“From There to Here”

Even though I’ve been actively searching for more video of Steve’s convention appearances, I didn’t expect to find anything out of Gen Con so soon, since it just ended yesterday. And yet, even though I wasn’t looking for it specifically, I found one this morning. It’s not a Q&A this time, but it’s Steve giving an hour-long chat and telling awesome stories:

 

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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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The World Turned Upside Down

As I mentioned previously, I still have feelings I need to work through in regard to the Schism, starting with how I first found out about it. It was through this disturbing introductory bit on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert:

It wasn’t just that the bit was tacky and unfunny; it was that they didn’t provide any explanation afterward. I sat through the entire subsequent monologue on the edge of my seat, screaming at the TV, “What’s going on with Steve Whitmire and Kermit?!? You can’t just turn my world 90 degrees on its axis without further comment or followup!”

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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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Bean Bunny Is a Total Badass… (not a joke)

This may be one of the most saccharine Henson specials ever. The bunnies are all extremely cutesy, the forest impossibly idyllic, and everything’s very happy, cheerful and colorful.
                  –TV Tropes on The Tale of the Bunny Picnic

Oh, sure; it’s just a harmless story about cute little bunnies!

Granted, it’s not exactly Watership Down either, but when I watched it for the first time recently, I couldn’t even finish it in one sitting because I was so upset by it. 

Sure, the bunnies are cute and the colors are bright and the music is peppy, but much like Fraggle Rock, there are some serious themes hidden underneath the candy-colored exterior. Our Hero, Bean Bunny, is constantly bullied by his big brother, Lugsy, and the dog is blatantly and brazenly abused by the farmer.  Ladies and gentlemen, Jim Henson brings you the charming story of adorable animals being tormented and mistreated…enjoy!

But eventually I went back and finished it, because I knew the payoff had to be worth it…and it was.

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Muppet Heresy That Borders on Blasphemy (not a joke)

Today I ran across this video of a fan-made simulacrum of Kermit (not to be confused with Simula-Kerm) singing “Gethsemane” from Jesus Christ Superstar.  I hesitated to post it, even–especially–on Easter Sunday, because I felt that doing so bordered on blasphemy.  I may be a heretic, but I am not a blasphemer; a subtle distinction, but one that’s extremely important to me.

But there was one particular line in the song that struck me as poignant as it relates to the Schism:

Show me there’s a reason for you wanting me to die.
You’re far too keen on ‘where’ and ‘how’…not so hot on ‘why.'”

It’s been approximately a year and a half, Disney.  Still waiting for you to show us the reason.

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.

Sesame Sunday: ‘Hamilton’ on Sesame Street

I know I’ve been subtle about it (har, har) but if you pay close attention, you’ll notice that I’m a big fan of Hamilton, both the musical and the man whose life inspired it.  January 11th was Alexander Hamilton’s birthday (or it might be more accurate to call it the anniversary of his birth), while January 16th was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s birthday (he being the one who wrote the play and originated the role of Hamilton).

So, if I had been really organized, I would have done a whole week-long thing of Hamilton-related posts pertaining to the musical.  But I’m not really organized, unfortunately; plus, I still have two jobs.  Maybe I’ll do that later, or maybe I’ll do that next year.

In any case, I can’t help but notice that a lot of (past) Hamilton cast members also have connections to Sesame Street, so I thought I’d explore that today.

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Alexander Hamilton: He fights trolls so we don’t have to

“It’s hard to listen to you with a straight face.”

Last week I had occasion to quote from Alexander Hamilton’s first revolutionary pamphlet, which he wrote as a teenage college student.  (Man, what was I doing during my first semester at college?)

Today I have occasion to quote from Hamilton’s follow-up pamphlet, The Farmer Refuted:

Sir:—
I resume my pen, in reply to the curious epistle you have been pleased to favor me with, and can assure you that notwithstanding I am naturally of a grave and phlegmatic disposition, it has been the source of abundant merriment to me. The spirit that breathes throughout is so rancorous, illiberal, and imperious; the argumentative part of it is so puerile and fallacious; the misrepresentation of facts so palpable and flagrant; the criticisms so illiterate, trifling, and absurd; the conceits so low, sterile, and splenetic, that I will venture to pronounce it one of the most ludicrous performances which has been exhibited to public view during all the present controversy.
[…]
I congratulate myself upon the sentiments you entertain of my last performance. Such is my opinion of your abilities as a critic, that I very much prefer your disapprobation to your applause.

The entire pamphlet is well worth a read.  Alexander Hamilton didn’t just throw shade; he completely blotted out the sun.

“Turn the World Around”

Friends, the last 12 months have been bewildering.  Between a so-called president disgracing a nation, an innocent teacher being arrested and wrestled to the ground for asking a question, and a villain being feted by Hollywood, the last week or so in particular has been disheartening.  

It seems like the entire world has turned upside down and backwards.  But on this Martin Luther King Day, I want to tell you that I grieve but I don’t despair.  Because I know that it’s still possible to turn the world around:

“Do you know who I am?  Do I know who you are?”  That puts me in mind of a related piece of advice, courtesy of Maya Angelou via Oprah Winfrey:  “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

Alexander Hamilton, Jim Henson, and the Core Principles

“Hamilton had now written 60,000 words in just a couple of months.  For perspective, the book you are holding clocks in at 58,000 words and, I’m embarrassed to say, took much longer.”
                     –Jeff Wilser, “Seek the Core Principles,” Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life.

From November 1774 to February 1775, teenaged college student Alexander Hamilton wrote two political pamphlets defending the American Revolutionary cause.  Specifically, he was responding to pamphlets written by British loyalist Samuel Seabury.  While Wilser estimates Hamilton’s word count for the two pamphlets to be 60,000, according to my estimation, it is closer to 65,000.

I mention this because I was looking at my statistics page for this blog and found that over the course of five months, from July 31 to December 31, 2017, I wrote 66,089 words on this blog.  So I’m almost keeping pace with Alexander Hamilton, in quantity if not in quality.

I was feeling quite smug about this until I did the math and realized that–depending on whether the 60,000 or 65,000 word figure is more accurate–Hamilton still outstrips me by approximately 3000 to 4000 words a month because he created his content in a shorter amount of time.  Also, he was writing everything out in longhand and didn’t have the Internet to assist him in research.

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Poison Tree

alternate Poison Tree (no text)

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears
Night and morning with my tears,
And I sunned it with smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright,
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,–

And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning, glad, I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.
                                                               –William Blake

I remember first reading this poem in high school and being horrified by it, because the anger and resentment that the speaker harbors not only poisons the speaker’s foe, it also poisons the speaker, to the point that the speaker is “glad” to see his (her?) foe lying dead on the ground.

I never want to be that kind of person.  I decided a long time ago that I would try never to derive pleasure from another human being’s misfortune.  I don’t always succeed, but I do try.

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Twelve Days of Muppet Christmas/Epiphany 2018: “The Christmas Toy”–Allegory versus Applicability

DANNY HORN:  Hey, did I ever tell you about my theory that Mew’s death is a metaphor for AIDS? It’s 1986, and gay men are dying all over the place. The creators are TV puppet people from New York and LA, so obviously a lot of their friends are dying. So in this special, you get Mew — the despised, unfairly judged cat-toy — dying suddenly. Rugby realizes how precious Mew is… but he figures it out too late. […] Then the fantasy is that the dead loved one can be resurrected and vindicated, just through the power of love and Christmas. You can see how this was an appealing fantasy for artsy people in 1986.
KYNAN BARKER:  Did I ever tell you MY theory that sometimes a kids’ TV special is just a kids’ TV special?

–ToughPigs.com, “My Week with Another Christmas – Day Two: Doll Be Home for Christmas,”  December 24, 2003.

Today is Epiphany, so I wanted to do not only a Christmas-themed article but one with some real substance to it, and this 14-year-old conversation about The Christmas Toy is a good jumping-off point for a discussion of allegory versus applicability.

An allegory is a detailed, in-depth metaphor that represents a situation or event in the real world.  Authors who write allegory are usually not very subtle about the point they’re trying to get across.  For example, I would consider A Christmas Carol to be an allegory:  There’s not much to speculate about what the three spirits represent; it’s right there in their names.

On the other hand, a work has applicability if it can support multiple interpretations, regardless of what the author’s intention may have been.  As J.R.R. Tolkien explained it, “I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other resides in the purposed domination of the author.”  Tolkien ran up against this attitude often when Lord of the Rings fans would ask him questions about the allegorical meaning of the novels, to which he would respond that there was none, but that it was applicable to many real-life situations or events.

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