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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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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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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Sesame Saturday: More Olympic Shenanigans

Cookie Monster and Elmo are back again, talking (and singing!) with more Olympic athletes.

First, they ask several athletes to explain their sports (Elmo asks skier Lindsey Vonn what sport she “plays,” which is kind of awkward, but she copes with it beautifully):

Then they get the athletes to join them in a sing-a-long of the “Olympic song.”  I wasn’t sure what that meant at first; for some reason I was thinking of the Olympic Anthem, but once they started singing, it all became clear:

Man, I wish I could sing the “Olympic song” with some Muppets.  I would not only sing it, I would conduct it, because I figured out how to do that a long time ago, when I was young and precocious.

(It’s not that hard; if you know anything about music conducting at all, you can probably figure it out.)

Sesame Saturday: “Ineffable Steve-quality”

Have I mentioned that I love this song?  I love this song.

I wrote about this song almost five years ago and observed that, even when Steve is performing characters originated by someone else, “there is an ineffable Steve-quality to his voice because, as this song echoes around my cranium, I can imagine Wembley Fraggle singing it too. Like, as a duet with Ernie. And now I really wish that could be a thing.”

Now I really, REALLY wish that could be a thing that existed outside my own head.  Add it to the list of Muppet duets that I’d like to hear but are either impossible or extremely unlikely to occur.

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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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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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Sixth Day of Muppet Christmas: A Sesame Street Christmas Pageant

Generally speaking, I try to be an open-minded, nonjudgmental kind of person.  Nevertheless, I do have my pet peeves, and one of them is nonhuman depictions of the Nativity.

So by all rights, I should be really, REALLY offended by this sketch…and yet, I am not.  Why not?  Am I a hypocrite in addition to being a heretic?

Well…possibly.  But in this case, I think it’s the metafictional aspect that makes all the difference.  This is a story about a bunch of characters putting on a Nativity pageant.  Bert may be playing the role of Joseph, but the point of the sketch is not to persuade me to willingly suspend disbelief and convince myself that he is Joseph and not Bert.  The humor in the sketch stems from the fact that he is still unmistakably, undeniably Bert even while trying to play the role of Joseph while valiantly fighting off an attack of hayfever.

First Day of Muppet Christmas: Bert and Ernie’s sacrificial giving

Merry Christmas, all!  I have tears in my eyes as I share this classic Sesame sketch.  I was going to talk about it, but what can I say that hasn’t already been said?  There’s no improving on perfection.

“Here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.”

–O. Henry, “The Gift of the Magi” 

 

 

Twelve Days of Muppet Christmas

A lot of people seem to have the mistaken notion that the “12 days of Christmas” refers to the week and a half or so leading up to Christmas.  To be fair, I used to think the same thing.

Traditionally, however, according to the church calendar, the Christmas season starts on Christmas Day and continues for 12 days until January 6th, which is the feast day of the three kings, otherwise known–and I swear I am not making this up–as “Epiphany“.

I knew I wanted to do some kind of twelve-day event to celebrate not only the Christmas season but the Muppets’ longstanding tradition of creating Christmas content.  Originally, I wanted to look at and review 12 different Muppet Christmas productions, but I didn’t have time to do justice to them this year, so that will have to wait until next year.  Instead, I’m going to look at snippets of Muppet Christmas things and talk about them as appropriate.

I know that some people tend to get Christmassed out by the time Christmas actually gets here.  I empathize with that; last year my family had Christmas a week early, as my brother was here in town for a concert.  Subsequently, someone in the grocery store asked me if I was ready for Christmas, and I said something to the effect of: “For me, Christmas is already over.”

Nevertheless, there is an apropos song to apply to this situation that is from a Muppet production even though it doesn’t have any actual Muppets in it:

My intention is to keep Christmas with me, and share it with you, for at least a week and a half.