Conundrum

Obviously today is a sad anniversary, being the anniversary of Jim Henson’s death.  But it’s also the birthday of someone very dear to me, so I don’t quite know how to mark the occasion.  I suspect that, given a choice between sorrow and joy, Jim would recommend that I default to joy.

But I think I’ve found a fitting tribute to commemorate both:

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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

EandB HensonOz.png

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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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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March for Our Lives: Songs and Solidarity

When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there.”
                   –Jim Henson

To the Parkland students, and all March for Our Lives participants:

The courage, fortitude, and perseverance you have shown in the face of overwhelming adversity is both inspiring and humbling.  I graduated from high school in 1999, weeks after the Columbine shooting, and if my generation had done what you are doing now, maybe there wouldn’t have been a need for you to step up and speak out.  I can’t go back and change what is past, but I stand in solidarity with you now.

Jim Henson has always been a hero of mine, and you are now doing what he aspired to do, and ultimately succeeding in doing: making a difference and bettering the world.  Jim Henson believed in the power of children; he created Fraggle Rock in 1983 with the express purpose of bringing peace to the world.  

I know that you’re experiencing a lot of pushback, and I’m sure you understand that that only shows that you’re having an impact.  If the NRA weren’t scared of you, they wouldn’t waste their time or money trying to discredit you.  

Nevertheless, all that negativity can be tough to bear.  I know that you’re not lacking in strength, resilience, and determination, but I also know that you–that we–have a long, hard fight yet to be contested.  I’ve often found that music–particularly Muppet music–has the power to comfort and inspire, so I’ve curated a list of what I consider to be the best and most uplifting songs from Henson-related productions.  When the world seems dark and hopeless, I hope that they will bring a little light into your hearts.

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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.

The Dark Crystal back in theaters

Fathom Events is bringing The Dark Crystal back to selected theaters on a limited basis.  More information here.  Remaining show dates are February 28th, March 3rd, and March 6th.  Showtimes are 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. local time (sadly, the 2 p.m. showings do not come with a matinee discount).

A lot of these Fathom Events never make it anywhere near South Dakota at all, so I was extremely fortunate that the movie theater nearest my house happens to be one of the selected theaters where The Dark Crystal is being shown, so I went to the 2 p.m. showing this afternoon.

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Small Victory

If I have been instrumental in confirming or adding one friend to his country, I shall not regret the time I have devoted to that laudable purpose.
–Passage from Alexander Hamilton’s “The Farmer Refuted,” slightly reworked to fit the current context.

Sometimes when I post something that I think is going to be controversial, my conflict aversion kicks in and I actively avoid looking to see if it has garnered any response.

Therefore, even though it happened in October 2017, I just found out today that, even if I haven’t succeeded in changing any hearts or minds through this blog or my related efforts, I did manage to gain a concession from one of Steve’s most vocal critics on the Tough Pigs forum (I ordinarily wouldn’t like to use the forum’s name in an instance like this, but since I’m linking to it anyway, it seems a bit silly to be coy about it).

It may have been a small victory, but I nevertheless feel that it is significant.  It’s extremely gratifying to know that (a) all those years studying rhetoric–not to mention the student loans–have not been a complete waste and (b) my words have made a difference, no matter how small.

I believe in all of you.  Let’s go out there and keep making a difference.

 

“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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