Friday, November 18, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green

Last night I saw a screening of the charming, inspiring, heartfelt "Being Elmo," the documentary which chronicles the life and career of the puppeteer Kevin Clash. Inextricably linked to Clash's story is, of course, Jim Henson, muppet creator extraordinaire who gave Clash his big break.

In the early 70's I had the amazing opportunity of going to Jim Henson's workshop and 'meeting' all the muppets. You see, my dad, a comedy writer on the Jimmy Dean show in the 60's, had once written jokes for one of Henson's first characters, Rawlph the dog.

From Wikipedia: Rowlf rose to stardom as Jimmy Dean's sidekick on The Jimmy Dean Show. The show ran from 1963 until 1966. Rowlf the Dog was a regular on the show, and was billed as Jimmy's "ol' buddy." Between seven and ten minutes of every show were devoted to a spot with Rowlf and Dean. Many of the comedy sketches ended with the two singing a duet together. Rowlf's tenure on The Jimmy Dean Show allowed Jim Henson to develop the character over a period of time
I was 4 or 5 and we were in New York and my dad had arranged for me to meet Henson and the rest of the furry gang. He'd since gone on to create Sesame Street, obviously, and considering it was my favorite show in the world my dad knew this would be an opportunity of a lifetime. My memory comes in patchwork around that day. I remember bringing cookies and feeding Cookie Monster, I remember seeing rows of muppets (were they called that then? I think they might have still been puppets) sitting inanimately on shelves, I remember the smell of the studio and I remember feeling extraordinarily shy. I'm not sure how long we stayed, or what we talked about (I'll have to ask my dad next time I see him) but somewhere in my clutter of stuff I have this postcard with Henson's signature...

Seeing the movie last night brought back so many amazing memories - not only of meeting them as a child, but watching the show on a nightly basis, being absorbed by the characters and stories and the world of Sesame Street. The movie was just another reminder about following your passion, whether it be puppetry or poetry. There are so many lives that you can affect by you just being you.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Narrator: As the 21st century began, human evolution was at a turning point. Natural selection, the process by which the strongest, the smartest, the fastest, reproduced in greater numbers than the rest, a process which had once favored the noblest traits of man, now began to favor different traits. Most science fiction of the day predicted a future that was more civilized and more intelligent. But as time went on, things seemed to be heading in the opposite direction. A dumbing down. How did this happen? Evolution does not necessarily reward intelligence. With no natural predators to thin the herd, it began to simply reward those who reproduced the most, and left the intelligent to become an endangered species.

I watched a good movie the other night. The premise supposes that by the year 2505 society has dumbed down to the lowest possible level thanks to hundreds of years of breeding by the wrong people. Idiots litter the streets of a post-apocolyptic America. Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph play characters who are victims of a 2005 government experiment gone wrong and when they wake up 500 years later, they are faced with the reality of Idiocracy.

Okay, obviously this is no Citizen Kane, no Gone With the Wind, but as far as social commentary is concerned, it is spot on. The idiots of 2505 don't actually speak, they grunt, like Kris Humphries. Their
facial expressions are as blank as the Kardashians. They just don't understand. Life is very hard. But they keep having kids (The Duggars). This movie was made before Snookie arrived on the scene, before the Real Housewives invaded Bravo.

Idiocracy was written and directed by Mike Judge, the man behind Beavis and Butt-head. That show about those two stoners who watch TV and laugh? you say? Yes, that's the one. But that show was also commenting on the youths of society. I teach college and am confronted with those insipid blank stares, confusion over due dates, surprise over plaigairism allegations. I see our future and it's kind of scary.

Idiocracy is a cautionary tale. It is the whisper before the scream.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Pace

Another jam-packed NY trip has sadly come to an end. In 3 1/2 days I managed to attend my favorite Russian restaurant/bar (even though I'm allergic to Vodka I can't get enough of their gravlox and potato pancakes), have lunch with the bestie birthday girl at the scrumptious Spice Market, walk the High Line on my way to meet my book agent for a drink , (who always manages to make it feel like everything is going to be okay), catch a performance of Follies, the best, starring Bernadette Peters (apologies to

friends who had to endure my rendition of "Broadway Baby" over and over and over after the show...). I occupied Wall Street in the rain, traveled by car to Connecticut
in the harrowing snow storm, made the best out of a power outage by dancing to 80's music in front of the fire (14-year old DJ Julia kept the tunes going), took a walk in the snow-covered neighborhood, dodging falling branches and downed power lines (Whenever a clump of snow fell from the trees Erika declared, "It's like the Wizard of Oz when the trees pelt apples at everyone!"). I ate more, and more, and more.

Back in NYC I stood in what seemed to be a thankless line, at least 25 people deep, for Book of Mormon tickets and much to my surprise and delight found that I was the only single one in line and got the one extra ticket they had to offer. The line boo'd as I came to collect my ticket but I didn't care because when I slipped into the 4th row center seat, my row applauded my arrival, knowing how hard these tickets are to come by (sold out until June, 2012). My face still hurts from laughing. It was truly the funniest most crass thing I've ever seen - and the music was great, too. Matt Stone and Trey Parker can do no wrong.
On my way to the airport the next day, I stopped at the MOMA thanks to Daryl's membership, and caught the De Kooning retrospective which took my breath away. (BTW, shout out to dogfriend Teddy who licked my nose every morning to wake me up.)

The flight home was through the blazing orange sunset all the way from coast to coast. I'm already scheming ways to get back to NYC in the Spring. My theater and food habit is very expensive, unfortunately, but I'll somehow figure it out.