Muppet Babies 2018 Review: Part 1

The original Muppet Babies series was not part of my childhood because it was on a channel that we didn’t get at my house.  However, as a teenager I had a steady babysitting job and I watched Muppet Babies with those kids a lot, so I’m passingly familiar with it.  And yet, that was twenty-some years ago, so it’s no longer in the forefront of my consciousness.

All of which is just to say that, as I review the new Muppet Babies series (or, at least, the two episodes of it that I’ve seen), I won’t be making comparisons with the original series because the original series is largely lost to me in the mists of memory.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Where Do You Stand?

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others.”
                                       –Martin Luther King, Jr.

Where do you stand?  How do you measure up?

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.

Continue reading

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.

Dear Muppet Performers…

Dear Dave, Matt, David, Bill, Eric, and Peter:

Recently I used a quotation from Alexander Hamilton to illustrate my thoughts about Disney’s decision to cut ties with Steve Whitmire (which I refer to as the “Schism,” because I am fancy).  The quotation that I used is from a revolutionary pamphlet that Hamilton wrote as a teenager with the somewhat clunky title, A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress:

In a civil society” Hamilton wrote, “it is the duty of each particular branch to promote not only the good of the whole community, but the good of every other particular branch.  If one part endeavors to violate the rights of another, the rest ought to assist in preventing the injury.  When they do not but remain neutral, they are deficient in their duty, and may be regarded, in some measure, as accomplices.”

I wanted to let you know that that sentiment was not directed at you in any way.  It was directed squarely at the Muppet fans who remain complacent.  I want you to know that I don’t consider you to be accomplices in the Schism, nor do I consider you to have been deficient in your duty.  I understand and appreciate the difficulty, complexity, and potential volatility of your situation.

Continue reading

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.

 

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.

Continue reading

Fraggle Friday: Fraggle Rock at 35

via Fraggle Rock at 35: The Show to Save the World | Muppet Fans Who Grew Up – Tough Pigs Muppet Fans Who Grew Up – Tough Pigs

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.

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Twelfth Day of Muppet Christmas: VMX and “Everyone Matters”

Today I want to talk about It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, or “VMX” for short.

Now, VMX is not my favorite Muppet thing ever, not by a long shot.  But I would forgive anybody just about anything for the sake of “Everyone Matters,” a beautiful song from the special:

I love this song, partially because it gives such good Sad-Gonzo.  Sad-Gonzo is my favorite Gonzo.  As far as I’m concerned, the worst thing that ever happened to Gonzo’s character is when his eyelids became mobile and he could change expressions.

Continue reading