This’ll be kinda quick ‘cuz I only have a few hours of precious vacation left and wanna go read instead of write, but I didn’t wanna start the new year off being totally shiftless, so here’s some token phoning-it-in stuff just to keep my hand in and I’ll do better as the year goes by (we can hope). I actually got less done in the past two weeks reading and movie-watching wise than I do on some weekends (partially due to increased levels of narcolepsy-like whateverthehell I am plagued with), but I got to hang out with some more favorite people who I hardly ever see and that’s always great, so no big regrets.
At one point I got to see the Muppet Museum in Jackson, which was pretty cool. I saw a real Kermit, a real Ernie & Bert, a real Rolf the Dog, and some other stuff… but the coolest thing wasn’t even one of Jim Henson’s creations: it was the actual-factual bona-fide Clyde Frog. Most of you know nothing of Clyde Frog. You think Clyde Frog is a South Park creation. No no no, au contraire mon freire, the South Park jagoffs could never could come up with anything as badass as Clyde Frog. Clyde Frog was a creation of Mississippi Educational Television, along with a bunch of other weird-ass shows I was raised on. Despite the wackiness of this programming, it's almost impossible to find anything related to these shows on the web. They are, I fear, a lot art.
Clyde Frog had two programs - About Safety and The Clyde Frog Show (which, if I recall, was mostly about good manners and stuff). Clyde was a headstrong, selfish kind of a frog (although not a total sociopath, as he did learn things, always the hard way) who would never listen to the rules of authority figures and would end up busting his head by standing on his bike's handlebars, or getting a bellyache from eating too much candy, or pissing off his friends and being left with no one to play with, that kind of thing. He was a muppet, as were his friends, and they made no bones about it - they didn't make a lot of effort to hide the sticks that moved their arms.
You can catch a glimpse of a few seconds of his show in this YouTube video, which is all the footage I can find of him:
Also at the museum I saw the actual R. B. Bug, which I also almost geeked out over. R. B. Bug was an animated puppet/grasshopper who was a reporter for a news channel, and he'd learn writing and editing skills in writing his awkward little stories, and then he'd fall asleep in front of the TV at the end of every show. He also had a "writing club" whose secret code word was "palabra jot." Amazingly, there's a few bits of that on YouTube... it apparently had a bigger following, even though Clyde Frog was much cooler/more obnoxious.
Then there was terminally-goofy guy, The Art Maker, who I think may have also been a local creation... my friends and I used to mock this show mercilessly even though we'd watch it every time it came on. I remember him teaching cartooning and thinking that "Funky Winkerbean" was popular with the kids. There's a bit of him on YouTube:
Other local shows included Pennywise (in which a pre-Good Times Bernadette Stannis taught kids how to handle our money, and there was also a recurring serial bit with puppets trapped on a far-away planet trying to establish a monetary system among freaky-lookin' aliens, who usually used "boogleberries" or something as money), Just Around The Corner (in which a pre-Who's The Boss Judith Light helped adults handle their household finances; this was in the form of a soap opera type show, where young blue-collar couples struggled to make ends meet). Early in the 70's there was a program (maybe local, maybe not) called InsideOut which I remember being pretty creepy due to the influence of 70's psychedelic weirdness in the opening titles. Amazingly there's a clip of the hallucinatory credits and even a full episode:
There was another similar show that I can't remember the name of, but it used to actually scare me; it had similar psychedelics, but the theme song was very severe, like ambulance sirens. It sounded like excerpts from Bloodrock's "D.O.A." (which is the most disturbing song ever. That show posed moral problems to kids and ended with a "what would you do?" situation rather than a solution. The only episode I remember had a really mean bully who was trying to beat up a kid and steal his schoolbooks on his way home after school, but then the kid hid in an abandoned house and the bully fell down and broke his leg while trying to chase him, and needed the good kid's help to get out. I'd've probably left his hateful ass there...
Then there was a funky-ass show called Vegetable Soup which I can't remember well, but I think it was about diversity. Look at that animation. I'm not sure these shows were aimed at kids as much as they were at acid-heads who were home all day. There were puppets on this, too, and YouTube seems to have a good bit of it.
(Looking at that, I found a clip a friend and I had been searching for - from Sesame Street. This clip has haunted us for decades! "A loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter...")
There was also a very weird show in which blue-skinned aliens monitored the progress of one of their own on earth, as he learned to read maps and use geography to find his way around. I can't remember the name of the show, but it was freakin' odd. The alien guy had a big silver thermos thing he kept his map supplies in, and I think he had blond hair, combed in a standard 60's style. They looked human other than having dark blue skin.
Then there was a show called The Letter People which taught spelling and phonics and such. Every letter of the alphabet was represented by a horrific muppet who had some characteristic of his letter, such as "Mr. T with the Tall Teeth" or whatever. Bunches of that show is found here.
Then there was the weird, local show "About Science," in which a bland narrator accompanied by weird music would explain the chemical reactions a disembodied someone was creating on a laboratory tabletop. These shows were about five minutes long, I think. Much better was the non-local classic, Physics Demonstrations with Julius Sumner Miller, which I can still watch for hours, given the opportunity. It had a guy (who may have been the inspiration for "The Vulture" in Spiderman comics) getting infectiously-enthusiastic about physics experiments. You couldn't help but love this guy. Fortunately a lot of those are on YouTube. Here's one in which he destroys things with liquid nitrogen, using all the manic energy of a plate-spinner on the Ed Sullivan Show...:
All of this stuff needs to be on DVD. I'd buy it.