Happy Birthday, Jim Henson!

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It’s the 78th birthday of the guy who just wanted to “make the world a little bit better for my having been here.” Go do something worthwhile today — even if it’s just being silly simply because you can — and think of Jim Henson.

What’s Up This Week

Happy Jim Henson’s Birthday Week!

Jim Henson would’ve turned 78 years old this coming Wednesday, September 24–and as always, there’ll be plenty of people commemorating his life and work all over the web and other media. Heck, I’ll be one of them. Here’s a bit of what’s in store for this week:

Today, I’m thrilled to be over on This Happy Place blog, talking Jim and Muppets with Estelle Hallick, one of the biggest Muppets/Jim Henson/Disney fans anywhere. You can see our conversation right here. As an added bonus, we’re also giving away an e-book, as well as a complete and unabridged copy of the audiobook — all 21 1/2 hours on 17 CDs — signed by Yers Truly.

On Wednesday, I’m taping a podcast with the crew at The Assembly of Geek, which should be available for you to listen to and download the next day.

And on Thursday, I think it’s high time I officially announced what my next project is — and on which I actually just completed the first chapter this past week. Stay tuned.

Love the Turtle!

I had a fantastic time at the University of Maryland last night: an enthusiastic crowd who laughed (and cried) in all the right places, great questions, and one of the best setups I’ve seen for a smaller setting, with the podium set up between two huge hi-def TV screens so there wasn’t a bad seat in the house.  Well done. UMD, and well done all who came. You were a lot of fun.

Incidentally, I had two people raise their hands at the same time to ask, “When will they be releasing The Muppet Show seasons 4 and 5 on DVD?”  Good question, and one I’d love for Disney to answer. The rumor I’ve heard (and keep in mind I don’t actually know anything) is that the biggest obstacle to their release is the tracking down and clearing of all the rights to the music used in the last two seasons. I’d think this would be a drop in the bucket for the Disney conglomerate– but, again, what the heck do know? Discuss amongst yuhselves.

And much, I’m certain, to my father’s disappointment (he reads this blog, then texts me Statler and Waldorf-like comments), I did not get a picture of me with the statue of Jim and Kermit. I arrived with only enough time to run through the A/V check before things started . . . and then afterwards it was dark.

Ya wanna see something else, though? All over the university, you’ll find statues of their mascot, the turtle Testudo, which get painted and repainted to look like this . . .

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or this . . .

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or this.

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Just inside the Stamp Student Union Building, however, there’s a turtle who’s been painted — and slightly modified — to look like this:

Kertle

Have a good weekend!

Fear the Turtle! (But Come Anyway!)

Just a quick reminder: I’ll be speaking at the University of Maryland–Jim Henson’s alma mater–this Friday at 6:00 p.m. at the Stamp Student Union Bookstore. It’s all part of the University’s parents’ weekend events, but whether you’re a UMD parent or UMD student or not, you’re welcome to come join the fun.  And did I tell you it’s free? Well, it is.

Which building is Stamp Student Union, you ask? It’s the one with this statue in front:

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More Comings and Goings

Urgh, I continue to be the worst. Blogger. Ever.

Hi, everyone.  How ya doin’?

Since I last saw you, I’ve come back from a wonderful trip to Kinderhook, New York, where I had been invited to come talk on Washington Irving.  Kinderhook is particularly important in Irving’s story, because it’s where he wrote his first book, A History of New York, in the summer of 1809, while recovering from the death of his 17-year-old fiancee. While I was there, I toured Martin Van Buren’s home, Lindenwald (which is THE ACTUAL HOUSE where Irving wrote his History of New York, though it was still owned by the Van Ness family at that time), and had the great pleasure of staying in this house right here:

kinderhook georgianThis is a local landmark, the Burgoyne House, where British general John Burgoyne was held after his capture by Benedict Arnold.  Arnold, however, had to stay at a very nice, but much smaller, house just down the street.  Which probably explains a lot about what happened later.

I spoke that afternoon at the Reformed Dutch Church, where I talked about Irving’s version of the Dutch history of New York. Afterwards, I was asked several really good questions, and only slightly disappointed the home town crowd when I informed them that Kinderhook was probably not the Sleepy Hollow of Irving’s famous tale (Had I been a bit faster on my feet, I’d have said that every place is Sleepy Hollow.  But it was hot.) Afterwards, we retreated to a reception at the old Jesse Merwin house, which at one time belonged to the historic figure who actually was the inspiration for Ichabod Crane. All in all, a lovely weekend — and I even got to bring Barb with me.

I’ve got several events coming up in the next few months, which I’ll post under the News tab as well.  

First, I’ll be speaking at the University of Maryland — Jim Henson’s alma mater, for those of you playing at home — on Friday, September 12, as part of the university’s parent’s weekend.  I’ll be at the University Book Center at Stamp Union, starting at 6:30 p.m.

In October, I’ll be attending the James River Writers Conference down in Richmond, Virginia, for three days (October 17-19), and I’ll be giving my hour long Jim Henson show on Friday night, October 17, as part of the many kick-off events. If you’re anywhere near Richmond that weekend and love books . . . well, it’s something you’d probably wanna do.

In November, I’ll be back at the University of Maryland (in association with the Prince George’s County Historical Society) to talk Jim Henson on Sunday, November 2, from 2:30 to 4, at the Hornbake Library.

Finally, on Wednesday, November 5, I’ll be making my long-overdue appearance at the New York Public Library’s Mid-Manhattan Library, at 6:30 p.m. I’m very excited about this one, especially as the library and I went back and forth for a long time trying to find a date that worked.

That Giant Sucking Sound

I’m back from a long weekend in Colorado, where I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful wedding for one of my nephews.  The next day, we headed for Denver to catch our flight back to Washington, DC–and while we were waiting at our gate at the airport, an alarm blared and informed us a tornado had been spotted nearby, and to head for the tornado shelters at the ends of the terminals.

So, while this was raging outside . . .

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(No, I didn’t take this photo.)

…we were huddled in the underbelly of the Denver International Airport, none the worse for wear:

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While I looked, I never did see the Batmobile.

Obviously,  everything worked out fine, though our flight was delayed to the point that we didn’t make it back home until after 2 a.m.

And how’s YOUR week so far?

You Never Forget Your First

photo 2This is a photo I took today of the very first Lego Space set I ever owned.*  It’s the Rocket Launcher, and it was the first time I had ever seen a minifig, a sloped ramp piece with a computer printed on it, and the piece we always called the Gas Tank. I must have put this thing together a thousand times–and when I put it together at the desk in my office today, I was astounded at how my fingers seemed to automatically find each piece even before I knew which one I needed.

I was 12 when I got this, and as you can see, I still have the instructions and the box.  Which is a good thing, because I’m sending this set–and lots of others–off to my nephews. They’re big Lego fans, and I think they’re much better off being sent someplace where they’ll be enjoyed, rather than sitting in the box in my basement.

*Lego Crater Plate not included.