Dec. rambling: Lean on Me

I Love Trash

UN: Climate Change Will Create “New Great Divergence” Between Rich and Poor.

Were Other Human Species the First Victims of the Sixth Mass Extinction?

three years running Suicides and overdoses among factors fueling drop in U.S. life expectancy.

The Illusions Underlying our Foreign Policy Discussions.

ALEC Is an Incubator for Efforts to Protect White Supremacy.

“Calvin and the Colonel” – a kids’ cartoon with a shady past.

James Ussher, polyglot, prolific scholar, a man of the church and the man responsible for what we know today as ‘creationism’.

How gender-neutral pronouns can change a culture.

When America Starts to Feel a Little More Soviet.

Articles of Impeachment: Broad or Narrow? – they went narrow.

What Does Trump’s Inner Party Believe?

Letter to the editor: Pattern of misbehavior – Roger Green, Scottsbluff, NE.

Plan to Strip Food Aid From 750,000 Low-Income People by 2020.

He wanted to ban feeding homeless people. Now he’s about to lead a federal homeless agency.

Even if a Democrat wins in 2020, the next president isn’t likely to resurrect a Pax Americana.

The US-Mexico-Canada Trade Deal Is Not as Good as Nafta.

Devin Nunes may regret SLAPPing his critics.

Vicki Van Meter is the youngest female pilot to have made a transatlantic flight when she was aged twelve.

Gender-neutral pronouns can nudge people to see the world a little differently.

Rejection: A Wilderness Guide for Writers, Part 25.

Memories of a map.

How Costco gained a cult following — by breaking every rule of retail.

The Easiest Way to Bike Up a Hill and The One Thing You Can’t Take Home from The Price is Right and The State of Indiana versus Robin Hood and There’s Snow Better Way to Measure and Picasso with the Sharp Elbows and The Federal Bacon Law That Protects Truth in Advertising and The Best Way to Have Your House Cleaned Out By an Intruder.


Caroll Spinney, Big Bird Muppeteer for Nearly 50 Years, Dies at 85. Check out the 2014 documentary I Am Big Bird.

René Auberjonois, ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Benson’ Actor, Dies at 79. He was also in Boston Legal and a tons of other roles.

D.C. Fontana wrote many great stories and not all of them were for Star Trek, “which is the impression you’ll probably get from some of the obits.”

Ron Leibman, Tony Winner for ‘Angels,’ Is Dead at 82. His IMDB page.

Pete Frates, A Driving Force Behind The Viral Ice Bucket Challenge, Dies At 34.

Wrecked locomotive discovered after 106 years under Lake Superior.

Former chairman of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker, who was 92 when he died in New York City blasted ‘nihilistic’ Trumpism in final testament.

Daily syndication of Unshelved is available for free to any noncommercial web site.

I Love Trash – Oscar the Grouch.

ABC-DEF-GHI Song – Big Bird.

Going Home, per Dvorak – BYU choir.

Othello Overture – Dvorak.

Coverville 1287: The 15th Annual Beatles Thanksgiving Cover Story and 1288: The 40th Anniversary Tribute to Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

Baby’s in Black – MonaLisa Twins.

21st Century Schizoid Man [Radio Edit] – King Crimson at 1:55.

Lean on Me – Bill Withers.

Why you should learn about the Teskey Brothers.

These men just released their first music album — at age 102 and 88.

DVD review: I Am Big Bird

Caroll Spinney’s first performance before legendary Muppets master Jim Henson was disastrous.

bigbirdThere was a Kickstarter campaign to make a movie about a guy named Caroll Spinney back in July of 2012, which successfully raised $124,115 USD from 1,976 backers.

Who’s Caroll Spinney? Why, he’s the guy who, for over 40 years, has played the iconic character on the children’s television show Sesame Street named… Oscar the Grouch. Well, yes, he does, but he also occupies the costume of an internationally-known, eight-foot-tall, yellow avian creature.

The movie I Am Big Bird garnered some success at film festivals, so it wasn’t until a couple of months ago that I had a chance to see it digitally (and, because I was too busy, I didn’t). Finally, this yellow envelope arrived in the mail in early August, and I got to watch the film.

I’m oddly fascinated by negative reviews of movies I like. Though it got 84% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (53 out of 63), those who were less enthusiastic suggested that it was a puff piece with “little sour to temper the sweetness of this portrait.” One critic thought the tension between Spinney and a Sesame Street director was contrived, even though Emilio Delgado (Luis on Sesame Street) and Bob McGrath (Bob) confirmed the conflict onscreen.

Those critics must have missed the part about his painful growing up with his father’s hair-trigger temper that he seemed to find ways of bringing out. This was mitigated by his mother’s introduction of puppet shows, but his “dolls” became a source of bullying by some of his classmates. His first performance before legendary Muppets master Jim Henson was disastrous. His early days on Sesame Street, aggravated by his failing marriage, were so bad he considered quitting the job, or worse.

When I was in college, I used to watch Sesame Street (the show didn’t start until I was in high school), and few things on television have made me more verklempt than when the human cast explained to Big Bird that Mr. Hooper, the shopkeeper on Sesame Street, had died, a programming decision based on the death of his portrayer, Will Lee. Seeing it again brought back that sentiment.

There were other less upbeat aspects, including Spinney’s loner status, Jim Henson’s funeral, and the Challenger disaster. There’s this story. And the movie told of the physical wear of being Big Bird, as well as the Bird being supplanted on Sesame Street by the Muppet Elmo.

Yet maybe the critics didn’t find enough drama because Caroll Spinney is a great guy. The story of how he met his second wife, Deb, is absolutely charming. His now-adult kids adore him, his coworkers are touched by his continued sense of wonder.

You should check out I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story. If it lacks a sufficiently dramatic narrative arc, it is nevertheless a loving portrait of an interesting man.

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