large cheer!

What does a Muppet look like live and in the foam?

About what you'd expect.

Only without legs.


quick cooked in dragon fire.

We're still doing Henson videos here today, and next are the commercials. Note that The Ladybug Picnic does not endorse any of the products shown below. Except that I do have some La Choy soy sauce in my fridge.

While funny commercials are pretty standard now, apparently back in the 1960s, it was quite a new idea. Henson came up with a series of nearly two hundred 8-second ads for Wilkins coffee. They remind me of the Geico commercials because of their breviy. These are a little violent, so much so that it's almost shocking that they were on TV. It's a little like watching Tom and Jerry now, wondering why you never had a problem with a cat being cut precisely in half when you were a kid.

I think my favorite is when the Washington Monument falls down on the guy because he does not drink Wilkins coffee.

There were also some commercials for Pak-Nit.

I love when the announcer reads the sign, even down to the "close parenthesis." I guess I'm just not used to these types of commercials, where there are characters and a story line disguising the advertising. I feel like I've seen stuff like this in modern commercials, but it came off being cheesy. Maybe things from the 1960s are just allowed to be cheesy.

And here's one for Wilson's Meat.

Of course, it doesn't make me want to eat Wilson's Meat at all, because it apparently gives you astronomical gas.

I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that Cookie Monster originated as an ad gimmick.

He must have turned to cookies when it became hard to find Munchos. Apparently, you can find them in the Midwest.

And here's Nutty Bird, who should also look familiar to anyone who has ever seen any episode of Sesame Street ever. His friend is named Sour Bird.

What's most interesting to me is that they're pushing RC Cola as an energy drink. Now, of course, sodas are just soda, and energy drinks are something else entirely.

You can find lots more commercials on YouTube just by clicking around the related videos to the ones I've shown here. But let's get to my favorite. It's the La Choy Dragon!

Anything that says "Quick-cooked in dragon fire" in such a deadpan voice is a winner.


Sam and Friends

Jim Henson had a Washington, D.C. public access five-minute television show called Sam and Friends. The show ran from 1955 to 1961. Five minutes is really, really short. I'm having a hard time coming up with an equivalent in today's viewing. I saw an interview with Henson who said it took about half a day to film each show. These shows feature an early Kermit. He's missing his jagged collar, but otherwise looks just like him.

There a full episode of Sam and Friends here(the original poster does not allow embedding in blog posts - harrumph).
I like the news anchor sketch. Obviously, they just took a clip of the actual news anchor introducing himself and then edited it to fit the questions. Particularly clever was the way they took "New York" and turned it into "Yorick." And check out Kermit's noticeably southern accent. Henson was from Mississippi, so this is to be expected, but it makes me smile to think of Kermit as a good old southern frog.

This next sketch was shown at the Smithsonian exhibit. It features Kermit again and a character called Harry the Hipster (whose voice sounds a lot like Rowlf the Dog).

A later version of this sketch appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. This time, Kermit is the hipster, and instead of jazz, they talk about abstract thinking.

I love Kermit's outfit. Finally, there's one last incarnation of this sketch. This one was on Sesame Street.

Disclaimer: No promises on how long these will be available, as I'm not in control of YouTube.



"How were the Muppets?"

Three people who I don't really know all that well asked me that on Saturday night. I was sorta embarrassed, as I hadn't realized that Josh had spilled my secret: I have a Muppet problem.

The secret is out now, so I might as well go all the way about it. The reason anyone asked me that question at all is because I went to Washington, D.C. last weekend specifically to see an exhibit about Jim Henson at the Smithsonian Institution.

Yes, I saw Muppets. I even took pictures of two of them, until I happened to see the sign that said I was not supposed to. I saw Kermit, Rowlf, Bert and Ernie, King Goshposh and Featherstone. I saw Mahna Mahna and the two Snowths.

But really, the exhibit was about Henson. So while there were the actual puppets, there was a greater focus on the designs. Next to a picture of Animal was a sheet featuring early sketches of him that were then given to a puppet creator to make him. There were tons of storyboards and scripts from TV shows, movies, commercials. There were half a dozen descriptions of projects that were proposed and designed but never created. Everything seemed to start out as a doodle on a piece of scrap paper and then ended up as a fantastic creation.

There was also a children's resource room where little kids could play and create. Along the wall was a series of foam blank faces with foam eyes, ears, noses, mustaches, eyebrows, and mouths. You could take the parts off and rearrange them in a sort of Mr. Potato Head style. This is how many Muppets are made. Their bodies and heads are blank canvases that the puppeteers stick face parts onto to create whatever sort of character they need. Along another wall was a long desk with blank storyboards for kids to make up stories and set up scenes. Finally, there was a small puppet stage where kids could put on a show. In front of the stage was a camera that fed directly into a screen on another wall. There were kids of all ages at each area.

The gift shop was a disappointment. I came prepared to drop some serious money on Henson memorabilia, but everything being sold was stuff you could find at Toys 'R' Us. What I really wanted was a DVD of the old stuff - the experimental film and the silly coffee commercials. But there was nothing at the store that was specific to the exhibit, not even t-shirts. I bought an Electric Mayhem button and left grumpy.

The exhibit is traveling and free. If you happen to be in any of the cities that are showing it, you should go. No, seriously, go. You'll like it.

I told my mother about the exhibit, and she proceeded to find a bunch of online video related to the things I saw at the exhibit. I did not know she possessed such YouTube skills. So I'm going to be posting some Jim Henson related videos in the next few days. But seriously, go to the exhibit.


butter flavor.

We left late and arrived with time to kill. I'm not sure if I will ever get the hang of musician time. You'll be told to arrive somewhere at a particular time, and my inclination is to arrive five minutes before. But even if you arrive an hour late, you'll still have to wait on something else. The only coping method is to just go with the flow, chill out, lighten up.

Every time we come to Wilmington, I think about how I'd like to go there some weekend and just explore. There are about ten restaurants that look like they must have delicious secrets, not to mention a bunch of interesting-looking boutiques. Wilmington reminds me of Boone, only it's next to an ocean instead of a mountain.

So after receiving the information that we didn't need to be anywhere in the next hour, we put the bass guitar back in the car and headed toward the boardwalk. We stopped at an excellent ice cream shop, where I surprised myself by ordering butter pecan, a flavor that my parents used to buy every once in a while but that I never fully appreciated until now. I will confess that it never before clicked in my mind that it's butterscotch flavor, not butter flavor.

It was almost sunset, and downtown was crowded with tourists. Most of them were crowded around some sort of music festival, so we went in the opposite direction. We held hands some, but hand-holding has been a large failing experiment in our relationship. We're the same height, but his arms are longer. I don't remember what we talked about. Something silly, I think.

We reached a bridge and took seats on a bench. There were not very many people out walking on this end, mostly scattered couples and young families. A little girl and her mom walked by, the kid unabashedly staring at my ice cream. I knew what was coming. "Mama, I want ice cream." The mom looked around and saw me, guiltily looking back. They moved on while I continued my butterscotch enjoyment.

"That's the good thing about being an adult," I said in between licks.

"What is?"

"You control your own ice cream."


my shiny red and blue spandex.

I went to a small shindig recently that my friend Sarah was throwing. We were all sitting in the living room and talking about the internet. I've already covered that I don't do Facebook, and so I don't really get it. People who use it seem to be constantly checking it. I don't know what they're doing with it, but it seems to be addictive, which makes me curious about it and against it at the same time.

And then they were talking about their blogs. I don't talk much about my blog in conversation. In fact, I was listening to the conversation when Sarah piped up, "Sandra has a good blog!" to which I replied, "No, I don't." See, I was being sneaky there. I was actually just denying that I have a good blog, which is called being modest. But other people probably interpreted it as me denying that I had a blog at all. I didn't want to talk about my blog to these complete strangers, so it was my intention for them to jump to that conclusion, which is called being misleading or possibly lying.

The whole conversation weirded me out. To talk about your online entity seemed almost taboo, like you were giving away your secret identity. It would be like Clark Kent walking around with his dress shirt half unbuttoned, revealing his shiny red and blue spandex.

But I think I'm probably just weird about my blog. For a long time, I never let anyone read anything I wrote. Then after I started the blog, I never told anyone it existed or where they could find it. I've slowly gotten comfortable with the idea of others, strangers and friends and family alike, reading what seems to me to be personal. Even when I'm talking about something that isn't personal at all, it feels that way because I guarded my writing for so long. Also, I hold back very little.

It throws me off when someone talks to me in person about a blog entry. They want to discuss something about me in a familiar fashion, as if we'd already had a conversation about it. But I never had such a conversation with them. How do they know? HOW DID THEY GET INTO MY MIND??? But then I remember that I wrote a blog about it. That second of confusion and paranoia happens every time, and honestly, I feel off-kilter for the whole conversation.

But I'm glad I did it. I'm glad I started writing on a regular basis, and I'm glad I am sharing it. It's an excellent medium for me to get stuff out there, and I swear I think I'm becoming more introspective because I'm constantly thinking about turning everything into a blog entry. And it fosters relationships. I know that people feel closer to me when they read it, when they know the little things going on in my life and when they read thoughts that might not come across in conversation. And while it doesn't happen as often as I might like, I do get emails and comments that start conversations that might not otherwise have occurred.

I started the blog to get a book deal. Okay, not explicitly to get a book deal, but I saw that sort of thing happen for other bloggers and the idea was sorta hanging out in the back of my head that that would be a pretty cool thing to happen to me. But I am not famous, and I don't have that many readers outside my family. I could print everything out and staple it together, and my mom would think it was awesome, but that's not the same. Oh well.


heroes on the half-shell.

I believe that you can tell a little something about a person based on how they feel about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When the old show first started airing on Saturday mornings back in 1988, I was in the target audience.

I've never seen the movies. I've seen part of the beginning of the first one, which I watched with my friend Brandi, whose parents had a TV in their van and who let her watch movies with bad words. My parents were not like this. I remember watching it and wondering why it was so dimly lit and why the costumes were so crappy. Eight years old, and I was unable to get past the fact that I was watching a grown man in a turtle suit. Then Raphael said the 'S'-word, and I felt a little betrayed.

I watched the TV show long after I had seen all the episodes. Really, I probably had aged out, but I watched them anyway because we didn't have cable. Five channels and not a thing to watch. Then I watched an episode that Josh happened to have in his video collection, left over from his grade school days. You know how some shows work on multiple levels such that when you watch them again in your twenties, they're still as good as you remembered? TMNT is not one of those shows. It's awful.

But everybody watched it at that age. And so I think you can tell a lot about a person by their favorite ninja turtle. Now, obviously, Donatello was the best one. He was always building these crazy inventions that completely saved the day. Donatello was turtle ex machina. He solved problems with his mind.

But I've heard that other people, for whatever foolish reason, do prefer other turtles. I can sort of get on board with Raphael, who made all the sarcastic commentary. Raphael always seemed a bit bitter to me, though, like a turtle who'd lost hope. And Michaelangelo might be fun at a party, but he lacked depth. Yes, yes, I enjoy pizza and dancing, too, Mike, but can we sit down and talk about some good books we might have read lately?

I played ninja turtles with a cousin that I had for a while. Can you have temporary cousins? I did. She was a foster kid who lived with my aunt. She was roughly my age, and I remember playing with her one summer while our families were both visiting my grandparents' farm in Kansas. We were probably about nine. And she liked Leonardo. This totally blew my mind. I mean, really, who likes Leonardo? Yeah, he was the leader, but his main interests was apparently teamwork. His favorite book was The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (his favorite is number six: synergize). Leonardo was a nice guy and an effective leader, sure, but he was just so bland and boring.

I hope that my nine-year-old self never said, "You like Leonardo? Really? People do that?" That sounds totally like something I would have said. Hopefully, I was caught in the dilemma of wanting to convince her of the superiority of Donatello while enjoying the fact that I didn't have to fight over getting to play Donatello.

Of course I didn't think your favorite ninja turtle said anything about you then. I didn't even really understand why people liked turtles other than Donatello; I assumed that they hadn't really thought about the issue carefully. But I think now about my peers and I feel like I can almost pick out who their favorite turtle would be. I also understand all too well that a lot of people don't automatically associate smart with ultra-super-cool. And I think about my temporary cousin, who had been shuttled around to who knows how many different families. Maybe all she wanted was someone stable who would take charge of her life once and for all.

I think I have just composed the most profound piece of writing on the subject of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the history of time. Turtle power!