Mahna Mahna (Doo Doo Do Do Do)

I have no memory of the first time I saw a Muppet, with pretty good reason. Whether it was Sesame Street or Fraggle Rock or even the more adult-targeted Muppet Show, Muppets have always been a part of my life. And not just a passive presence in the background: I love Muppets. I wanted to name my first kitten after Red Fraggle. Mom complained that Red was a girl and the little ginger kitten was not, so I named him after Gobo Fraggle instead. The pun-heavy hamming around of Kermit and Fozzie set the stage for my sense of humor (much to my father’s amusement and my mother’s chagrin, I think).

Naturally, when I stumbled across a listing for a display on Jim Henson’s work at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, I had to go. A friend of mine was kind enough to go with me to make the hefty trek on the MBTA into an area where return buses are long in coming, which made the trip better—I have always found that Muppets are even more when delightful appreciated with a friend.

I think I can die happy now, because I’ve met Kermit (did you know the original Kermit was made out of an old spring coat that belonged the Henson’s mother?), Rowlf, Mahna Mahna (apparently that was his name, not just random scatting), Gobo, and Cantus the Minstrel in person. More or less. They were a little on the quiet side, but I imagine I would be too if I had to spend my day in a glass box… (Wocka, wocka, wocka!)

Most of the display consisted of storyboards and sketches of Henson’s early commercial work that doesn’t receive a lot of attention these days, such as his hilariously “offer you can’t refuse” advertisements for Wilkins Coffee. As you walk in, the first section of the exhibit showcases sketches and posters from Henson’s days in high school drama. Among these was a little pencil sketch of a mobile with a bunch of eyes and mouths, with notes beside it suggesting a bit of kinetic art that creating various expressions as the eyes and mouths rotated.

This little sketch presented a piece of inspiration to fantastic to ignore, so yesterday John and I spent several hours crafting our own little art piece inspired by (but fairly different from) that sketch. It’s hard to explain in words, so…here’s a multimedia treat for you to puzzle at.

It’s just a bit of silliness, but somehow, I like to think Jim Henson would have appreciated that his legacy still inspires people to indulge themselves in a little nonsense now and then.

Brought to You by a Massive Recall of the Letter “F”

You know, I could have slept in this morning. I really could have. And the thing is, I wanted to. Desperately. But being this weird animal called a “grown-up,” I have a little gremlin that lives in my brain and whispers to me of all the things I could do if I just got out of bed. I am perfectly capable of willfully ignoring him, but some days I can’t quite get back to sleep through his muttering, so my choices are to either get up and do stuff or stay in bed and get neither sleep nor stuff done.


So, I got up. And by ten o’clock, I had done two loads of laundry, washed the dishes, practiced my guitar for a long while, and baked a batch of cookies. Those I’m quite proud of, by the way. Imagine Ben&Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk as a cookie, more or less. No pecans or dark chocolate, but otherwise, same principal. I’m calling them Boston Fudgy Gauntlet cookies, partially because your teeth and tongue have a lot of nut navigating to do, and partially because I ran a bit of a gauntlet making them. On that subject, however, all I have to say is that if you accidentally unplug your handheld beater while mixing, make sure that either the switch is off or the beaters are in the bowl when you plug the thing back in. Did I mention these are 20% reduced fat? (Give or take a splatter.)


I wasn’t really reconciled to not being able to sleep in, so to console (and instruct) my whiny child, I popped in some Fraggles to keep me company while I was folding laundry and waiting for the oven. I had to wonder, as I watched Mokey and Red trick the avalanche monster and escape the singing cactus, why I have such a strong connection to these funny muppets. It wasn’t the first time this week they’ve come up. John and I were playing a silly word game we often do as we walked home from our new favorite coffee shop on Saturday, which led us to wonder how to apply the game to “Snuffleupagus.”


You all remember Snuffy, right? From Sesame Street? He is perhaps the sweetest, coziest television character in my memory, and John remembers him fondly too. Only, John remembers him as “Snuffleufagus.” A small sound difference, but one that made a difference to our game. Our conversation went something like this:


Me: “I think it would be snuffuffleupagus, right?”

John: “Wait, don’t you mean snuffuffleufagus?”

Me: “No. Why would I? It’s snuffleupagus, so you’d take the first syllable starting at the vowel, ending at the consonant and repeat it, right?”

John: “Yes, but wait—you say snuffleupagus? Isn’t it snuffleufagus?”

Me: “No.”

John: (Incredulous) “Seriously?”

Me: “I’m pretty sure. I mean, I’ve done enough babysitting that it hasn’t been that long since I’ve seen Sesame Street. I’m pretty sure it’s snuffleupagus.”

John: “My whole world is just shaken here. I can’t believe I have that wrong.”

Me: “We could call the Henson Company and ask them to change it, if you want. You know, have them go back and recall thirty years of videos, books, and sundry products so they can make the edit. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind.”

John: “Ha. This episode brought to you by a massive recall of the letter ‘f.”


Of course, the more times we uttered the word “snuffleupagus,” the more I began to question myself. Memory is funny that way. By the time we got home, I was sickeningly sure that John’s memory was the correct one, and I understood his angst. It’s deeply unsettling to think you misremembered the name of a beloved childhood icon. The nice thing about the internet, of course, is that we were able to resolve the question easily once we got home. (It’s snuffleupagus, if you’re wondering.)


Anyway, watching the Fraggles today on top of having a more or less brilliant run of competence since this morning (well, pretending the beater thing never happened anyway), I got it into my head that I can totally take on the impossible silliness of Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, without annotation (somebody had to do at least once, right?), so I picked it up from the library on my way up to work. Now, however, I am seriously questioning that decision. Not so much because I’ve cracked the book and suddenly realized I’m actually next best thing to illiterate as far as Joyce is concerned, but because I’m having a fox-and-crane problem with eating my carrot sticks as I write this, and it’s making me reconsider my dubious self-perception of competence.


I’m sorry, did I say I was a grown-up? I may need to issue a recall on that statement.