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).
Slightly off-topic, but I was thinking about this one today because Lin-Manuel Miranda has shingles.
And while I of course feel sorry for him–because by all accounts, shingles is a miserable illness–I’m also shocked and disturbed because I didn’t know it was possible to get shingles in your 30s. Lin is the same age I am; that means I’m susceptible too. Crap.
(Unless, of course, it only attacks obscenely talented and successful thirty-somethings, in which case I’m off the hook.)
A few items of interest:
- I decided that my domain name should reflect the name of my blog, so I added the domain name “frogoflamancha.blog.” The “frogquixote” URL should still work, however.
- I joined Twitter, so you can follow me @frogoflamancha. My intention is to use it as a tool, not make it a way of life; we’ll see how that goes.
Now for the major news:
I don’t know if anyone else has tried to access Steve’s blog lately. When I try it on my PC, I just get an error message, but when I tried it on my laptop, I got a maintenance page with the following message:
Things are changing, and I’ll be back ASAP.
Thanks for checking in,
So it’s a bit vague, and I don’t know exactly what he means by “things are changing,” but it certainly sounds as though, after these six long months, he’s finally getting ready to come back to the blog!
I’m not sure this warrants a full-on Kermit flail but it’s certainly cause for cautious optimism.
I don’t begrudge Steve the right to do whatever he wants with his blog, but the unfortunate consequence of him absenting himself when he did was that he had just banished the troll(s) from the comment section, and reading the comments had become infinitely more enjoyable. So I’m hopeful that not only will we soon be enjoying more stories and insights from Steve but also having pleasant conversations in the comments section again.
My own words are insufficient to express my emotions at this development. Take it, Wembley:
“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.”
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.
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.
Is it just me, or was the conflict in this episode really avoidable?
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.
I think this was the second time in my young life that I got to see Fraggles on TV, but the first time that I got to do repeat viewings of Fraggles on TV until I was able to purchase the DVD set as an adult.
As much as I love this episode of Fraggle Rock–and I do–I nevertheless have some questions about it:
Why did Gobo assume that the “Great Bell” was something that he’d be able to carry back home? Doesn’t “Great Bell” kind of imply something that’s large and heavy?
When Gobo and Wembley saw that the cave was bell-shaped on the map, why did it never occur to them that perhaps the cave is the Great Bell rather than simply containing the Great Bell? That’s immediately where my mind went.
Whatever happened to the Weebabeast, anyway? They introduce this whole implied mythos about the Weebabeast, and then we never hear about it again. I feel cheated.
Why does everyone think that Cantus is so cryptic? He makes perfect sense to me.
“The Gorgs might be the bullies at school, but they might also be a mean boss, or an abusive boyfriend, or the Taliban. It’s a good thing we have Fraggle Rock, to help us figure it out. For all we know, there might be Gorgs everywhere.”
–Danny Horn, “My Week with Fraggle Rock, Part 2: Big Shots,” ToughPigs.com, November 4, 2004.
I’ve wanted to write about this episode of Fraggle Rock for four years now, long before I had a Muppet blog, and long before the Schism. I hope I can do it justice.
Let’s start things off with a song. Take it, Wembley:
This song plays a relatively minor role in the episode, but I wanted to highlight it because it is one of my very favorite Wembley songs. Steve’s voice here is like a soft, cozy blanket–warm and fuzzy and friendly. Which, come to think about it, is a good description of Wembley’s character in a nutshell.
Now, instead of looking at the episode chronologically, let’s jump around and look at it thematically. To that end, let’s get started at the end of this episode, in which Wembley makes a very profound statement: “I guess some slavery feels like freedom.”
This may well be the most discussed Fraggle Rock episode of them all. I don’t think that I necessarily have anything new to add to the discussion. But it’s October, and I always get to feeling morbid in October, and this episode suits my current mood, so I’m just going to go with it.
“With a war of words in the press with the Hensons, Disney executives will never be held accountable for mediocre creative directions that lay at their feet, or for the way I have been treated. After literally refuting every one of Brian’s allegations on paper throughout the night, I cannot bring myself to send it to the media out of respect for Jim. No matter how carefully I frame it, because I know so much about them, it feels like a counterattack that might do real personal damage. […] I will continue to speak about the issues surrounding my dismissal by Disney, but I cannot in good conscience speak against my mentor’s children. It flies in the face of a great man’s philosophy of watching out for each other and loving and forgiving everybody.”
–Steve Whitmire “The Last Few Days, Part 1,” July 22, 2017
Rarely have I seen a better practical, real-life example of someone “turning the other cheek” (cf. Matthew 5:38-39) than this example of Steve refusing to fight back against the unwarranted personal attacks leveled against him by the Henson children. It tells me everything I need to know about who Steve is as a person and completely validates the faith and trust that I have invested in him.
And yet, while I understand and agree with Steve’s personal decision not to retaliate against the Hensons, I nevertheless feel that the Hensons should be held accountable for their words and actions. As responsible adults, we all understand (or, at least, we should understand) that actions have consequences, and one cannot reasonably expect to be held to a different standard due to the high regard in which people hold one’s late father. In fact, it is precisely because of the high regard in which we hold Jim Henson that his children ought to be held to account, because their actions are reflecting badly on him, and he’s no longer able to defend himself or assert his own point of view.
I agree with Steve that it is inappropriate for him to criticize the Hensons, for the reasons that he stated, but I don’t think it necessarily follows that the Hensons should not be criticized at all. If I criticize the Hensons, it is unlikely to turn into a war of words, as I doubt that they would consider refuting me to be worth their time. I have already provided well-reasoned, well-researched criticism of Disney and will continue to do so; therefore, I do not anticipate that anything that I have to say about the Hensons will distract from the Disney critique but rather show it in sharper relief. Moreover, since I do not know the Hensons personally, I doubt very seriously that my criticism of them would have the potential to do “real personal damage.”
Which is not to say that anything and everything about the Hensons is fair game. I have always been mindful of the inexpressible pain that they must have felt, and presumably still feel, about the loss of their father, and I will always try to be sensitive of that, as I always have. And yet, I look to the example of Jon Stewart who, when he was hosting The Daily Show, had a talent for knowing what was foul and what was fair, for calling people on their hypocrisy without hitting below the belt. And if Jon Stewart were still hosting The Daily Show, I would like to think (though, of course, I have no way of knowing) that he would have devoted some time–not a lot of time, mind you, maybe just five minutes of the show on July 17th or July 18th–to go over to camera 3 and say, “Seriously, what the hell, Hensons?”
So that’s what I’m trying to do now. More than that, however, I’m just trying to work through the negative feelings of hurt and betrayal that I myself feel over the Hensons’ words and actions. These negative feelings are burdensome to me, a stumbling block that I will have to get over if I have any hope of being able to move past these issues towards the forgiveness which Jim Henson himself advocated.
If Steve is reading this, I hope that he will understand my rationale for doing what he has nobly refused to do and forgive me if I am out of line in doing so.
Today is my best friend’s birthday! Wishing you a perfect day! 🙂
Well, the best-laid plans of Fraggles and frogs often go awry, I suppose. I had a whole Fraggle Friday feature all planned out…and then I developed a migraine, with its attendant photosensitivity, which means I can’t turn on a light to see my notes, at least not without feeling as though a Doozer with an ice auger is standing on my head trying to bore its way into my skull.
So instead, let’s focus on the night when the lights went out in Fraggle Rock: episode 218, “The Day the Music Died,” aka The One With the Ditzies.
Someone posted the following video in the Muppet Pundit comments. Steve has yet to talk about it, so I don’t know all of the backstory, but it appears that Steve returned to his old high school in 1988 with some of his characters (Muppet and otherwise) in tow to participate in a concert of some sort.
Take it, Wembley:
I have another confession to make: in all my years of studying literature, I’ve found that, a lot of times, I don’t think that an author’s–or, in a broader sense, an artist’s–most celebrated or well-known work is necessarily their best. I read The Red Badge of Courage in grad school and was underwhelmed by it; my favorite Stephen Crane work is called The Monster; you’ve probably never heard of it, but it’s utterly brilliant. Similarly, I love Madeleine L’Engle, and I love A Wrinkle in Time, but it was a early novel of hers, and I think her later works show a growth and a maturity that is missing in Wrinkle, as wonderful as it is and as much as I have always loved it.
My point is that “My Way” is so famous and so popular, and arguably so overexposed, that I’ve never been that impressed with it. In fact, I’m not sure if I ever really paid attention to the lyrics before. But watching Wembley sing this little duet, the lyrics suddenly smacked me in the face, particularly the last verse:
“For what is a man? What has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels.”
Those lyrics might have been written for and about Steve; that’s exactly what he’s doing on his blog, and he’s taken–and continues to take–the blows for it.