Matt Vogel: Gnarly to the Max

Happy birthday to Matt Vogel! Yes, I know that his birthday is actually tomorrow. Today I want to celebrate him and some of his Muppet troupe characters, and tomorrow I want to say something in regard to his work on Sesame Street

When people talk about Matt Vogel, they usually talk about all the characters that were originated by other people that he has nobly endeavored to keep alive. That’s all well and good, but today I’d prefer to concentrate primarily on his original characters (with one exception, but I’ll explain when I get to it).

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Sesame Saturday: How Sesame Workshop Should Address the Matter of Sexuality

I want to take a moment to reiterate my reader-response-informed theory of criticism: it is neither the creator of an artistic work nor the audience that confers meaning upon it; rather, meaning is created when the intention of the author meets the interpretation of the audience. This is not to say that the creator of a work cannot have his or her own interpretation of its meaning; rather, it means that the creator’s interpretation is not the “only” correct interpretation.

I bring this up again because the matter of Bert and Ernie’s sexuality became an issue again this week. I’ve written about this extensively elsewhere. I believe that, much like Batman in The Dark Knight, Bert, Ernie, and all the other Muppets are whatever each of us, as individual viewers, need them to be.

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Sesame Saturday: Sesame Monsters Versus Letter People–Who Sang It Best?

I was recently introduced to a Sesame song/skit that I didn’t remember seeing before, in which Cookie Monster and Herry find a letter M sitting around, (as you do), and sing a song about all the foods they like that start with M:

It reminded me of another beloved PBS puppet show that I remember fondly from my childhood, “The Letter People,” which was divided into 15-minute episodes and focused on phonics. Mr. M is featured in the first episode and sings his signature song, which also includes a litany of foods that start with the letter M, because Mr. M has a Munching Mouth, and that’s where he gets his sound:

Hmm…Cookie Monster also has a Munching Mouth. I wonder if he and Mr. M would be friends or if they wouldn’t get along because they’d be in competition with one another.

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Short but Sweet: Steve Whitmire Q&A From Fanboy Expo in Knoxville, TN

A few weeks ago I got a Google alert on a brief interview that Steve Whitmire gave to a local news station in Knoxville, TN regarding the Fanboy Expo that was going on there. I hoped that would not be all that we heard out of Knoxville and happily, it is not. 

This morning, YouTube helpfully and accurately suggested that I might like this 25-minute Q&A that Steve gave at the Fanboy Expo. This panel was recorded and posted by Joseph Scarbrough, a name I recognize from the Muppet Pundit forum, even though I don’t think I ever interacted with him there, but a big “thank you” to him on the off-chance that he’s reading this.

This panel is a little different than some of the other panels we’ve seen. It’s shorter by approximately 20 minutes, and instead of the moderator sitting up front with Steve and asking him questions that we’ve already heard a gazillion times, he stood in the audience and helped with their questions. The whole thing pretty much consists of audience questions, so in that sense, it’s a true Q&A

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Muppet Babies 2018 Review: Part 2

I don’t know about you, but I could sure use some happy right about now, so here is my tragically belated and unreasonably long continuation of my review of Muppet Babies 2018.

(Part One of my review can be found here.)

Initially I was only going to watch and review the first episode of Muppet Babies because it was available for free on Amazon and YouTube.  Then I saw that episode 5 was going to feature characters of Steve’s, including Rizzo, and I was very curious to see how they would handle them, so I purchased and watched that one too.  Here I’ll be reviewing all four of the stories that I saw over the course of the two episodes.

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Another Panel Discussion with Steve Whitmire? Must Be My Birthday!

It’s not my birthday today, but it was my birthday when Steve was in Ontario for the Niagara Falls Comic Con, so this video of a (the?) panel discussion he did there feels like a belated birthday present.

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Five Years Later: The Great Muppet Survey Revisited

In 2013, The Muppet Mindset had a feature called “The Great Muppet Survey” wherein they asked readers to respond to a bunch of Muppet-related questions and then published the results periodically. Five years ago today, they published my responses (this was back when I was spelling “Arlene” with an “i”).

What with all the recent changes in the Muppet world, I thought it would be interesting to go back and see if and how my responses have changed after 5 years.  And if it’s not interesting, too bad, because I’m going to do it anyway.  😉

For reference, here are my original responses from five years ago. I’m going to summarize my answers from 2013 here, and then I’m going to give my 2018 answers.

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Sesame Saturday: Bert Feels Silly


So first of all, I have to take a moment to praise Frank Oz:  As Ernie is putting the scarf on Bert, it accidentally gets in his mouth, and Frank reacts the way a person would react if someone accidentally stuffed a scarf in one’s mouth.  It’s that combination of skill, commitment, and instinct that give the Muppets life.

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Sesame Saturday: A Sesame Special and a Searing Scratch

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On April 7, 1989, I suffered an abraded cornea.

(“Abraded” is a fancy medical term for “scratched” that I didn’t learn until much later.)

I was 8 years old and in second grade.  It was a Friday, and unusually windy even by South Dakota standards.  The wind was out of the east and blowing so hard that it was almost horizontal.  After school, I had to walk directly into the wind to get to my carpool that would take me to my weekly Girl Scout meeting, and the wind blew some dirt or debris of some kind into my left eye.

All my life, people had told me not to rub my eyes, but no one had ever tried to explain why.  And I didn’t know any other way to dislodge foreign objects from my eye, so I just kept rubbing it, and it just kept hurting, and so on in a vicious cycle. 

So on the off-chance that there are any little kids reading this, let me pause for this public service announcement:  Don’t rub your eyes, kids, because you could accidentally scratch your eyeball, and that really, really hurts.

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Time in a Bottle

Hello, all!  I haven’t posted anything of real substance for a while, and I wanted to take a minute to catch up.  I wanted to let you know that it is not my feelings and convictions that have changed; all that has changed is my schedule.

The good news is that I recently landed a new, open-ended, freelance writing gig (thank you, FlexJobs.com), and while it doesn’t pay much, I think that the experience I gain is going to be invaluable to me as I embark on this new career path.  The bad news is that, while I have given two weeks’ notice at my other part-time job, at the moment I am working three jobs, and while this is a temporary situation (until the end of the month) I’m sure you can imagine that my life is quite crazy and hectic at the moment, and free time for blogging is at a minimum as I try to manage my schedule and meet all my various commitments and deadlines.

I did, however, purchase and watch Frank Oz’s documentary Muppet Guys Talking yesterday, and it was probably the nicest brunch I’ve ever had (perhaps second only to this).  I could only afford to purchase the film, not all the extra stuff, but the film itself was well worth the 10 bucks or so.  I can heartily recommend it, and I’ve been informed today that it’s not going to be available forever, so I’d advise you to carpe diem and carpe documentary while you can.

When I have a free moment, I’ll come back and tell you my thoughts and feelings about it, but don’t expect it before April.

Speaking of The Dark Crystal…

Back in 2013, JHC hosted a contest to write a story (or part of one) set in The Dark Crystal universe.  The winner got to write an entire novel set in The Dark Crystal universe.

I entered the contest.  I didn’t win. 

At the time it was kind of a bummer, but I knew it was always going to be a long shot, seeing as I came relatively late to The Dark Crystal and its mythos (although I went out of my way to do my homework on it and try to make up for lost time).  The thing that really bummed me out about it was that the stories that weren’t finalists or editors’ choice selections didn’t get any feedback, so I don’t know what they thought of it.  I mean, I can construe from the fact that it didn’t make it into the next phase of the competition that they didn’t love it, but whether that means that they merely liked it, or hated it, or were too bored by it to even form an opinion, I have no idea.

In retrospect, however, I’m glad that I didn’t win the contest, because then I would have been beholden to the Hensons and wouldn’t be able to speak out as candidly on their involvement in the Schism as I have been.

And yet, as long as I have this blog, and a small but interested audience, I was thinking that maybe I would post my story here.  That way, you could read and (hopefully) enjoy it, and I could finally get some feedback on it.

So if you’re interested in reading my Dark Crystal-inspired story, leave a comment, and if there’s enough interest, I will post it. 

Incidentally, here is something I wrote at the time regarding my process, in which I did some intertextual thinking about The Dark Crystal and Harry Potter and decided that the Mystics are a race of Dumbledores and the Skeksis are a race of Voldemorts.