operates entirely separately from it. 

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Minneapolis Dispatch

I’m sorry that I haven’t finished my account of GalaxyCon Minneapolis. Things are crazy, particularly with the Thanksgiving holiday. But to tide you over, I found this brief interview that happened there. I think this occurred on Saturday, the day before I attended. 

The Kermit that’s there on the table is a photo puppet that they used for photo ops and also to draw attention to the table. When I was there, someone asked Steve if it was the “real” Kermit, and he said no, it was a photo puppet that was a lot smaller. 

I didn’t notice the photo puppet’s arms shaking so much while I was there, but boy, they sure do shake a lot on this video. By the way, the display rack (or whatever you would call it) holds the puppet up but doesn’t secure it in place, so it tended to fall over whenever anybody tried to move it. 

It’s always fun to look at something like this and say, “Hey, I was there!” even though in this case I wasn’t there on the actual day. 

Adventures at GalaxyCon Minneapolis, Part 1

This is Steve’s Q&A from GalaxyCon Minneapolis, but I wasn’t there that day so I only saw it for the first time yesterday.

On November 10th, I attended GalaxyCon Minneapolis and met up with Steve again. The only reason I was able to do that is because of my brother Michael. He lives in Minneapolis and allowed me to stay with him while I was in town. If I had had to pay the price of admission plus accommodations, I would never have been able to go. I also would have paid for parking because I wouldn’t have known there was another option.

When I initially planned to go to GalaxyCon, I thought that I would simply ask Michael if I could stay with him while I was in town. But then I thought about it, and I realized that although he’s not obsessive about Muppets the way I am, he still likes them. Not only that, but he’s an enormous Star Trek fan, and there were a bunch of Star Trek actors appearing. So I thought he might enjoy coming along, and that it might be more fun if he was there, so I invited him, and I was right on both counts. Not only that, but I don’t think I would have even made it into the exhibition hall to see Steve if Michael hadn’t been there to interpret the maps of the convention center for me and lead me in the right direction.

My point is that I have Michael to thank for the entire GalaxyCon experience, and if you enjoy what I have to say about it, then you owe him your gratitude as well. (If you don’t enjoy it, well, then leave him out of it because he had nothing to do with that.)

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Sesame Street Memories

Today is the 50th anniversary of Sesame Street! HBO, where it airs primarily now (and has for several years), put together a video in which an interviewer asks the Sesame Street Muppets about their favorite memories. It’s quite cute and clever: 

Couple of things I noticed about it: 

  • Elmo does not appear in this video at all. And granted, I’m a grumpy Gen X-er who doesn’t have much use for Elmo in the first place, but I find that I didn’t miss him in the slightest or even notice his absence at first. 
  • There are only three characters in this video still performed by their original puppeteers: Abby, Rudy, and Rosita. That’s just an observation, not a value judgment of any kind. 
  • Whatever my mixed feelings may be about Peter Linz playing Ernie, I have to say that whoever’s writing Bert and Ernie’s banter nowadays is spot-on. Absolutely brilliant and perfect.
  • High definition hasn’t done Big Bird any favors in one important respect. The monofilament that connects his arms used to be all but invisible, but now it’s plain as day. It’s a shame, because it makes Big Bird seem slightly less magical as a result. 
  • However, I love that they revisited the idea of Big Bird being an artist. 
  • At first it seemed too easy to have Abby’s favorite Sesame Street memory be the day she moved there, but the payoff was worth it. 
  • Oscar’s interactions with Slimey have always been one of my favorite things about Sesame Street.
  • I don’t watch Sesame Street regularly, so I haven’t seen much with Rudy, but from what I have seen of him, I like him very much.
  • I love that some of the Muppets are wearing microphones during their interviews. That’s one of my favorite Muppet gags ever.

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Delayed Gratification

Puppet Tears is a very cool podcast that interviews puppeteers from all walks of life, asking very in-depth and intelligent questions. Today they’ve released a nearly two-hour conversation with Steve:

From what they’ve released previously, it looks like they’re going to approach the “controversial” topics from a mature, objective, and responsible point of view, which I’m very pleased to see. It’s recently come to my attention that, unfortunately, there are still a lot of unfounded rumors and misinformation about Steve festering in the dark corners of the internet, so my hope is that this will be an opportunity to bring the truth to light and clear the air. 

Here’s the thing, though: I CAN’T WATCH IT NOW!!! 😦 I’ve got a ton of work that I need to get through before the end of the day today, and if I start watching it now, I know I’m not going to be able to stop.

So watch and enjoy, but please don’t spoil it for me, and maybe we can talk about it later. 

I’ve seen it now, and I’m interested to hear what you think. In general terms, I find it to be a breath of fresh air.