That’s the Spirit

By John Hertz:  The other day I passed a Catholic church that had a sign out “Masses and services temporarily postponed.  Church open for adoration and prayer.”

I thought, That’s the spirit.  Pun intended.

Here in California the Governor on account of the pandemic virus COVID-19 has ordered us to stay home, and operations with physical mingling to pause, unless essential.  Even to a disaster one can overreact.  One had better not underreact.  Some of each can be found.  I report what one church announced.

I’m not a Catholic.  I’m not even a Christian (I’m a Jew, Christians’ older brother – which reminds me how rich brown – no capital letters in his name – used to say he was everyone’s rich brother).  You may be a Muslim, or Baha’i, or pagan, or none of the above – pun intended.

If you’re a Catholic, here’s my applause.  For the rest of us, here’s another of my maxims.  Let us do as well in our way as they in their way.

You’re Wise, Here’s Your Word

By John Hertz:  As you probably know, a word can be a whole utterance or one of its building blocks – a molecule or an atom.

In the famous story about Calvin Coolidge, that a Society matron accosted him with “Oh, Mr. President, I’ve just bet someone that you’d say more than two words tonight,” which he answered “You lose,” he could be counted as giving her two words (atoms) or one (molecule).

So I’m calling this one; but you can call it seven.  It has one in it, and you can even bring in Seven at one blow  jokes.

I’ve warned you I’m becoming a man of maxims.  My grandfather was a man of maxims (like “If it weren’t my fool, I’d laugh”).  Some day I may tell you the Fortune Cookie Story, with my Uncle Bob in it.  He’s gone now, but Bob really was my uncle.

Anyway, here’s a maxim from me.  Call it my thought for the day.

Ready?

Even to a disaster one can overreact.

We now return you to our regular program.

Reflections of a Loss
of Innocence

By Steve Vertlieb: As I awaken to a frightening new world of ever altering concepts of normality, and challenges to our health and prosperity, I can’t help thinking back to a simpler time when goodness and tranquility seemed self assured, and when both America and the world were safe havens for dreams, happiness, and a bright, sacred future.

The innocence of childhood imagination and fantasy brought with it a comforting reassurance that all would be right with the world and that, despite occasionally troubling appearances and momentary brushes with calamity, that there was in the land of Oz truly “No Place Like Home.” My thoughts wander back this morning to that sweet place so very long ago when peace of heart and of mind enraptured my world, and my perceived reality.

This was the sacred place where my heart and soul were born. My life was shaped in this small neighborhood theater, located one block from where I grew up on Benner Street in Philadelphia. I still dream of it, so influential was this modest building on the course that my life would take.

Sometimes at night when the world is fast asleep, my dreams carry me back still, upon soft wings of rapture, on a miraculous journey to the virtual birth of my fertile boyhood imagination. There was a “fifth dimension” where a joyous lifetime of cinematic influences and memories shaped the very substance of my soul, a magic kingdom joyously remembered in the windswept corridors of my childhood hopes and aspirations.

On these special nights, when my thoughts and my heart transport me back to my beloved Benner Theater where I came of age, I travel back in time to this wondrous palace where my world ascended on wings of fancy and delicately tender imagination. It was, perhaps, “The Stuff That Dreams Are made Of.” Look for it now only in books, and in loving, tantalizing recollection, for it has conjoined with the blissful winds of fragile memory, and has ever so sweetly Gone With The Wind.

Trigger Snowflake and the Catchy Thing

By Ingvar: “Trigger, darling?”, said Coraline. “I just saw a really interesting, and disturbing, letter-of-comment.”

“Hm?”

“It’s from this Sean Massdriver, he’s on one of those terminator-chasing cities on Mercury.”

“You mean the ones on rails? Just on the night-side, keeping track with Mercurian dusk?”

“Yes, one of those. He’s writing about this new disease that’s starting to pop up in one of the other terminator cities, Yannis. It’s apparently already killed several people and seems to have just popped up from nowhere.”

“Oh, that doesn’t sound good. Do we know anything else?”

“Not at this time, we don’t, no. I’m heading over to the Emporium, to meet Barbara. I’ll be back in an hour or so.”

Trigger was still busy reading the latest legal updates as Coraline closed her reader and headed downstairs. He’d just reached an interesting update on profiteering as the door closed.

#

Barbara Dimatis was in the back office, looking through a combination of news feeds, literary magazines, and the order book for the Emporium. Presumably, there was a pattern to how she did this, but for an external observer, it would have looked random.

She was just finishing a most interesting letter-of-comment from a Sean Massdriver when she heard, faintly, her name being mentioned out by the counter. She stopped and listened. Yes, it was definitely Coraline, what a pleasant surprise.

“Are you sure Barbara is busy? It’s important I get to speak to her?”

“Well, Mrs. Snowflake, she said she’d be busy with some office work, and not to be disturbed.”

“Oh. In that case, can I have the House roast, drip, a quarter spoon of sugar, and maybe a Vienna on the side?”

Barbara stepped out from the office door. “Make that twice, Angelique, dear. I will join Mrs Snowflake for refreshments.”

“Barbara! Have you seen….”

“I think I have, Coraline. Would you join me in the office?”

The two friends sat down at the small table in the corner of the Coffee Emporium’s rather large office, nicely decked out with a white linen cloth and small, fragile-looking lace placemats.

“So, you’ve seen the Mssdriver LoC, Coraline?”

“I have indeed. And I am troubled. If what he writes is real, we have a new disease on our hands, and no one will be immune.”

“It is on Mercury, though.”

“True, but people travel from Mercury all the time, even if it is deep in the Sun’s gravity well. And we have no idea what incubation times look like.”

“No, I think the best we can hope for now is that no one is infectious before symptoms show, and stop being infectious before the symptoms go away.”

“We should be so lucky. Well, if it looks like it’s a new sysdemic, I will do what I can to keep Fort Corallium safe. I will talk to darling Trigger. And you, Barbara, should consider closing the Emporium down for over-the-counter business. This is very much a place where everyone meets, and if the new disease is sturdy on hard surfaces, this could become the one place that infects our whole delightful town.”

“I will take that under consideration. If nothing else, we could expand the delivery business.”

With that, the coffee was finished, and the two pastries eaten. Coraline brushed the few remaining crumbs off the table into her hand and deposited the detritus in Barbara’s waste basket.

“It was delightful, Barbara, to talk to you, even if the subject matter leaves something to wish for.”

“Likewise, Coraline. Don’t be a stranger. Take care of Sheriff Snowflake for us, will you?”

#

Trigger was walking down Main Street, nodding a quick “hello” to people as he passed. It was a beautiful day, the sun a small, bright star on the horizon, and the gas giant bright and bold, covering a substantial portion of the sky.

Such a day really demanded a good cuppa, and a grilled synthecheese. His feet quickened by the thought, Trigger sped up somewhat, as he headed for the Coffee Emporium.

“Sheriff Snowflake!” Barbara said as he entered. “Welcome. The usual?”

“Thank you, Ms Dimatis, if you would?”

“Say, Sheriff, would you feel horribly imposed on, if I were to give you a second synthecheese, on the house?”

“Is this an attempt to curry favour from a lawman?”

“No, Sheriff, I have been tracking the progress of SoVID-59, and I have taken the decision that the Emporium will close its doors to walk-in customers, when we close for the day. And, so, I am trying to empty the cupboard of perishables. As well as leaving our loyal customers with a happy feeling that we here at the Emporium are trying to do the right thing.”

“Sous Vide? Isn’t that a cooking technique? What does that have to do with…”

“Have you not heard, Sheriff? The new Mercurian flu. It’s caused by the Solaris virus.”

“Ah, Solaris-virus. I’ve heard of that. It’s that thing that started in a Mercurian terminator-town, by someone having illicit contact with Mercurian soil in the market, no?”

“No, Sheriff, we don’t actually know how it started. But we do know that the first cases were in Yannis.”

“Oh, this is the thing Coraline talked about a couple of weeks ago. I remember now. So, what does that have to do with sous vide?”

“Not sous vide. SoVID. ‘Solaris Virus Infectious Disease – 2359’. It’s spread at least as far as Mars now, and I think the most responsible thing I can do now is to shut down and prepare for what’s coming. You may want to alert our shop keepers that they should limit essentials to only a few items per customer. If I am extrapolating the numbers correctly, we will hear something official in the next few days.”

“I will do that, Ms Dimatis, I will do that.”

In silence and contemplation, Trigger finished his coffee and grilled synthecheese. With the bill paid, he left the Emporium, to pass the information he’d been given o the shopkeepers of Fort Corallium.

#

Trigger had just finished his breakfast, when his teleprinter beeped. It only did this for incoming priority communication from Law Inc. Headquarters. He headed down to his office, plucked the still-warm sheet from the output hopper and rapidly read the text.

“Coraline, dear! Looks like Fort Corallium has been put on Antisocial Distance, it’s come.”

“Told you! Good thing that Barbara closed down the Emporium two days ago, should put us in a better situation to weather this. I guess this means no patrolling Main Street?”

“On the contrary, I am to double the frequency, and ensure that no one is within spitting distance of anyone else.”

“Poor, beloved Trigger! I know how much the friendly conversations and gatherings in our town mean to you. But, in this time of infectious disease, we all have to do what we can to curb the spreading!”

“Right as always, beloved. Right as always.”

Trigger put on a pair of vinyl gloves, and set out for his morning stroll up and down Main Street. The street was emptier than normal, but up ahead, he saw a small group of people gathered outside the General Store.

“Citizens! I must ask you to stand further apart. You can still form an orderly queue, but please keep a distance of at least 1800 millimetres between you. This is to stop the spreading of the Solaris virus!”

The crowd slowly expanded, to comply with what the lawman had just said.

“Thank you, Sheriff Snowflake” said Joseph Lilyberg. “This new Antisocial Distance has us all confused. We’re all quite social, at heart you see.”

“I know, Lilyberg, I know. I would say go with it for now. You can be close to your family at home. But, please keep your distance in public. And do NOT try any panic-buying, because I would be unhappy having to arrest you. And then I would need to deep-clean the cell, which is really rather annoying. Take care, now.”

#

Several months later, the doors of the Coffee Emporium burst open and Barbara Dimatis stepped outside, bull-horn in hand.

“The medical authorities have declared the crisis over. I have spoken to Sheriff Snowflake, and the Antisocial Distance decree has been cancelled. Your first cuppa is ON THE HOUSE! And we have fresh pastries. Welcome all!”

Thanks, Hampus

by John Hertz:  I’m always glad to agree with Hampus Eckerman (although neither he nor I should be the fans you know if either of us expected that of the other).

This time I thank him for calling attention to The Wind on the Moon (E. Linklater, 1944).

After 

Cora Buhlert on September 5, 2019 at 5:54 am said:

I haven’t even looked for left field finalists such as The Glass Bead Game or The Little Prince yet

Hampus Eckerman on September 5, 2019 at 7:10 am said:

And here comes the left field finalist….
The Wind on the Moon by Eric Linklater
Oh god, how I love this book.  It is bestest, bestest ever.  It shall has to win.

I borrowed the 1951 reprint from the Los Angeles Public Library.

It’s strange and wonderful.

Discussing the Retrospective Hugos with a librarian, I said The Little Prince wasn’t really a children’s book.  He said “Of course not.”  The Wind on the Moon may be.

It has magic, and two girls who turning into kangaroos learn animals’ language.

It has a very bad man who loves peppermint creams.

In Chapter 8 are 

weary hours they had spent with Miss Serendip trying to learn French

and in Chapter 30, without comment,

voices outside, that now spoke French

Its treatment of lawyers is horrid, though alas not without – I’ll say it – justice, but nevertheless they accomplish (ch. 22) a historic feat. 

It has (ch. 30) 

a sudden clamour, of men shouting and iron gates flung open, and the sky above the trap-door quivered and grew bright in the sudden glare of searchlights. 

Their powdery radiance poured into the van. 

Does it deserve nomination, bearing in mind Ape and Essence and Time Must Have a Stop (both A. Huxley), and Sirius (O. Stapledon)?

That we each decide for ourselves. 

Meanwhile I’m reading Renaissance (R. Jones).

In 1963 it was re-named Man of Two Worlds, which by then was Adam Strange and indeed Julie Schwartz.  But that’s another story.

And to Think That I Saw It on Figueroa Street

By John Hertz:  Here’s something I found in Los Angeles the other day.

I think it’s stefnal (our old word, from Hugo Gernsback’s scientifiction; also “stfnal”; noun “stef”, “stf”; if you look at the signature of fanartist Dan Steffan you’ll see he writes it DAN STEF FAN).

You tell me.

Actually it was the other night.  At San Fernando Rd. and N. Figueroa St. I came across these heads.  I drove round to look at all nine.

Another time I saw them by day.  I’m not sure which was more impressive.

“Faces of Elysian” (2017) by Freyja Bardell and Brian Howe

They were made by local artists Freyja Bardell and Brian Howe.  The faces are also local.

Bardell and Howe made a life-size mammoth out of bent-steel pipe, too.

What have you been making?

Fantastic Fiction at KGB Readings Present Kelly and Clark

James Patrick Kelly and P. Djèlí Clark

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, February 19, the monthly Fantastic Fiction at KGB Readings Series hosted award-winning authors James Patrick Kelly and P. Djèlí Clark at its longtime venue, the definitely Red Room at the 2nd floor KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village.

The event opened with Series co-host Ellen Datlow (fighting through a cold) welcoming the crowd and announcing upcoming readers:

  • March 18: Robert Levy, Daniel Braum
  • April 15: Michael Cisco, Clay MacLeod Chapman
  • May 20: Leanna Renee Hieber, Ilana C. Myers
  • June 17: N.K. Jemisin, Kenneth Schneyer
  • July 15: Mike Allen, Benjamin Rosenbaum

She concluded by introducing the evening’s first reader.

P. (for Phenderson) Djèlí Clark (and yes, it’s a penname) is the author of the fantasy novellas The Black God’s Drums and The Haunting of Tram Car 015, and “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington,” a short story that earned him both a Nebula and Locus Award, and was a finalist for both the 2019 Hugo Award for Best Short Story and the 2019 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. As it was Black History Month and just after Presidents’ Day (formerly Washington’s Birthday), his opening offering was from that story, the first six teeth.

Washington’s famous choppers were not wooden (and certainly not carved from that legendary cherry tree), but were made from his own teeth that had fallen out, animal teeth and slaves’ teeth purchased from slave-owners. (His dentures, one might say, were the original George Washington bridge.) Clark, an historian in the other part of his professional life, imagines a mouthful of supernatural backstories for the titular dentation, of African warriors and conjuremen (wisdom teeth?), a strange counterpoint to the barbaric practice.

He followed up by reading from an advance bound manuscript of his forthcoming (in October or November) dark fantasy novella Ring Shout. In an alternate 1922 Macon, Georgia, a trio of black women – a bootlegger with a magic sword, a sharpshooter World War vet, and a “Harlem Hellfighter” – hunt Klansmen (“Ku Kluxers”). The original Klan’s sheets were intended to make them seem ghostlike, adding to the terror they induced, but here their hell-raising is given a literal twist, evil, malevolent sorcery. (While Clark didn’t say, in his story, it seems that D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation cast an actual spell drawing on the hatred and ugliness at America’s heart, leading to the rise and rebirth of the Klan … much as, absent the sorcery, it did in ours.) Advisory: there was much use of the n-word (small “n”) and “graphic language.”

After an intermission, Mercurio David Rivera, filling in for co-host Matthew Kressel (who was off on another island), introduced the second featured reader.

James Patrick Kelly has been honored with the Hugo Award for his novelettes “Think Like a Dinosaur” and “1016 to 1,” and the Nebula Award for his novella Burn. His most recent books are the novella King of the DogsQueen Of the Cats (which he described as a “romantic comedy” set on another planet in the far future, where dogs and cats have been uplifted, mostly in a circus), and a collection, The Promise of Space. (Like Clark, he too likes secret history; with John Kessel, he co-edited the anthology The Secret History of Science Fiction.)

Despite his description of it, he did not read from King of the DogsQueen Of the Cats, but instead a story so new that his wife (who was present) hadn’t read it, and that didn’t yet have a title (working titles include “Showdown,” “5°C” and, maybe seriously not in contention, “OK, Boomer”). Set in New Hampshire, it’s a future of cybernetic prosthesis and rejuvenation drugs, where rangers hunt Boomers (the only generation, he said, everyone agrees on hating – Kelly is one, as am I – but I thought it was Millennials whom everyone agrees on hating), like Willow’s great-grandmother.

Datlow closed the evening with the traditional exhortation to support the Bar by buying a drink. Prior to the readings, as usual, she snapped photos of the readers and the audience. Her photos of the event may be seen on Flickr now, and later at the Series website, http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/.

And I’d Do It Again

By John Hertz:  – is the title of a 1936 memoir by Aimée Crocker (1864-1941), among much else eventually Princess Galitzine (sometimes spelled “Golitsyn”; geležìs is “glove” in Old Lithuanian, a prince wore an iron glove at the 1514 Battle of Orsha; “The prince [Mstislav Galitzine, 1899-1966] is my twelfth husband if I include in my matrimonial list seven Oriental husbands, not registered under the laws of the Occident”).  There’s a 2017 reprint.

Speaking of which, a friend found on the Internet this 2013 note of the 56th World Science Fiction Convention (Bucconeer, 1998).  You might like it.  I omit the author’s name, but if she sees this she can of course claim it.

FRIDAY: woke 10 a.m.

2:00 – The Regency Dance at the Hilton Ballroom.  Master of Ceremonies was John F. Hertz, who has researched and re-created various dances from the Regency period (early-mid 19th century? After Waterloo, anyway, I think, and definitely before Victoria) in England.  Program notes specifically mention Georgette Heyer novels for charm and accuracy to period.  The dance is a Worldcon tradition, though I don’t know how it got started [see “The English Regency and Me”, Mimosa 29; but I’ll say no more – JH].  About 150 people came.  Some were in street dress, some (mostly women) were in Regency dress or varying imitations thereof (some half-hearted, some quite beautiful), some women wore party dresses or ball gowns.  One guy came dressed as a Minuteman, and 2 men were in kilts.  Besides that, there were the convention costumes – a lot of SCA / Renaissance Fair costumes, numerous pirates, and a few aliens: a Klingon, a Minbari (Babylon 5), and some guy wearing devil horns.  I realized that I had forgotten to take my camera to the con – arrgh!

John Hertz wore silvery pants-to-the-knee and hose, a white shirt, silver-on-silver patterned vest and blue coattails.

John Hertz said that wearing a period costume helps you understand what people of that era lived through, especially women’s corsets.  But he also talked about the general move toward comfort in that era – from hoop skirts to Empire waists, for example.  He said that the style of the time was elegant but comfortable, straight but not stiff.

Hertz had numerous other opening remarks, trying to get us in the spirit, and also sprinkled comments throughout the afternoon.  For instance, if anything ever goes wrong in a dance, it’s always, by definition, the gentleman’s fault – if nothing else, he must not have been leading his lady correctly.  “I’ve done everything I can to wash the skill from these dances,” he said, about simplifications to be able to teach dances in an afternoon rather than weeks with a dancing-master.

“Take small steps.  Don’t try to get anywhere.  Remember, these dances are pastimes,” he said.  Compared Regency “leisure class” to 20th-century mode of always being in a rush to get somewhere, do something.  Also said that with smaller steps, mistakes don’t matter as much – you won’t bump into the person next to you in a line dance if you’re both stepping small.  While stepping, “don’t lurch, and don’t clutch.”

Another point Hertz made is that with these dances, footwork is far less important than the shape that the dancers are making together – a circle, two circles inside each other, a square or rectangle, two parallel lines, two parallel lines at the perpendicular to the previous lines, etc.  He seems to have been right; after he said that, I had a much easier time keeping my place in the dances.

Dances: We started with a quadrille called “Hole in the Wall.”  The quadrille is a set dance, which means it’s composed of sets of couples.  In this case, everyone line up in two long parallel lines, men on one side, women on the other (actually, there were enough people in the ballroom that we had 3 double-parallel-line groupings).  Each line was divided into sets of four people (quadrille – get it?).  Each set had an “A” couple and a “B” couple.  Each couple performed various maneuvers with each other and with the other couple in the set, and after the maneuvers were done, the A couple moved up the line, and each couple got a new A or B couple to dance with.  After reaching the head of the line, each A couple became a B couple and started moving down the line again.  My partner tended to forget what he was doing, so I quickly learned to give him cues as we went along.

Next was a group of waltzes.  I didn’t get a partner for this, so I sat on the sideline and watched the pageantry.  But I already know how to waltz, so it was OK.  During the waltzes, they did promenades, open and closed waltzing, and waltzing with a smaller circle of dancers inside a large circle of waltzers.

Next, we did a set dance called “Bath Carnival”.  My partner this time was a woman, also named [omitted]. This set dance is in long parallel lines, like “Hole in the Wall”, but this time there are 3 couples in each set, “A”, “B”, and “C.”  Here the B couple becomes a C, and the C couple becomes a B, after each set-repetition of maneuvers is over; however, the A couple, after each repetition of maneuvers, moves down the line toward the foot or end of the line, staying an A each time.  There was great confusion and repetition of instructions.  After John Hertz was done giving instructions, and before the music started, I sang, “When you’re an ‘A,’ you’re an ‘A’ all the way….” and a guy a couple of places down the set obligingly finished, “from your head to your toes, to your last dying day!”  That got a really good laugh from those who heard and understood my reference (a takeoff on “When you’re a Jet” from West Side Story) – about 10 people laughed, I’d say – so I was in a triumphant glow all through that dance.

There was one more dance starting after that, but it was 4:40 so I had to leave to make a phone call, sadly.

Wishing you the same.

A Thought for the Month

By John Hertz:  It’s Black History Month here in the United States.

There are plenty of reasons to have it in mind, even outside this country.  Some have to do with speculative fiction.

The sorrows of slavery, its temptations for both the enslaver and the enslaved – when my own co-religionists finally got out of Egypt, with a river that turned to blood! plagues of frogs! a sea that parted! we begged Moses “Take us back to Egypt! They fed us!” – can inspire us to think better when we meet beings who look radically different, whether we or they seem more powerful.

As it happens I just re-read the novels Too Many Cooks (Rex Stout, 1938) and To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee, 1960).  As it happens their stories are contemporaneous: Many is set in 1937 and Mockingbird in 1936.  They relate to Black History Month.  I think they’re relevant here.

I think cross-cultural contact is homework for speculative fiction.

I’ll go on talking to you who didn’t run away when I said “homework” – both of you.

I recommend these two masterly books.  If you know them, or if you take my recommendation, and go after them, and come back, compare them.

Neither of them is SF.  Each is very much concerned with aliens.

As it happens each is very much concerned with crime.

Some of the characters are alien because of race.  Some because of sex.  Some because of aesthetics.

Each book is a first-person narrative.  The narrator is somewhat alien to what’s going on.  Some of the characters are inclined to suppose the narrator naïve. To borrow a line from an SF book I happen to like, that turns out not to be the case.

Each book is very much concerned with lies.

In each book the narrator is only in a sense the main character.

In each book alienness gives rise to the story; complicates it; leads to a resolution.

One book’s author with various techniques invites us to think it light, even frivolous – although it turns on eating, sex, and death.  Also large amounts of money; fifty thousand dollars then would be nine hundred thousand now.  The other book’s author invites us to think it serious.

I don’t say these invitations are insincere.  I only say they’re literary.

There’s also the human comedy.

My grandfather used to say “If it weren’t my fool, I’d laugh.”

If you’ve come this far, do you think these books illuminate SF?  Does the comparison?

Another Henson Exhibit Exists!

By Rich Lynch: My friend Martin Morse Wooster’s February 3rd File 770 post about visiting the Jim Henson exhibit at the University of Maryland has inspired me to write about my own Jim Henson exhibit experience.  Only this one was up in New York City, not over in College Park, Maryland.  It was part of a four-day mini-vacation in NYC that Nicki and I did back in early January which also included a theatrical performance (which I’ll describe in part 2 of this essay) that was very much in the science fiction/fantasy genre.

Part 1: It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights.

The Museum of the Moving Image is a gem of a place that I can hardly believe Nicki and I have missed seeing until now.  MMI is out in Queens next to the Kaufman Astoria Studios, and according to the museum’s website its intent is to “advance the understanding, enjoyment, and appreciation of the art, history, technique, and technology of film, television and digital media”.  And from what we saw there was ample evidence that it was succeeding.

There’s not a whole lot of space available (just two floors), but what they had was used intelligently.  The upper floor was set up as a walk through the history of the moving image, beginning with a collection of magic lanterns dating back to the end of the 19th Century.  A lot of it was hands-on — the core exhibition, Behind the Screen, provides a simplified immersive experience, as the museum’s website describes it, “in the creative and technical process of producing, promoting, and presenting films, television shows, and digital entertainment”.  This included small studios for demonstrating various post-production techniques such as adding foley sound effects to a recorded video.  It was all pretty fascinating to observe, and just by itself was worth the visit to the museum.

But that’s not what we had come there to see.  The other floor of the museum, since 2017, has been home to The Jim Henson Exhibition.  MMI describes it as a “dynamic experience [which] explores Jim Henson’s groundbreaking work for film and television and his transformative impact on culture.”  In all there are about 300 items on display for what is really a quite inclusive retrospective of Henson’s career as a puppeteer, animator, actor, inventor, and filmmaker.  This includes many of the Muppets, and the museum had obviously arranged them with the assumption that they would be part of countless numbers of selfies and photo ops.  Ours included.

Nicki Lynch, Big Bird and Cookie Monster

The exhibition consisted of more than just static displays.  There were also video screens which showcased some of Henson’s earliest involvement in television, including the Sam and Friends show for WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. which aired for several years starting in the mid-1950s.  That was where Kermit the Frog made his first appearance.

Henson and his fellow puppeteer Frank Oz gained national popularity in the early 1960s when one of their Muppets, Rowlf the Dog, had a continuing role as a sidekick of sorts on The Jimmy Dean Show.  And then international popularity in the late 1960s when their Muppets became featured performers on the public television show Sesame Street.  But for me and Nicki, we became fans of the Muppets when they got their own syndicated television series in the mid-1970s.

Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge

The Muppet Show was ostensibly a variety show, hosted by Kermit, and featured some very entertaining sketch comedy as well as a plethora of famous guest stars.  So it was really a pleasure to spend half an hour, in the exhibition’s screening room, re-watching an episode which had originally aired more than 40 years ago.  The one they were showing featured Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge as musical guests, but the Muppets themselves had the most amusing bits: Resident daredevil The Great Gonzo recited a multiplication table while standing on a hammock and balancing a piano (with predictably disastrous results).  Mad scientist Dr. Bunsen Honeydew debuted his latest invention, atomic elevator shoes.  Weight-conscious Miss Piggy ordered up a watercress sandwich on whole wheat with four ounces of rhubarb juice, otherwise known as the ‘Fatso Special’.  Feral rock band drummer Animal ate a TV dinner, which turned out to be an actual TV.  And the show’s resident stand-up comic, Fozzie Bear (accompanied by Rowlf), sang “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee, An Actor’s Life for Me”.  More than 40 years on, it was all just as enjoyable as the first time we’d seen it.  Ah, nostalgia!

Next:  Livin’ it up on top with Hadestown.