Time in a Bottle

Hello, all!  I haven’t posted anything of real substance for a while, and I wanted to take a minute to catch up.  I wanted to let you know that it is not my feelings and convictions that have changed; all that has changed is my schedule.

The good news is that I recently landed a new, open-ended, freelance writing gig (thank you, FlexJobs.com), and while it doesn’t pay much, I think that the experience I gain is going to be invaluable to me as I embark on this new career path.  The bad news is that, while I have given two weeks’ notice at my other part-time job, at the moment I am working three jobs, and while this is a temporary situation (until the end of the month) I’m sure you can imagine that my life is quite crazy and hectic at the moment, and free time for blogging is at a minimum as I try to manage my schedule and meet all my various commitments and deadlines.

I did, however, purchase and watch Frank Oz’s documentary Muppet Guys Talking yesterday, and it was probably the nicest brunch I’ve ever had (perhaps second only to this).  I could only afford to purchase the film, not all the extra stuff, but the film itself was well worth the 10 bucks or so.  I can heartily recommend it, and I’ve been informed today that it’s not going to be available forever, so I’d advise you to carpe diem and carpe documentary while you can.

When I have a free moment, I’ll come back and tell you my thoughts and feelings about it, but don’t expect it until April.

Fraggle Friday: We’re Part of Each Other

I’ve observed in the past that there seems to be at least one Fraggle Rock song that fits every situation and event.  That continues to hold true, even in the wake of the senseless and horrific:

“But I had a dream it was time to begin, and every creature… / We were sister and brother we were part of each other and it made us one / And it made us win. “

“It can make you ache for the sake of another / And it takes your life, and it stakes it too / And it makes you make the world come new.”

Sesame Saturday: More Olympic Shenanigans

Cookie Monster and Elmo are back again, talking (and singing!) with more Olympic athletes.

First, they ask several athletes to explain their sports (Elmo asks skier Lindsey Vonn what sport she “plays,” which is kind of awkward, but she copes with it beautifully):

Then they get the athletes to join them in a sing-a-long of the “Olympic song.”  I wasn’t sure what that meant at first; for some reason I was thinking of the Olympic Anthem, but once they started singing, it all became clear:

Man, I wish I could sing the “Olympic song” with some Muppets.  I would not only sing it, I would conduct it, because I figured out how to do that a long time ago, when I was young and precocious.

(It’s not that hard; if you know anything about music conducting at all, you can probably figure it out.)

Small Victory

If I have been instrumental in confirming or adding one friend to his country, I shall not regret the time I have devoted to that laudable purpose.
–Passage from Alexander Hamilton’s “The Farmer Refuted,” slightly reworked to fit the current context.

Sometimes when I post something that I think is going to be controversial, my conflict aversion kicks in and I actively avoid looking to see if it has garnered any response.

Therefore, even though it happened in October 2017, I just found out today that, even if I haven’t succeeded in changing any hearts or minds through this blog or my related efforts, I did manage to gain a concession from one of Steve’s most vocal critics on the Tough Pigs forum (I ordinarily wouldn’t like to use the forum’s name in an instance like this, but since I’m linking to it anyway, it seems a bit silly to be coy about it).

It may have been a small victory, but I nevertheless feel that it is significant.  It’s extremely gratifying to know that (a) all those years studying rhetoric–not to mention the student loans–have not been a complete waste and (b) my words have made a difference, no matter how small.

I believe in all of you.  Let’s go out there and keep making a difference.


Sesame Saturday: “Ineffable Steve-quality”

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.

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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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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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