Sixty for 60: Rizzo the Rat

In anticipation of Steve Whitmire’s 60th birthday next year, I’m celebrating his work and his characters one month at a time in this year-long series, 60 for 60. This month, the spotlight is on Steve’s first major Muppet character, Rizzo the Rat.

“I’m going to make that rat a star.”–Jim Henson

Who is Rizzo the Rat? According to TV Tropes, Rizzo is a Big Eater, a Lovable Coward, and a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, all of which seems accurate and consistent to me.

Personally, Rizzo strikes me as a savvy, street-wise opportunist with a talent for self-preservation. However, he has standards, and even though he was born in the sewers, there are depths to which he will not sink. For example, he’s not above taking advantage of his friends, but he’ll never sell them out completely, and he’ll always be there for them in the clinch. 

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“Long Story Short, Too Late”: Steve Whitmire at Raleigh Supercon

When Steve appeared at the Florida Supercon, I received a Google alert regarding video of a Q&A that he did there. Since Raleigh Supercon is run by the same organization, I was expecting another Google alert regarding Steve’s appearance(s) that weekend.

Unfortunately, that Google alert never came, but over the weekend, as I was watching some of his other comic con appearances, YouTube noticed and helpfully suggested this video of a Q&A out of Raleigh as something I might like. I had been looking for something like this through most of the month of August, but apparently it hadn’t been uploaded until the middle of September. 

The same moderator from the Florida Supercon is back again, although he only interviews Steve for about 10 minutes before opening it up for questions, approximately half the time that he spent on the interview portion at Florida Supercon.

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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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“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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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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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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Sesame Saturday: “I Come From Everywhere, and My Name is You”

 

At this very moment, there are children being held in concentration camps on American soil.

As responsible, freedom-loving, decent human beings, we have an obligation to do something to help these children and put a stop to this senseless and horrific cruelty.

The ACLU has a petition. Save the Children has a form to get you in touch with your members of Congress (for those of you in the US). Both those organizations will take your donations as well. 

There’s currently a Senate bill called the Keep Families Together Act that would put a stop to this travesty, so focus your attention on the Senate for the time being–especially if, like me, you have the misfortune of being represented (and I use the term loosely) by Republican senators.

When it comes to contacting Congress, phone calls are more effective than e-mails. If you write a letter, take a paper copy to the senator’s or representative’s local office and ask them to fax it to the Washington office. Don’t send it through the mail, as it could take days or even weeks to get through the screening process.

I usually don’t like to get political on this blog, but this really isn’t a political issue at all; it’s a matter of basic human decency. As a wise bear once said: “This has to be done!  We don’t want the bad guys to win! We’ve gotta do this…for justice…for freedom…for honesty!”

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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Steve at Great Philadelphia Comic Con

If you’ve been missing Steve as much as I have lately, have I got a treat for you!  Reader Andrew K alerted me to the existence of this three-part interview that Steve did a few days ago at the Great Philadelphia Comic Con.  Approximately 45 minutes of pure gold; a really pleasant, informative conversation that didn’t get into the controversial Schism stuff at all (not that I would have minded, but I know some people are tired of it).

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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.

Tribute

As my first real attempt at video creation/editing, I made a video tribute to Steve Whitmire:

Special thanks and apologies to my fellow Muppet Pundit commenters Matt L., Richard X., and Rocky D., whose photos/artwork were among those that I co-opted for use in this video.

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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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