Shuffling Priorities

I‘ve been enjoying writing this blog so much, and focusing so much attention on it, that I’ve neglected other life concerns, both personal and professional, to my detriment.  I need to take a step back from the blog and focus my time and researching skills elsewhere, at least for a while.

Ideally, I’d love to be able to post something new every day, but I’m only one person and, with a strict full-time work schedule, I just don’t have the time I’d like to be able to commit to blogging.  So the choice is either to cut down on quantity or quality, and I’m never willing to cut down on quality. 

Which is not to say that I’m taking a break from the blog or absenting myself from it entirely, but I am going to have to slow down the pace at which I publish.  My goal is to produce one substantial blog post per week at the very least.  

We’ll try that and see how it goes.

Fraggle Friday: Episode 507–“Gone, But Not Forgotten”

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.

It’s interesting that, for all the Fraggles’ preoccupation with death, and notwithstanding the numerous close calls, this is the only episode that deals directly with it.

 

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The Garth Brooks episode of Muppets Tonight

I was thinking about this recently because Garth Brooks came to Sioux Falls last month and gave nine concerts over the course of two weekends.  I didn’t get to go, but it was impossible not to get caught up in the excitement of it all.

I only got to watch the first season of Muppets Tonight, before it skipped over to a cable channel, but of that first season, the Garth Brooks episode is the most memorable for me for several reasons; some lighthearted and some more serious.

This isn’t the entire episode, but it’s the section most relevant to what I’m going to discuss:

At the time that this episode aired, I was 15 years old and was involved in a production of Fiddler on the Roof at our high school.  (Not on stage; I played second clarinet in the pit band.  At first, I was bummed about not being cast in the play, as I had auditioned, but apparently the band director had asked for me specifically for the pit band, so that made it a little better.)  Anyway, for that reason I was really tickled watching this episode when Garth Brooks started singing “If I Were a Rich Man,” although I was disappointed that he didn’t do the Tevye dance.

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Muppets and Literature

The one thing I love more than anything else in this entire world is Muppet parodies/interpretations of literature.

(With the possible exception of Muppet Christmas Carol, but that’s because of all the baggage that came with it, which is a topic for another day.)

I really think that that’s part of the reason why I decided to major in English, because I realized at an early age, sitting on the floor watching “Monsterpiece Theater” on Sesame Street, that the more familiar you are with the source material, the funnier the jokes are.

So when I heard that there was going to be a Muppetized version of the novel “The Phantom of the Opera,” (one of my favorite novels/stories of all time) starring a perfectly-cast Uncle Deadly as the Phanton himself, my kneejerk reaction was: “YES!”

(At least somebody at Disney has good ideas about the Muppets.)

And then I remembered…I can’t buy the book because (a) I have no money, and (b) I have principles. 

Which is merely to say that I’m being judicious in how I spend my money on Disney-related stuff unless/until they bring Steve back to the Muppets.  It’s not to say that I wouldn’t spend money on a Muppetized version of a classic novel, but I would have to do a lot of soul-searching before I could commit to such a thing, and I first would look for (legal) alternative ways to acquire it without exchanging money with Disney itself.

Fortunately, one such opportunity presented itself.  When I saw that The Muppet Mindset was having a contest to give away free copies of the book, I leapt at the opportunity, without putting a lot of thought or preparation or effort into it.

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Looking at what I don’t see

“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.

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Songs for Puerto Rico

For years and years, whenever anyone ever mentioned the words “Puerto Rico” in my presence, my automatic response has been to sing the opening line of the song “America” from West Side Story.  There’s no reason for it; it’s just a silly, meaningless habit that I picked up somewhere along the way.  But in the current context of the devastation caused by the recent hurricane, that particular response doesn’t seem so silly but rather callous and cruel, which is why I didn’t quote the line here.

So I said to myself, “Man, I really need a new song to associate with Puerto Rico.”

Lin-ElmoRosita

Fortunately, Elmo and Rosita sang a song with the brilliant and Muppety Lin-Manuel Miranda, which was posted yesterday to Elmo’s Twitter feed.

(By the way, why does Elmo need a Twitter feed?  I mean, I understand it from a Doylist point of view, but from a Watsonian point of view it makes no sense whatsoever, because Elmo can’t even read. )

Sorry, I got distracted there for a second.  Anyway, the gifted and beautiful Lin-Manuel Miranda also wrote and produced another song for Puerto Rico called “Almost Like Praying.”  It is available on all digital media platforms, and all the proceeds go to hurricane relief.

On Amazon, it costs less than a buck and a half, so it’s one small way that we can all help out our fellow Americans and fellow human beings who have experienced horror and degradation the likes of which most of us cannot even begin to imagine.

 

Manny’s Land of Carpets–Redux

(Well, so much for the peaceful, quiet relaxation.)

First it was a migraine, then it was personal/professional issues…maybe there are forces out there that don’t want me to say what I was originally going to say about the Fraggle Rock episode “Manny’s Land of Carpets.”  Or maybe last week, or even yesterday, just wasn’t the acceptable time for me to be able to do it full justice.  In any case, I think I’m ready now, and I feel compelled to revisit my original ideas about this episode:

GOBO: Why does the Wish-Granting Creature promise so many things in so many different voices?  Something’s wrong here! […] I wish I knew which voice to believe.
ECHO: Believe!…believe!…believe…
[…]
GOBO:  All of a sudden, I know which voice to listen to!

We live in a schizophrenic society.  There are more voices now than ever before, all saying different things and all with different–and often sinister, or at least selfish–motivations.  We live in a world in which foreign agitators promulgate fake news stories across social media platforms to influence our elections.  We–well, I and at least some of you–live in a country in which those in authority try to undermine the credibility of those journalists who are actively TRYING to be truthful–or, at least, accurate–by disingenuously calling them “fake news.”

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An Open Letter to Matt Vogel

Dear Matt,

You don’t know me, but if you read Steve Whitmire’s blog at all, I often comment over there.

First of all, I wanted to wish you a happy birthday.  When it was Steve’s birthday recently, I wished him a happy birthday on his blog, and I sent good wishes into the ether for Jim Henson, and even though you’re not part of their “birthday club,” I didn’t want you to feel left out.  I hope you have a very happy and special day.

Secondly, I wanted to apologize to you; as I’m sure you understand, this whole situation with Disney letting Steve go from the Muppets is very upsetting to me.  I’ve never been very good at pigeonholing my emotions, and writing (whether it be on a blog or elsewhere) is often the “safe” medium into which I channel my negative thoughts and feelings.  Unfortunately, there are times when I’ve been lashing out at Disney and you’ve sort of gotten caught in the crossfire, as it were.  If I seem angry, I want you to know that I never meant to take it out on you

(And if you spend any time on my blog, you’ll notice that I often express myself through song lyrics or paraphrases thereof.)

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Fraggle Friday: Episode 215–“Manny’s Land of Carpets”

“‘Manny’s Land of Carpets’–I love that show.  It was really a show about television; a show about the kind of delusional system that’s projected by people’s belief in, you know, the world that seems to be inside that box in the corner of the room, and that’s the way I saw it in the beginning, anyway.  And then it just got crazier and crazier as time went on, and it’s sort of one of those one-sentence ideas that you can crack it open and start to uncrack it a little bit, and it starts to really suggest there’s an entire universe in here–Manny’s Land of Carpets.”
             –David Young, writer of “Manny’s Land of Carpets

So, here is David Young, a writer working for a TV show, writing an episode of said show about how television is a “delusional system.”  You’ve got to admire his audacity and the unapologetic relish with which he bites the hand that feeds him.

(This is the topic about which I was going to write last week but had to postpone when I was beset by a migraine.  But maybe it’s just as well, because what I’m going to write now is different than what I would have written last week.)

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Credit where credit is due

Disney CEO Bob Iger gave an excellent response to the recent gun-violence massacre in Las Vegas.  It should be acknowledged.

It doesn’t change anything in regard to my criticisms toward Disney.  One good deed is not enough to erase decades of corruption and hypocrisy.

But do I dare hope that it may be a step in the direction of redemption?

(In all honesty, every time I get close to hoping such a thing, I notice the Disney people calling their employees “cast members,” even in this extremely serious context, and the kitsch-iness of it just rubs me the wrong way.  Oh, well.)

Thoughts on October

In spite of what T.S. Eliot said, I’ve felt for years–even before the Schism–that October is really the cruelest month, because a disproportionate number of the worst things that have ever happened to me have happened during October.

I wrote some non-Muppet-related thoughts on it and put them under the Slightly Off-Topic menu.  You can read them here.

Keeping the blog tidy

“I’m the butler; I like to keep the kitchen tidy.”

                       –Wadsworth (Tim Curry) Clue (Jonathan Lynn, screenwriter)

I finally figured out how to use the “Read More” tag in my blog posts so that the longer posts appear a more manageable length on the main page of my blog.  I think that this helps the main page look more “tidy,” and perhaps a bit more professional, but I’m interested in your opinions.  

What do you think of the “Read More” tags?  Do you think they make the blog look more tidy, or would you prefer to see the lengthier posts sprawled all over the main page?

I’d appreciate whatever feedback you may have.  Thank you. 🙂