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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Alexander Hamilton: He fights trolls so we don’t have to

“It’s hard to listen to you with a straight face.”

Last week I had occasion to quote from Alexander Hamilton’s first revolutionary pamphlet, which he wrote as a teenage college student.  (Man, what was I doing during my first semester at college?)

Today I have occasion to quote from Hamilton’s follow-up pamphlet, The Farmer Refuted:

Sir:—
I resume my pen, in reply to the curious epistle you have been pleased to favor me with, and can assure you that notwithstanding I am naturally of a grave and phlegmatic disposition, it has been the source of abundant merriment to me. The spirit that breathes throughout is so rancorous, illiberal, and imperious; the argumentative part of it is so puerile and fallacious; the misrepresentation of facts so palpable and flagrant; the criticisms so illiterate, trifling, and absurd; the conceits so low, sterile, and splenetic, that I will venture to pronounce it one of the most ludicrous performances which has been exhibited to public view during all the present controversy.
[…]
I congratulate myself upon the sentiments you entertain of my last performance. Such is my opinion of your abilities as a critic, that I very much prefer your disapprobation to your applause.

The entire pamphlet is well worth a read.  Alexander Hamilton didn’t just throw shade; he completely blotted out the sun.

“Turn the World Around”

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.”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Tenth Day of Muppet Christmas: “It’s in Every One of Us to Be Wise”

It may not be readily apparent, but as this Christmas-to-Epiphany season wears on, I can sort of feel myself becoming snarkier and more sarcastic.

But if there were ever a sure-fire cure for feeling grumpy and cynical, it would be Robin the Frog singing “It’s in Every One of Us”:

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Eighth Day of Muppet Christmas: “Thankful Heart”

Happy New Year!  As I look back on 2017, it seems to me that: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  

Notwithstanding numerous references, however, The Muppets have yet to do an adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities, but we can acknowledge Mr. Dickens with another scene from Muppet Christmas Carol:

I would be remiss to post this video and not say a “thank you” or two…  

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