Anyone that has ever watched the Muppet Show is familiar with that catchy little ditty with the refrain “Doo dooooooo doo-doo-doo.” I didn’t even have to play you the audio. You knew it.
I was watching the Muppets the other day for the sake of good ol’ nostalgia (which I used to feel more and miss so I guess these days you would call me nostalgic for nostalgia- nostalgicgic) and I was surprised both by the fact that Mahna Mahna was in the pilot episode and by some subtextual things I had not noticed before- possibly because they exist only in my imagination.
Take a moment below, if you will, to refresh yourself on this timeless classic. Even if you don’t read any of this, who doesn’t love the Muppets?
So… if you’ll allow me to flex my critical muscles a little, I’m about to pretentious out on y’all. Firstly, the skit opens with only the Snowths (that’s what they’re called- google, son!) and their peppy little chorus without a hipster artist in sight. This is what struck me as society, or the audience. They are synchronous, fun, repetitive, catchy, flashy, bright and superficial. They’re a jingle. Cue the introduction of the hipster. When he inserts his Mahna Mahna, it fits neatly in between the chorus. It challenges nothing. It disrupts nothing. It enhances only what is already there. But it is not long before the hipster grows bored with Mahna Mahna and starts to play with what he has already invented and that’s where trouble brews and society turns. He’s stepping on the doo dooooo doo-doo-doo.
The hipster retreats to the safety of mahna mahna and ONLY mahna mahna and tranquility returns. For the Snowths. Hipster is clearly bored and not allowed to deviate from form, he tries new angles and distances, to change up the approach. He does everything he can to make Mahna Mahna fresh again, all without the notice of the Snowths who doo dooooo doo-doo-doo oblivious to the throes of creation that surround them. Finally this boils over until the hipster can no longer contain himself. His scatting becomes louder, more aggressive, more insistent and the retribution is far more pointed. He retreats- beaten, pushed back to the simple mahna mahna which becomes increasingly distant until he is literally phoning it in before he disappears forever.
It’s a chilling indictment of the creative process and the relation of an artist to his audience. It’s an adorable skit about aliens and jazz. It’s a floor wax and a dessert topping. It’s Jim Henson and the Muppets at the pinnacle of their craft.
I wonder how much of what I see is intentional. I wonder how much I Rohrschach’d this through my own creative frustrations. I thought it was the inaugural episode of the Muppets, so how burned out could Jim have been? But it was a full twenty years or so that he had been doing puppetry professionally, starting with the low key black and white Sam and Friends in Baltimore and when I was looking for the clip for this blog entry I found this:
This was Sesame Street in 1969 and the things I thought I was imagining are far more explicit here. The cute but ultimately weird snowths were presaged by the traditional and adorable little girls that are looking for a *nice* song. The singer is no hipster but one of their full on hippie forefathers and far more menacing a figure to middle America. I thought no wonder so many government scrooges wanted to defund Sesame Street. It was out there (and Out There) giving people… ideas.
All I know is that when you feel the need for some joy in your life, you could do worse than to watch some classic era Muppets from the Golden Age of Henson. Here’s another favorite from me to you:
You might have noticed that there are an awful lot of things to care about these days. If you haven’t noticed, there are plenty of people that are thoughtful enough to share those opportunities with you. You can start a facebook account where you can hourly be challenged by the knowledge that many of you won’t care, but you can always share if you disagree!
If you would like to enter the advanced field of choosing your own things to care about, try not to be overwhelmed! If you care about saving the whales AND ending world hunger AND dismantling institutional racism AND funding Wikipedia, well that’s some heavy duty caring right there. You’re going to burn yourself out and end up with an anesthetized moral compass and before you know it, you just don’t give a hoot.
And so, as a bona fide public service, I present the Martin EaZee Introductory Guide to Elementary Caring aka Fun with Math. The beautiful part is that you can start out with the baby steps of thinking (which is easy) and work your way up to feeling, which is a little more advanced. Thank goodness someone invented the graph.
The first step in thinking about what you feel is answering the question, what is Important enough to earn my emotional involvement? This is a two-fold proposition, represented by the x-axis (known as the stupidity factor) and the y-axis (aka the harm ratio). See below.
These are of course irrelevant terms without data points with which to define our scale. The minimal entry point in the stupidity scale is, let us say, making a poor choice in shoe selection when planning out the day.
The other end of the stupid scale is, I’m going to say racism.
You can decide for yourself where items such as flat earthism, leggings as pants and kale at McDonalds fit on your stupid scale. I’m only here to talk about the hows, not the whats. So… now that we have set our stupid terms, we move on to issues of harm. My entry level point for harm is hurt feelings.
I know we all say sticks and stones and all that, but anyone that’s ever heard someone say something hurtful and not had it stick with them on some point… well, I was going to say that person is the Terminator, but he learned to make jokes and gave a wistful thumbs up at the apex of his noble sacrifice, so maybe no one is that unfeeling a monster (insert rejoinder about someone you really hate here if you like- for extra credit graph why you hate them).
After hurt feelings I assume we are all good with the idea that genocide is much worse. Like racism, I suppose that we can make the argument that it might not be at the very end of the harm scale, but it’s got to be up there. Certainly higher than hurt feelings.
So you should definitely care more about genocide than the time your partner said you look fat…. In theory. Why is this theoretically debatable? Because of the Brooks Factor. This is the line which must be crossed to engage your emotional center and the line is by necessity a variable. It derives its name from comedian/filmmaker/philosophical font Mel Brooks, specifically his axiom that “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.”
We are, of course, at this point beyond basic algebra and in to more advanced physics wherein your commitment to a moral good is inversely proportional to your proximity to the harm inflicted by sustained inaction, but hey let’s not get all Newtonian up in here. Stick to the graphs. So, thanks to the Brooks factor, each person’s emotional attachment grid will in fact have multiple Brooks lines based on the impact to persons within one’s relative awareness.
To engage your emotions for your personal Brooks line, one need think something minimally stupid about you (you’ve got a dumb haircut) or cause minimal harm, like cause you to stub your toe. To get you to care about strangers, the idea has to be incredibly stupid (monkeys at the center of the earth control a covert cabal focused on influencing world governments through hidden code in bagpipe music) or the act incredibly harmful (again, genocide).
I like to imagine a magic unicorn flying through the Brooks line shooting all those things that make the world a terrible place with cartoonishly happy pew pew pew noises. It doesn’t actually change anything, but I feel better for having done it and in the end isn’t that what the whole act of caring is for in the first place? I hope you have enjoyed learning about this system. Why not share it with your friends? You can graph how much they care. Have fun with caring kids, and try not to abuse the power.
Don’t tell anyone but I’m writing to you from beyonnnd the graaaave….
Ok, I’m not dead, but my life sure is. I have been sentenced to the horrors of a day job. You’d probably thinking to yourself “Big deal, who hasn’t? You tremendously entitled self important snowflake!” To which I say, dang you’re cold. What did I ever do to you, besides attempt to bring a little joy and levity into your life?
For the rest of you that don’t hate me (everyonebutAndywhoreallyhasissues), I’m sorry for the extended absence. I can’t tell you where I am or what I’m doing these days, otherwise my new overlords might know what I’m saying about them. I will gives you a hint: If you’ve recently purchased a new refrigerator and you’re between the ages of a million and God, there’s a good chance you’ve spoken to me recently.
And in my downtime, this is life.
If by chance, any of you have missed me, I just want to throw out there that I’m on Patreon (patreon.com/martineazee). If you’ve ever wanted a sweet personal pic of you in a genuine Martine EaZee style, this would be your chance. You can even get it on a coffee mug with your all time favorite comic on it (of mine- Gary Larson can peddle his own swag). Remember, Only You Can Prevent Gainful Employment. Aren’t I at least as entertaining as the painfully honest panhandlers with the signs that tell you they are going to spend your money on drugs and beer?
At any rate, I am going to do my best to be more vocal from now on. Leave me a note on my page so I know that you’re listening (Pink would like to know if you are out there because when he was a boy he had a glimpse out of the corner of his eye). Drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you want to be the penniest of pen pals.
I don’t want to pressure you really. But if you don’t support me, I hope you find the right artist for you. We can all use your support these days and as long as you keep feeding us, we promise to keep hanging out and give you hope (laughter? Inspiration? Snacks?). Like cats. If snacks are dead birds.
Missed you all and glad to (re) make your acquaintance.
Sorry for the absence, everyone. I had computer problems. Where did we leave off? Oh yeah… bugs are terrible.
This cartoon was inspired by real life events, a bit of an unusual move for me. If there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s that it’s not just spiders that terrorize me. Once upon a time, which is fancy story telling terms for ‘about a week and a half ago’ I had an incident which started out with a clogged toilet, It was that toilet that prevented me from noticing the wasp on the faucet when I went to wash my hands. This left me with a dilemma- do I brave the wasp again to turn the faucet off or do I leave the water running forever? Gathering every single iota of bravery I had, I lunged at the faucet and promptly tore my fingernail down to the quick (boy am I glad I didn’t get stung!). Miraculously, the wasp didn’t move. Not wanting to press my luck, I backed slowly out of the bathroom, which seemed like a brilliant plan until I tripped over that shoe.
I honestly don’t know why bugs frighten me so. I have no enemy more determined to do me in than me. Over the course of the next week, that wasp moved around my sink just far enough to let me know he was still alive and could (I assume) kill me. Sure, you can lighten up on the liquids as much as you like, but eventually you’re going to have to go in there. I thought about hitting it with a magazine, but what if I only made it mad? It could be a mutant super wasp. I thought about catching it under a cup, but it kept hanging out on the edge where nothing could really cover it, so clearly it had the genius of at least Einstein, if not Stephen Hawking,
Finally, I broke out the vacuum cleaner. Thankfully I have a super light super tight Dyson (who did not pay me to characterize it this way, but I wouldn’t say no to a few bucks Dyson reps who may be reading this), which allowed me to get him from a verrrrry long ways away. But even though this vacuum is so mighty that I can tear the nap right out of my carpet if I’m not careful, I had to immediately run it to the closet because what if this adamantine warrior of the miniature set survived and was really really mad about the involuntary amusement park I just ran it through? Clearly the vacuum will need to be quarantined for oh… I think about two years. Just to be safe.
This is part of a larger pattern with me. A laughably irrational pattern. In the past I have:
*Thrown a laptop across the room because a spider crawled across the screen in the dark. My panic as it left my fingertips doubled when it hit the wall.
*Slept under a nest of blankets because I couldn’t force myself to turn off that lamp while that moth kept hogging that space around the switch.
*Gone to the movies just because, the because being that I would assume that spider was somewhere less visible by the time I got home from the theater.
*And of course there’s the ‘I don’t want to look like an idiot’ dance I do every year because I’m really trying to play it cool but I have yet to discover signature scent that bees don’t recognize as ‘pollen’.
Please tell me, oh loyal readers, that I’m not alone in this bugaphobia. Because my shrink and I have been at this make me less insane thing awhile now, and we haven’t even got to the bugs yet.
And then he asked “If you could be anything in the whole wide world, what would it be?” When I said “Solvent,” I never guessed he was a genie.
That’s how I became a bottle of mineral spirits.