Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Pirate Wolf, Episode 01

I'm coming to grips with the idea that my writing -- bizarre, sporadic -- is a pretty minimal factor in what brings you guys to this blog (and, ultimately, to check out my puppets).  My son wanted to make a "pirate movie" today, and I kinda realized that this sort of thing just might make a little more sense for a puppetmaker to post.  So, without further ado, here's our puppet video!

Friday, January 3, 2014

M(aster of P)uppets: Synchronicity between Metallica and The Muppet Movie

Certainly the most Muppet-y Metallica album is 1986's Master of Puppets -- uh doy, it says "puppets" in the title -- and I think it's no coincidence that it's regarded as their masterpiece.  It is a bit odd, though, that there's no overt Muppet references in the songs themselves.  Maybe we're expected to dig a little deeper.  

I've experimented with this idea, to some surprising results.  I did one of those "synchronicity" things, where you start playing an album at the same time as you start playing a movie, to see if anything, lyrically or thematically, "matches up" between the two pieces.  You know, kind of like how The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds synchs up perfectly with Freddy Got Fingered.  In this case, I matched Metallica's Master of Puppets with the Muppets' first (and perhaps greatest?) movie, 1979's The Muppet Movie.

If you'd like to re-create this experiment for yourself, just queue up one of the many "master of puppets full album" uploads on Youtube while you watch The Muppet Movie.  Are you ready?  Here's what I found!

So, right away, James Hetfield's classical guitar intro to "Battery" beautifully accompanies the movie, as it pans down regally over the statue at World Wide Studios' main gate.  Then, at 00:40, the monstrous electric guitars rudely interrupt the music -- just as Statler and Waldorf drive up to the gate.

Soon, the galloping rhythm of "Battery" begins, as the Muppets rip out chairs and detonate TNT in the screening room.  When the rapid-fire lyrics begin ("Lashing out the action, returning the reaction, weak are ripped and torn away") we see Animal -- perhaps the most likely Muppet to be a Metallica fan -- bouncing frantically in his seat.

"Lunacy has found me" matches with the appearance of Lew Zealand.

When Kirk Hammett's ripping guitar solo starts at 3:17, the actual "movie within a movie" begins, and we're coasting through a panorama of clouds.

Throughout the remainder of "Battery," the camera moves through the clouds and into the swamp.  At 5:23, the title song "Master of Puppets" starts its intro, just as we get our first glimpse of Kermit with his banjo.

The verses in "Master of Puppets" don't line up extremely well with "The Rainbow Connection," but the pace of phrasing is surprisingly similar, so certain lines match amusingly with Kermit's mouth: "taste me you will see," "come crawling faster," and "obey your master."

One of the more interesting ones is that Kermit shoots his head up suddenly when Hetfield sings "just call my name 'cause I'll hear you SCREAM" (in "The Rainbow Connection," this is when Kermit sings "all of us UN-der its spell").

It seems like Dom DeLuise lip-synchs the line "chop your breakfast on a mirror," and then Kermit tries to catch a fly with his tongue when the phrase "taste me you will see" is repeated.

The BEST part of this section is that Kermit does his "read my lips: al-ee-gay-tor" bit, beat-for-beat, with Hetfield grunting "MAS-TER! MAS-TER!"

Further along, the music becomes more ominous while Kermit is biking past Doc Hopper's signs; at 10:53, Kermit is ostensibly being smushed by pavers when Hetfield shouts "Beats me!" (or whatever he's saying) just before Hammett's zany whammy-bar solo.

To close out the album's title track with a bang: at 13:28 or so, an Andre the Giant-esque "HA HA HA," which is followed by peals of lunatic laughter, matches with the appearance of Fozzie doing his comedy routine at El Sleezo Cafe.

As we move into the third song, "The Thing That Should Not Be," Doc Hopper peeks into the bar with his tiny binoculars at the line "dark deception kills the light," and the angry mob starts tossing puppets at the line "fearless wretch / insanity."  

Doc Hopper's first bizarre proposition to Kermit takes place while Hetfield sings phrases like "in madness you dwell," and "drain you of your sanity / face the thing that should not be."

At 22:13, we've moved into Metallica's classic "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)," and we see Big Bird's cameo with the lyrics "they keep me locked up in this cage."  I assume this is a reference to the plot of Sesame Street's big-screen feature Follow That Bird.

The phrase "just leave me alone" is repeated, both when Big Bird strolls away by himself, and again later when Doc Hopper stops Kermit and Fozzie to harrass them.

At 24:40, Max attempts to stand up for himself against Doc Hopper -- to the phrase "mutiny in the air."

The fifth track, "Disposable Heroes," has started by 27:20, a point at which we hear a backwards cymbal crash while we see Animal bite his cymbal to "eat drum."  When Lars Ulrich pounds out an extra-loud snare beat soon afterwards, Animal has realized he should "beat drum" -- which he does, on the snare with his head.

The Electric Mayhem's song "Can Ya Picture That" ends up corresponding to the lyric section of "Disposable Heroes," and it's not without its moments of near-perfect lip-synch phrases: "you will do what I say when I say," "you coward / you servant," "now an empty shell,"  and "the slaughter never ends."  Clearly the most amusing thing is the irony in such a cynical, military-themed set of lyrics being "sung" by a bunch of freaked-out hippie puppets.

After Fozzie and Kermit drive away from the church, they're being followed by Doc Hopper and Max.  At 33:00, they look behind them and spot their pursuers.  This synchs exactly with the lyrics, "looking back I realize, nothing have I done / left to die with my only friend."

Soon, Fozzie and Kermit are about to collide with Gonzo's plumbing vehicle, and Fozzie covers his eyes at nearly the same time as Hetfield shouts the line "you blind man!"

Milton Berle's Mad Man Mooney makes his appearance to the opening riffs of the sixth track, "Leper Messiah."  He begins his used car salesman pitch to the Muppets with the lyrics "send me money, send me green... make a contribution."

At 39:49, Miss Piggy is crowned and seated on her throne to the lyric phrase "time for lust."

Piggy and Kermit have their romantic fantasy montage to Cliff Burton's eerie bass effects at the beginning of the instrumental track "Orion."  It casts a strangely foreboding mood on the otherwise sappy scene.

Gonzo is lifted into the air by his balloons at 45:50, accompanied by a slower, pensive section of the song, with lots of airy guitar string bends.  Again, it makes for a different, but not inappropriate, mood -- it replaces the panic with a haunting dreaminess.

Kermit and Piggy have their first official date to the manic strains of Master of Puppets' final track, "Damage, Inc."  At 52:45, Piggy coldly abandons Kermit for a modeling gig to the phrase "we chew and spit you out."

Kermit meets Rowlf at the piano during the guitar solo.  There's a REALLY cool part, at 53:17, where Rowlf's hands seem to mime a frenzied run of notes.

"Damage, Inc." completes another round of verse and chorus during Kermit and Rowlf's duet, and abruptly ends.  The album is done -- as far as Metallica is concerned, The Muppet Movie ends here, with "men" (as it were) working through despair and depression, but ultimately taking power and energy from the love of their music.  

So, in conclusion, I'm 100% convinced that Metallica was directly inspired by The Muppet Movie, and made all creative decisions concerning the writing and production of Master of Puppets based on a frame-by-frame study of it.  Try this synchronicity experiment for yourself and I think you'll agree.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

FREE Postcard / Picture From Your Favorite Disney Character

It's come to my attention recently that, by sending a letter addressed to your favorite Disney character, you can receive either a postcard or a photo from that character in the mail!

The address I first discovered was an address at Disney World (Florida), and with a little Internet digging I discovered that you'll probably get a postcard back from this address.  Unfortunately, the only examples I could find online were letters written to any one of the Disney princesses, and all of those letters were responded to with the same Disney Princess postcard.  I have no idea what you'd get if you write to any of the jillions of Disney characters that don't happen to be princesses.

I also discovered an address at Disneyland (California), and apparently you can receive an 8 x 10 black-and-white photo of that character (as a Disneyland costumed character).  I saw that someone wrote to Buzz Lightyear and got a photo of Buzz and Woody.  But I also heard a rumor that they no longer send these photos.  So, again, I don't know what to expect by writing to this address either.

Since there's two Disney fanboys in this house, I decided that we should each write a letter to our favorite Disney character, and I'll send one to each of the addresses.  That way, I figure I'll scientifically deduce what could be expected from either address, and I'll be sure to update you as soon as the results of the experiment come in!

Name of Character
Walt Disney World Communications
PO Box 10040
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-0040

Walt Disney Company
Attn: Fan Mail Department
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521

Ezra's letter to Peter Pan, dictated to me:

 My letter to Captain Hook:

Our separate envelopes.  Ezra's is going to California,
and mine is going to Florida.  These will be sent out December 2, 2013.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Reader Mail

Things have been a little slow for puppet news, so I thought I'd go through some Reader Mail.

Dear Peter's Puppets,
I wonder what John Krasinski has been up to since The Office wrapped earlier this year.
-- Flo, St. Petersburg, FL

Since lending his voice to this summer's family hit Monsters University, the hip heartthrob, 33, has been seen on a recent episode of Arrested Development.  John says, "it was totes rad to play that particular character!"
John Krasinski

Dear Peter's Puppets,
Is there any royal baby news from Philip IV and Mariana of Austria?
-- Jontesh, Studio City, CA

Good news, Jontesh!  The Spanish monarchs welcomed baby boy Charles II in 1661.  The couple is very happy... and very exhausted!
Charles II of Spain

Dear Peter's Puppets,
Is this a good week to plant begonias?  My wife doesn't think so.
-- Wenceslas, Denver, CO

Your wife is right, Wenceslas.  Begonias should never be planted until after the danger of frost has passed in the spring.  In the meantime, you can place the sprout containers, with a towel under them, on a radiator.
Red Wax Begonias

Well, that's it for now!  Keep those letters coming, and make sure to visit the Peter's Puppets Etsy Shop for the best deals on Peter's Puppets!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Peter's Puppets Hand-Made Puppet (Virtual) Museum

My stash of hand-made (not by me) puppets is getting pretty ridiculous.  This weekend's garage sale haul has already added to it quite a bit.  If I was a well-organized "collector" I'd have these all in glass cases, displayed nicely, etc.  But that's probably not going to happen.  So let's consider this the virtual Hand-Made Puppet Museum, curated by me.  Like my Peanuts Statue post, I'll add to this one as new acquisitions are made.

Vegetable Gnome
 (discussed in an earlier post)
eBay purchase from years ago

Nightmare Army Jacket Man
(discussed in an earlier post)
eBay purchase from years ago

(discussed in an earlier post)
Etsy purchase 2013

Oscar the Grouch
(discussed in an earlier post)
Etsy purchase 2013

Count von Count
(discussed in an earlier post)
Etsy purchase 2013

Freddie the Frog
garage sale purchase 2013

garage sale purchase 2013

Cookie Monster
At first glance, this seems like a mass-manufactured, store-bought puppet.  And, yes, I believe it once was.  But while I was repairing a rip along the side-seam, I noticed that the fabric was going the wrong way (against the "straight of goods"), it was sewn with some kind of fishing line or something, the mouth seemed odd, and there were little felt "claws."  I think that the original puppet fell apart, and someone recycled the eyes and mouth to re-create a Cookie Monster puppet.
garage sale purchase 2013

made by fellow Etsy seller/Puppetsian Agnes Abraham at AgneShop
 Etsy purchase 2012

Kindly Dragon?
papier mache head
eBay purchase from years ago

papier mache head
eBay purchase from years ago

carved wooden head
purchased in Paris 2001

garage sale purchase 2013

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Minnesota Travels: Jeffers Petroglyphs and End-O-Line Railroad Park

We took a family minivan vacation this weekend in Southwest Minnesota.  Neither of us was familiar with the area, or any of our destinations, and there was very little critical information available on the interwebs -- travel plans were made on a "this sounds good" basis.  Since I've got this blogging platform, with a demographic of hip parents with young kids, I thought I'd put in my (positive!) recommendations for this SW-MN weekend tour.

Our chosen destinations -- the Jeffers Petroglyphs and the End-O-Line Railroad Park and Museum -- are both within reasonable driving distance from New Ulm.  Twin Citians will appreciate New Ulm for being "the closest thing to civilization" in this area of Minnesota.  Alternatively, we stayed at Fort Ridgely State Park and had a great time; Lake Shetek State Park is technically much closer though.  And since I assume you got your State Parks Permit when you donated to Minnesota Public Radio, your parking fee will be covered at either place.

For your convenience, here's a map of the area with the various locations I've mentioned highlighted:

View SW-MN weekend vacation in a larger map

As far as eating lunch, it doesn't matter what your tastes are -- there simply aren't that many towns to stop at in the area.  We saw a place called The Loose Moose in Westbrook, but didn't go inside.  Pack a picnic.

So, first off, the Jeffers Petroglyphs are thousands of Native American drawings carved in the quartzite rock on the ground, each anywhere from 7000 to 250 years old.  Apparently any one carving has a temperamental ease of viewing; time of day, level of sunlight, and weather have an effect on what you'll be able to see.  We got there shortly after the Interpretive Center opened at 10 A.M. (by the way, it closes at 5 P.M. -- but signage on the premises suggests that you're trusted to view the site whenever you want) and received nearly the entire spectrum of Minnesota summertime weather while we were there:

11 A.M.

11:30 A.M.


Your guide will happily point out many of the notable carvings, but the ones you remember will be the ones that pop out at you on their own.  I found a "cyclops" man that, according to my son, looks like my tattoo (the tour guide said that the round head with a single, central eye signifies "wisdom"):

There was another cyclops in a busy scene of other figures; the guide suggested that the whole image may be the recording of an inner spiritual drama in which a man "kills his boy spirit so that his man spirit may survive":

OR, according to the sign, it's a celestial chart:

This turtle was so clear that even a four-year-old could (and did!) see it:

But Ez's favorite petroglyph animal was the Thunderbird.  This carving (below) was pretty clear.  You'll see an arrow coming down from its neck and pointing to its heart; the guide said that this was an indicator, that could be put on any animal, to communicate that the artist considered that animal to be his/her spirit guide.

So, before we left, Ez had to get some Thunderbird bling:

Next up: the End-O-Line Railroad Park and Museum in Currie.  I honestly can't remember how I found the website for this place, but I marked it as a "maybe/probably" on our itinerary.  From now on I'd mark it as "we're goin'."  

If End-O-Line was anywhere near the Twin Cities, we'd put it along with the Science Museum and both zoos as a guaranteed fallback plan for weekend activites.  I even like it better than the Duluth train museum; rather than feeling like you're creeping around in somebody's grandpa's basement, you're out in a very well-maintained park, hopping from one "old-fashion" (Ez's new favorite term) building or train car to the next.  

End-O-Line is a staunch preserver of hobo culture

Ez as old-fashion schoolteacher

The whole "museum" forms a circle of buildings (including a schoolhouse, a church, a general store, and a mill) around a picnic area and train-themed playground: so if you've run out of steam well before your kid, you can just sit down and let him entertain himself for a while.  The extremely non-mopey teenagers that staff the place are even willing to give your kids a spin on the replica turntable.

So, there you go -- an exhaustingly full Saturday of family activity in an area of Minnesota that hasn't (yet) had much in the way of online reviews.

By the way, while you're in the area you'll notice Historical Marker signs pointing you to Harkin's General Store, just northwest of New Ulm.  We checked it out.  It's not worth it.  I can't imagine a single scenario in which the $5 per person admission fee won't feel like a total rip-off.  If you're really, really into "living history" general stores, set up to look like they did in the days of Minnesota's early statehood, you've already seen one at End-O-Line.