Friday, June 22, 2007

Who you callin' Yoda?

OF ALL THE MEAN names that kids called me during High School, my favorite is “Yoda.” I don’t think they knew what they were saying. Calling someone “Yoda” isn’t an insult. Yoda is cool. Yoda is so cool, in fact, that Star Wars fans voted to make him the star of his own individual stamp sheet. That means he beat out Han & Chewbacca, Luke, Darth Vader and even Boba Fett! In the G4 special where fans voted for their favorite Star Wars character, Yoda came out as number one again. Yes, Yoda is awesome, and I don’t mind being compared to him.

But why is he cool? Well, it’s partly because of his wisdom. He’s a smart dude. He’s also very cunning. He can fight with the best of them, and he can hide when he has to. Frank Oz once noted that he’s been told often by fans, “Yoda changed my life.” Some of Yoda’s statements have become legendary. “Try not - do, or do not. There is no try.” While I don’t always agree with Yoda, I always listen. When my brother wore the Yoda mask for Halloween, he was the hit of the holiday.

When you first see Yoda, you don’t realize his power. He looks like a little elf-like creature who lives in the forest. Luke, of course, was fooled as well. He didn’t think the little guy was anything other than a nuisance. But of course, we later learned that this little fellow was - in a way - the most powerful being in the galaxy. It’s an incredible thing, when you think about it. “Size matters not. Look at me! Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not! For my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is! Life creates it - makes it grow. It’s energy surrounds us, and binds us. Luminous beings are we - not this crude (flesh) matter! You must feel the force around you. Here- between you and me, the tree, the rock, everywhere.”

Movie-wise, Yoda is one of the greatest special-effects triumphs of all time. He proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that a PUPPET - albeit a very complicated puppet - could pull off a performance that was every bit as moving as that of a flesh and blood actor. I recall reading somewhere that some of the people who first saw “Empire” believed that Yoda was actually a midget in a costume.

Although Yoda wasn’t a “muppet” in the strictest sense of the word, you could say that Yoda was the greatest triumph of the muppets. Yoda demonstrated what the muppets had been demonstrating for years - that puppetry isn’t just child’s play. Puppetry is an art that can be used to move and inspire people. It’s interesting to note that many of Jim Henson’s “post-Yoda” projects like “Dark Crystal” and “Labyrinth” featured much more “realistic” puppet creatures - creatures similar to Yoda in the sense that they were attempting to convey realism.

Looking back, I also think that the success of E.T. had a little bit to do with Yoda. The original E.T. was, after all, just a complicated puppet in many scenes. E.T. further demonstrated how puppetry can be used to touch people - and he even did a little “tribute” to Yoda at one point in the movie!

Since the advent of computer technology, the Yoda we see in “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith” is actually a computer-generated image. And that’s fine, since movies are illusions to begin with. But I fear that most modern filmmakers have turned their backs on puppetry again. As a puppet fan myself, that’s kind of a shame. I’d like to think that future filmmakers will at least peek into the possibility of using a puppet-like creature as a character in their films. Plus, in some ways, it’s probably a lot cheaper. Regardless, the power of Yoda will live on. As some jerk wrote in my yearbook, “Yoda will always be with me.”


SESAME BLOG: Hey, wouldn't it be cool if some old-school Sesame Street fan could begin a blog about the “good-old” days (which for me is just about anything before “Elmo's World”)? Well, our dreams have come true. The new classic Sesame Street blog is up and running. It includes video clips as well as links where you can (gasp!) download several classic episodes! Those of you with a whole lot of memories – and a whole lot of computer memory! - should take advantage of the chance to watch these classic episodes again. Enjoy the blog here:

And if you scroll down, you'll find the list of episodes to download:

And keep your eye out for the next “Sesame Street old school” DVD set. And keep your eye out for “The Muppet Show” season 2 set. Dang, it isn't even Christmas yet.


RIDE A WILD HORSE: Did you ever want to do something unusual? Something that you don't usually find yourself doing? Well, according to the Associated Press, Woody Allen is going to direct an opera.

LOS ANGELES - Woody Allen, directing an opera?
It will happen in September 2008, according to Placido Domingo, general director of the Los Angeles Opera.
The New York-based filmmaker will make his operatic directorial debut by opening up the LA Opera’s 2008-09 season.
“I have no idea what I am doing,” Allen said in a statement Thursday. “But incompetence has never prevented me from plunging in with enthusiasm.”
Allen is scheduled to direct “Gianni Schicchi,” one part of Puccini’s “Il Trittico,” a trio of one-act operas.
The two other operas, “Il Tabarro” and “Suor Angelica,” will be directed by movie director William Friedkin (“The Exorcist,” “The French Connection”).
Domingo stated that he had often pursued movie directors to try their hand at opera.
He added that his longest pursuit was Allen, who took four years to say yes.

Perhaps most interesting, I'm assuming that Woody will be directing the opera in one of his least favorite places on earth – Southern California! (Hey, you remember the classic line from “Annie Hall” as he was driving through L.A. : “They don't throw out their garbage, here. They use it to make movies.”) But you've got to love that quote. “Incompetence has never prevented me from plunging in with enthusiasm.” Let's talk about that a minute.

I've found that sometimes, making mistakes is not necessarily bad. Sometimes you need to make mistakes in order to find out what you can and can not do. Making mistakes teaches you how to do something right. So I'm all in favor of trying new things and possibly failing – then finding peace in the knowledge that you did your best, and might be able to do better later on. I don't think we need to feel too ashamed of most of the “stupid” things we did as kids. Many of those so-called “stupid” things led us to become the people we are today. There's a very cool song called “Ride a wild horse” that sums up these feelings for me. The lyrics go, in part:

You can try, you can try
Before your life goes by
Just once, before you die
Ride a wild horse, ride a wild horse
Across your sky


MRS. C ON YOUR PC: Aaaaay, Richie! The latest update at “” has a cool interview with Marion Ross of “Happy Days” fame, along with Dan Lauria of “The Wonder Years.” You can listen to it at the link below, dig?