Welcome to the final regular installment of 60 for 60, a year-long celebration of the work of Steve Whitmire in anticipation of his 60th birthday next month. This month’s theme is live appearances by Muppet characters.Of the many strange and perplexing things that happened in conjunction with the Muppets’ 2015 series, one that I found to be among the strangest and most perplexing was this bizarre statement by Bill Prady, that it would be the first time that the Muppets were in our world. How are they not in our world? Not only have six of their eight movies been set in our world, but the Muppets make live appearances in our world all the time. And when they do, it results in some of the best and most entertaining material because they’re usually a little freer to do some ad libbing and to be themselves, insofar as the Muppets have selves, which is a deep philosophical dive that I don’t think I’m ready to take at the moment and would probably require a whole other entry even if I were.
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!”
For whatever reason, Sesame Workshop chose to mark the occasion of the Fourth of July this year with a parody of NSYNC’s “Bye, Bye, Bye”:
Okay, so let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat: This video is not good. The reference is dated, it’s not close enough to the original to be readily recognizable, Ernie sounds like Walter in spots, and what the heck is up with the gratuitous autotune?
With that said, I’m glad that they did something that steered clear of frank patriotism because, as I have observed before, it is difficult to take pride in a country where children are being put in cages, and given Sesame’s mission and ethos, it would be disingenuous of them to do so.
I also enjoy Oscar’s contributions to the video because he’s basically saying out loud what I’m just thinking. And bless Matt Vogel’s heart, he’s in fine voice as the Count and really giving it his all. His level of commitment is admirable regardless of the overall end result.
This is what the Fourth of July looked like before the Schism:
This is what the Fourth of July looks like after the Schism:
- The Fourth of July was much more fun before Steve’s unwarranted dismissal. Now it’s apparently just tears and kazoo anthems against a plain background (not that I have anything against plain blue backgrounds 😉 ).
- That said, however, I do enjoy Walter’s kazoo harmonies.
- Daaaaaaaamn, Steve as Beaker totally killed the piccolo part on “Stars and Stripes Forever!”
- On a related note, I never thought I would say this, but I MISS RIZZO!
- Sam the Eagle clearly stopped plucking his eyebrow(s) sometime between 2009 and 2015.
- It’s really difficult to take pride in a country where kids are put in cages by pumpkin-headed demagogues, which is an incongruous thing to post on a Muppet blog, but it’s something that unfortunately has to be iterated and reiterated until our lawmakers get the point.
The way you know that a work of art is living and vibrant and timeless is if you continue to find new meanings in it over time. I’ve loved this song for five years now, but watching “Fraggle Wars” again recently, I was suddenly broadsided by the realization that this song, and the narrative milieu in which it occurs, is very relatable to the current plight of immigrant families at the border.
Which makes sense. After all, Fraggle Rock was created to address and counteract cruelty and stupidity such as this.
As much as I wish it were otherwise, the executive order of this week resolves nothing. All that’s purportedly changed is that instead of separating children from parents and putting them in cages, now the parents and children are going to be put into cages together. That still leaves us with the problem of children in cages.
Please don’t let up on your lawmakers. I know telling them that children don’t belong in cages feels like stating the obvious, but they need to hear it over and over again. Call during office hours, if possible. If we can’t reason with them, and we can’t shame them, the best we can hope to do is create such an impedance to their day-to-day operations that they’ll have no choice but to relent.
Due to the current administration’s draconian policies and sociopathic lack of conscience, there are many souls at our border (and elsewhere) who are not free, and they deserve not only our pity but our righteous indignation on their behalf.
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.
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!”
It’s a dangerous world out there. Stay strong, and stay safe. In the words of Jim Henson, “Please watch out for one another.”
Governments beholden to corporations and lobbyists aren’t going to do it for us. We’re all we’ve got.
I’ve observed in the past that there seems to be at least one Fraggle Rock song that fits every situation and event. That continues to hold true, even in the wake of the senseless and horrific:
“But I had a dream it was time to begin, and every creature… / We were sister and brother we were part of each other and it made us one / And it made us win. “
“It can make you ache for the sake of another / And it takes your life, and it stakes it too / And it makes you make the world come new.”
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.”
I agree with every sentence Joe Hennes has written here, with the possible exception of the last one.
However, I also think that it is important to recognize that evil is not confined to national government, nor to the world of politics and government at large. For all its vile, despotic tendencies, the Trump administration and its obsequious enablers in Congress do not yet have the monopoly on greed, corruption, and wanton acts of injustice in this country.
“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.
I’ve seen Muppet Christmas Carol more times this month than in the previous 25 years combined, and I’m finally warming up to it. Nevertheless, I was struck by the fact that, notwithstanding the lyrics of the song, the Marleys’ dialogue suggests that they haven’t quite learned their lesson yet.
“There is one source that has always recognized Trump for being the absolute villain that he obviously is and that’s Sesame Street. Sesame Street has been touting the dangers of a Trump Presidency since the late eighties!”
–Louie Pearlman, “Make America HATE Again: Ronald Grump on Sesame Street,” ToughPigs.com, January 29, 2016.
This is an excellent article that appeared on ToughPigs just before the 2016 primaries…so, almost two years ago? Oh, how time flies when you’re in constant mortal dread for the future of humanity! Anyway, the article is well worth a read, but I had a few thoughts to add from the perspective of being almost a year into the Orange Muggle Voldemort presidency.
“Why are you wasting your time with those puppets?” asked Rudy Pugliese, one of Jim Henson’s college professors.
I sometimes hear a similar question in my head: “Our democracy is imperiled, our Constitution is in crisis; why are you wasting your time worrying about the integrity of a bunch of puppets?”
To which the short answer is, in the words of Cantus, “No time is wasted time.”
Yes, the Muppets are puppets; that is undeniable, and it would be pointless and silly of me to argue otherwise. But they are so much more than that. They are symbols; they are fuzzy mirrors in which we see our own flaws and foibles reflected; they are useful rhetorical tools with which one can make subtle arguments against injustice and demagoguery in a nonthreatening way. In the words of Steve Whitmire, “These characters stand for all of us, and we’re worth defending.” (my emphasis)
I think I was about seven years old when I learned that “Walt Disney” was the name of an actual person. Prior to that point, I assumed that it was just a meaningless, made up brandname, like “Kodak.” I bring that up because it seems to me that a lot of people, even–and perhaps especially–those who work for the company itself, sometimes forget that there was a real person behind the name, a man behind the mouse.