Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sammy the Snake speaks on Jerry Nelson

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following message has been translated from Sammyspeak into regular English. This has been done to avoid the constant hissing noise ("SSSSSSsay hey! It’s sssweet to sssee you. Ssssorry if I ssscared you. I’m Sssammy the Ssssnake.")

Say hey! It’s sweet to see you. Sorry if I scared you. I’m Sammy the Snake. It seems that a lot of people are scared of me. I can’t say that I blame them. I am kind of funky, you know. But the only reason I leave such an impact with people is the magic of puppetry, and a very talented person named Jerry Nelson.

Jerry Nelson passed away on  August 23, 2012. Yours truly, Sammy the Snake, was only one of the muppet characters he brought to life. A long list of his characters includes Count Von Count, Herry Monster, Herbert Birdsfoot, Sam the Robot, The Amazing Mumford, Simon the Soundman, Sgt. Floyd Pepper and Robin the Frog (Kermit’s nephew). He was the original performer and voice of Snuffleupagus before Martin Robinson took over the role. He also voiced a certain guy unfortunately named "fat blue." That’s really just a nickname for "Mr. Johnson," the customer that Grover the waiter waited on in so many skits. You know, the one who ordered the big hamburger. Poor guy.

As you can hear by my scintillating vocal abilities, Jerry had an awesome voice as well. Besides my theme song (it’s on the "Do the Alphabet" Sesame Street CD, for those of you who want to slither out and buy a copy),  he sang Robin’s classic "Halfway Down the Stairs", Floyd’s version of "New York State of Mind",  and "Something’s Missing," a favorite long-lost track from the Muppet Show.  As the Count, there were several awesome songs, such as "Song of the Count," "Count up to nine" and "Eight little notes."  You can see Jerry’s work on several classic Sesame Street clips. Some are on Youtube and Sesame, others are available on VHS and DVD. Notably, my immortal performance is on the "Alphabet Game" tape and DVD. In fact, Jerry was such a fine singer that he even got to sing as himself on an album called "Truro Daydreams."

My friend Jerry had been sick for some time. In the last few years, he was not physically performing the characters on Sesame Street, but through the magic of technology he was recording their voices. At this point, there’s some question as to if the Count will continue with another person’s voice. I hope so, but time will tell. Regardless of whether the Count’s days are numbered (sorry about that, folks), Jerry’s contributions to Sesame Street have been many and numerable. He certainly was part of the magic behind the early days of the show.

Now Jerry and I didn't work together very often, so I can't claim to be as close to him as some of the other characters around here. (You'll have to talk to the Count or Herry Monster if you want a scoop.) I'm one of the many muppets who spends most of his time curled up in the bottom of a file drawer while the others smile for stage and screen. I knew Elmo before he was a star. But these days, I usually hang out with Herbert Birdsfoot and the Beautiful Day monster at the bar down the street. We do karaoke together once in a while. But I digress.

So I can't tell you any deep secrets about Jerry Nelson. (You must understand that the muppet performers usually prefer not to be seen. Part of their job, you see.) The art needs to speak louder than the artist. The best I can do is say something like this. Jerry, Jim, Caroll, Fran, Richard and Frank (and today many others) set a standard for puppetry that is not easy to live up to. I think if they were re-doing my song today, I'd just be a computer graphic, like Jar Jar Binks or something. The art of puppetry shone in many of those early Sesame Street skits, including the one with yours truly. Jerry's puppetry stands with strong with the other guys' as some of the best in the history of television. And I like to think that my performance is a good example of that. Still freaking out kids after all these years.

So long, Jerry.

ON YOUTUBE: GROVER AND THE BIG HAMBURGER. Let's test out this new blogging technology here (well, new for me) and re-post the classic clip of Grover (performed by Frank Oz) trying to serve "fat blue" (performed by Jerry Nelson) a hamburger. It's a fun example of the silliness and fun of the show.

Friday, August 10, 2012

New Loch Ness Monster photo

When I first heard that there was a new supposed picture of the Loch Ness Monster, I went online and tried to find it. And I thought I found it. The picture I found accompanied an article online. It was a picture of the famous Urquhart Castle and the choppy waters of the Loch behind it. There was just one thing missing - Nessie! I must have stared at that photo for five minutes trying to find wherever the heck Nessie was. Well, I realized later that Nessie was (apparently) not in the photo at all. The people who put up the article about the new photo didn’t bother to include the new photo. To be fair, it looks like a few other news sites haven’t put up the photo either. Maybe they’re just respecting Nessie’s privacy.

Looking at the real photo (assuming it is a real photo and not a manipulation), it does look like the classic “hump” sightings we’ve heard about. Just about every news site I’ve seen has dismissed the photo as likely a hoax, which (sorry about that again) it probably is. But the kid in me is always going to enjoy news like this, and it’s fun to add another picture to the growing collection of photos. The photo was taken by Nessie hunter George Edwards.

Here are some sites with more information:|main5|dl2|sec1_lnk2%26pLid%3D188060#photo=3


OUTSHINED: One final note (I hope) about that Google Earth photo that some believed was Nessie, but was actually a white boat with wakes along the sides. There was something about this story that bugged me, and I finally tracked it down. It has to do with a gentleman named Adrian Shine. Mr. Shine is an expert on Loch Ness who has appeared in many different documentaries. A John Muir lookalike, he is one of the people who took part in “Operation Deep Scan,” which mapped the bottom of the loch. He appeared in that Loch Ness Monster Toyota ad years ago, as well as the film “Incident at Loch Ness” (which is a lot of fun for Nessie fans who have a sense of humor).

Mr. Shine has been studying the loch for years. He’s very good at determining if something is a hoax. But apparently the boat picture fooled even him! Here’s a quote from an article:

"Researcher Adrian Shine, of the Loch Ness Project, told the newspaper (the Sun): 'This is really intriguing. It needs further study.'"

Apparently Mr. Shine nearly fell for the trick! But to be fair, like me, I suppose he just doesn’t go flying too often. It’s comforting to know that even the experts can be mistaken sometimes.

Read my first post about Nessie here:

Friday, August 03, 2012

TCM highlights for August

Now for something kind of helpful (I hope). Here’s a list of some of the films that will be shown on the Turner Classic Movies network this month. I don’t work for them, I just like some old movies.

It’s interesting to note that when you watch TCM, you’re not only getting a look at what old movies are like, but you’re getting a look at what old TV was like. Back when it first began, older movies pretty much ruled on local television stations. Let’s face it, there wasn’t much else to show! That’s sort of why the old Popeye and Bugs Bunny cartoons were shown so much in the early days. Today, there is so much more television programming to choose from that showing old movies (and cartoons) has become old hat. As an old movie fan, I’m glad TCM is around, and I’m glad we live in an age where I can "peek ahead" to see what will be shown.

This is by no means a complete list of all the "good" TCM films this month. I haven’t necessarily seen all of these yet myself. These are just the ones that stood out for me. Please check your local listings for the exact time and day in your area, and keep in mind that the schedule is subject to change.

August 4- Some Like it Hot
August 8 - Lady from Shanghai
August 10- Mata Hari; Grand Hotel
August 11- Lolita
August 14- G-Men
August 15- The Scarlet Letter (silent version)
August 17- Live a little, Love a little
August 19- North by Northwest
August 22- The Great Race
August 24- Inherit the Wind; A Guy named Joe
August 27- The Fountainhead
August 29- Casablanca