“Unacceptable Business Conduct”

When I heard that Disney’s rationale for dismissing Steve Whitmire from the Muppet Studios was “unacceptable business conduct,” I laughed–loudly and derisively, without mirth.

Paging Mr. Kettle: Phone call from the Walt Disney Company regarding your color!

Disney’s shady business dealings are the stuff of legend.  They could fill several books–and have.  What follows is not intended to be a comprehensive account of Disney’s propensity for screwing people over.  We’ve got a loooong journey ahead of us; this is just the first step.

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Fraggle Friday: Episode 218: “The Day the Music Died”

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.

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“I don’t want to forget”

“Five minutes into the [Hollywood Bowl] show, and I forgot that he had a new performer – Kermit was just Kermit.”
            –Joe Hennes, “REPORT: The Muppets Take the Bowl,” ToughPigs.com, September 12, 2017

I’m genuinely happy for Joe that he enjoyed the show, and the same goes for anyone who attended and enjoyed it.

But this is exactly why I don’t want to watch clips from the Hollywood Bowl show; not because I think it won’t be good, but because I’m afraid it will be good.

The last two months have been terrible in so many ways, and yet they’ve brought to my life a sense of purpose that I haven’t felt in a long time.

I don’t want that to go away.  I don’t want to forget.

 

 

 

One of these things is not like the others…

Today, while doing research online, I found a quiz that was put together a week ago by Slate Magazine asking the reader to identify (by voice) the puppeteer performing Kermit in various audio clips.

Sarcastically, I thought, “Oh, that’s nice.  Turn Steve’s professional tragedy into a party game.”

But I took the quiz anyway, hoping to prove the point that, as wonderful as Matt is, he doesn’t sound anywhere near as much like Jim as some people would like to believe he does.  

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Another opportune moment for Jim Henson’s wisdom…

“Christine Nelson [daughter of Muppet performer Jerry Nelson] would die of complications from cystic fibrosis at age twenty-two.  Jim attended the service, his presence quietly reassuring Nelson–but Jim’s actions always spoke louder than any words.  Several years earlier, when Henson Associates’ insurance provider had notified Jim that it would no longer be paying all of Christine’s medical expenses, Jim had insisted that Henson Associates change insurance companies to ensure her costs would continue to be fully covered.  Nelson had gone to Jim’s office and tearfully thanked him in person, nearly choking on emotion.  ‘Jerry,’ said Jim, smiling, ‘that’s what insurance companies are for.'”
           –Brian Jay Jones, Jim Henson: The Biography, pages 322-323

Let Me Be Your Birthday Song

Happy birthday to Steve Whitmire and Jim Henson!  Steve, this year you get top billing; I don’t think Jim would mind.  🙂

I’m sure there are probably other examples of Jim and Steve singing together in harmony, but I can’t think of any of the top of my head, and it doesn’t matter because this one is probably the best anyway.

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Fraggle Friday: Episode 207: “Mokey and the Minstrels”

What follows is an open letter to Steve Whitmire:

Dear Steve,

Although I am a child of the ’80s, Fraggle Rock was, regrettably, not a significant part of my childhood.  I saw bits and pieces of it back in the day, but I never got to watch the series in its entirety until 2013–although I’ve been trying to make up for lost time ever since.  In a way, though, I think I’m kind of lucky because I think that maybe I get more out of watching Fraggle Rock as an adult, bringing my education and life experience to it, than I would have as a kid–a relatively blank slate.

Be that as it may, I identify strongly with Mokey.  Her abstract, fanciful, introspective approach to life, and her idealistic worldview, remind me a lot of myself.  In particular, however, I relate to Mokey in this episode of Fraggle Rock, in which she attempts to discern her vocation.  I’ve been trying to discern mine for 37 years, and I still haven’t quite figured it out.

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First Steps; or, Intellectual Warm-ups

CANTUS:  Listening is the first step and the last step.
MOKEY:  Ohhh…then I’m on the LAST step!
CANTUS: YOU…haven’t even begun.
MOKEY:  Well, I’m already there!  I mean…what about the ping?
CANTUS:  The ping is the start, but then comes the beginning.
–“Mokey and the Minstrels” Fraggle Rock, (Jocelyn Stevenson, screenwriter)

It’s been almost two months since I started this blog, and while I’ve created quite a bit of content that I can be proud of, in a way I still feel like I haven’t even really begun. 

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Sesame Saturday: All About Ernie

Not counting Kermit, who appeared on Sesame Street but wasn’t created specifically for it, Ernie is probably my favorite Sesame Street character of all time, although it is hard for me to choose between him and Bert (they’re always at their best when they’re together).  If you were to ask former classmates of mine whether I was more like Ernie or Bert in school, most of them would probably say Bert.  But in my own mind, I always identified with Ernie.  Certainly, Ernie is everything that I would like to be: clever, funny, easygoing, with an infectious laugh and a perpetual smile on his face.

And yet, I said before that, of all of the Muppet (and non-Muppet) characters that Jim Henson created, Kermit the Frog is the most “real” to me.  So when Sesame Workshop recast Ernie in 2014, my reaction was one of mild annoyance rather than panic.

It was the episode in which Bert learns to ride his bike without training wheels (clip).  At first, I was happy to see a street story featuring Bert and Ernie because that hadn’t happened since who knows when.  Then Ernie opened his mouth to speak and I said to myself, “Is Ernie going through puberty?  Because his voice seems to have changed.”

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Fraggle Friday: Wembley’s Way

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.

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“…the lovers, the dreamers, and me.”

What follows is a clip from a 2014 benefit screening of Muppets Most Wanted at the White House for military families.  Kermit speaks eloquently to the children of military personnel about the challenges they face:

You know, I’ve watched a lot of interviews with Kermit, and Steve as well, and one question that comes up a lot is who are their favorite celebrities that they’ve met and worked with.  And, speaking strictly for myself, any or all of the Obamas would be near the top of the list.  But I imagine that getting to do things to help kids–like this, or like the Labor Day telethon, or Make-A-Wish visits–would be the most rewarding part of being a Muppet performer.  I imagine that that stuff would stick with you longer than the bits with the celebrities, although those bits would be fun too.

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Rebranding

This is just to say that my little blog here is undergoing a slight rebranding.  I deemed this necessary due to a rookie mistake I made when I first started this blog: I failed to Google the name that I intended to give my blog to see if it was already taken or in use in some other capacity.

It was brought to my attention a while back that there is a play called “Frog Quixote,” and that could potentially cause confusion.  I wasn’t specifically asked to change the name of my blog by either the playwright or the publisher, although I would have been happy to comply if it had been considered a copyright infringement.  But I don’t think there was much danger of my harming them; if anything, the existence of the play was potentially redirecting web traffic that would have come to me otherwise.  So this in my best interest as well.

I would have done it sooner, but I had a hard time thinking up a new name.  I only want to go through this rebranding once, so I want to get it right.  “Don Quixote” and “Man of La Mancha” are more or less synonymous, so this seems like a logical step.

Most importantly, the URL is staying the same for now.  If, for some reason, that changes in the future, I will definitely let you know. 

Thank you for your kind attention.  🙂

“To do the right deed for the wrong reason”

“The last temptation is the greatest treason: 
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”
–T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral

I have a confession to make: Kermit the Frog is more “real” to me than any of the other Muppets.  I remember when Jim Henson died, my first thought was not “What’s going to happen to the Muppets?” or “What’s going to happen with Sesame Street?” but “What’s going to happen to Kermit?”

So when news of the Schism broke, I was less concerned about Steve’s other characters than I was about Kermit.  But as I processed the news, I started worrying about Beaker.

Since Beaker doesn’t really talk, I feared that Disney would feel that it didn’t matter who performed him.  In fact, the opposite is true: a character who doesn’t talk needs a skilled, consistent performer who knows how to convey an idea nonverbally.

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