Speaking of The Dark Crystal…

Back in 2013, JHC hosted a contest to write a story (or part of one) set in The Dark Crystal universe.  The winner got to write an entire novel set in The Dark Crystal universe.

I entered the contest.  I didn’t win. 

At the time it was kind of a bummer, but I knew it was always going to be a long shot, seeing as I came relatively late to The Dark Crystal and its mythos (although I went out of my way to do my homework on it and try to make up for lost time).  The thing that really bummed me out about it was that the stories that weren’t finalists or editors’ choice selections didn’t get any feedback, so I don’t know what they thought of it.  I mean, I can construe from the fact that it didn’t make it into the next phase of the competition that they didn’t love it, but whether that means that they merely liked it, or hated it, or were too bored by it to even form an opinion, I have no idea.

In retrospect, however, I’m glad that I didn’t win the contest, because then I would have been beholden to the Hensons and wouldn’t be able to speak out as candidly on their involvement in the Schism as I have been.

And yet, as long as I have this blog, and a small but interested audience, I was thinking that maybe I would post my story here.  That way, you could read and (hopefully) enjoy it, and I could finally get some feedback on it.

So if you’re interested in reading my Dark Crystal-inspired story, leave a comment, and if there’s enough interest, I will post it. 

Incidentally, here is something I wrote at the time regarding my process, in which I did some intertextual thinking about The Dark Crystal and Harry Potter and decided that the Mystics are a race of Dumbledores and the Skeksis are a race of Voldemorts.

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:

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.”

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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Doubting the existence of the Great Bell

“WHAT?!?  The cave is…is empty!  There is no bell!  It’s all a lie!”
–Gobo Fraggle, who apparently never thought to look up to see if there was a clapper in the ceiling of the bell-shaped cavern.

In starting a Muppet blog, my goal was to try to strike a balance between the serious and the silly, as the Muppets have always done so effectively.  While I’m still proud of the content I have created, I do feel that perhaps I’ve been less than successful in that regard.

I hoped that Christmas would be a time that I could lean more toward the lighthearted side of the spectrum, back off a bit from the Schism, and temporarily beat my sword back into a ploughshare.

(Although you don’t want to try plowing this time of year; at least in this hemisphere, the ground is frozen.)

Throughout this month, I’ve been watching Muppet Christmas productions in preparation for an article series that I see now that I’m not going to have time to do properly until next year.  However, instead of being a temporary respite from the Schism, they reminded me of it all the more, especially the productions made subsequent to 1990.

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Phantom of the Opera: Everything’s better with Muppets



Faust, a five-act grand opera, is by Charles Gounod with a French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré.  It is loosely based on Faust, Part I, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  Goethe’s lesser-known follow-up, 2 Faust 2 Furious, focused on a man who made a deal with the diesel.”

–Erik Forrest Jackson, pushing all my geeky English-major buttons in an explanatory footnote of Muppets Meet the Classics: The Phantom of the Opera

When I opened the book and saw that the epigraph was a quote from a renowned French philosopher and a line from an old infomercial, I knew I was going to like this book.

When I started laughing hysterically at the table of contents, I knew I was going to love this book.

When I finished reading it, I wanted to go back and read the original novel again to compare the two; the mark of a good book is that it makes you want to read more.

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The ‘Phantom of the Opera’ is here…

…inside my house!

*dramatic organ music*

Remember when I entered a contest by The Muppet Mindset in which I drew a picture of Walter as Harry Potter and somehow won a copy of a free Muppet book, even though Walter looks like he only has one arm and the rampant Gryffindor lion on his Hogwarts insignia looks more like E.T.?*

Well, my 15 minutes of sketching and two months of patience have finally paid off, because today went to the mailbox (for the first time in the better part of a week) and received my Muppetized version of Phantom of the Opera!


Before I forget, a big thank you to Jarrod Fairclough and Mitchell Stein at The Muppet Mindset for hosting fun contests and giving out free stuff, and specifically for their very generous assessment of my drawing.

Even more fortuitously, I have today, tomorrow, and most of next week off from my part-time job, so I really have nothing to do in those evenings except read.  So I’ll go start it now, and when I finish, I’ll come back and tell you what I thought about it.

In the meantime, give yourselves in to the “Music of the Night”:

*Although I am proud of one subtle Muppet reference that I put in there: the Ravenclaw crest is supposed to be a bronze eagle on a blue background, but I made the background bronze and the eagle blue as an homage to Sam the Eagle.  “Is nothing sacred?”


“Do something creative because you can’t NOT do it.”
–Kermit the Frog

Last week or so I was in a morbid mood, indulging in my self-defeat and wallowing in self-pity as I looked at my life:  Working two jobs to make ends meet, which sucks up all the time I’d rather be spending on researching and writing.  One job transcribing/editing other people’s words instead of writing my own; the other job working in retail, making me feel like I’ve come full circle and ended up right back where I started in high school, as though all my education and training and experience and suffering over the past 20 years has all been for naught.

Desperately in need of some inspiration, I turned back to Kermit’s TED talk from 2015, and that was very helpful.  One part was particularly helpful, and you know how much I love to take other people’s/frogs’ words and put them into big block quotes, so here goes:

“We need to help kids–and all of us trying to connect with our inner tadpole–to pursue our passion, even when the going gets tough.  Now, for grown-ups, that just might mean, folks, you gotta have a day job.  Cuz let’s face it, it’s easier to take creative chances when it’s not how you’re trying to support yourself.  That can be tough.”

That made me feel better about taking the second job.  No shame in doing what it takes to survive, so long as you don’t hurt others in the process.  And if that means I have to try to bang out part of a blog post in the time between stopping one job for the day and starting another, then I guess that’s what it takes.  It’s not ideal–it’s not at all the way that I prefer to work–but if that’s what the situation calls for, then I’ll just have to be flexible and learn to adapt, which is a professional skill on which I have always prided myself.

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Fraggle Friday: Episode 102–“Wembley and the Gorgs”

“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.”

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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  I know the holiday is not really a thing outside the U.S. and Canada (and in Canada it happened a month ago), but there’s never a bad time to be grateful for the good things in our lives, especially when the bad things threaten to overwhelm us.

Thank you especially to Steve Whitmire, for teaching us (back in 1987) that turkeys are selfish, ungrateful bastards and that we should eat them, because if we don’t, they will conspire to murder Big Bird. 😉

Seriously, though…

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Sesame Saturday: Sesame Street Trumps Donald Trump

“There is one source that has always recognized Trump for being the absolute villain that he obviously is and that’s Sesame Street. Sesame Street has been touting the dangers of a Trump Presidency since the late eighties!”
 –Louie Pearlman, “Make America HATE Again: Ronald Grump on Sesame Street,” ToughPigs.com, January 29, 2016.

This is an excellent article that appeared on ToughPigs just before the 2016 primaries…so, almost two years ago?  Oh, how time flies when you’re in constant mortal dread for the future of humanity!  Anyway, the article is well worth a read, but I had a few thoughts to add from the perspective of being almost a year into the Orange Muggle Voldemort presidency.

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