For the first day of school: The lesson of Cookie Monster

Posted as I rush little Madison and Skylark to the bus stop.

In reporting for Labor Day about strange offices and cubicles, the New York Post talks to Louis Henry Mitchell, the associate director of special projects at Sesame Workshop, about his “Cookie Monster Shrine.” The video — and office — are great, but here’s the best line from Mitchell:

“The reason why I love Cookie Monster is because, as passionate as he is about cookies, he’d give his last cookie away to his friends. Just because he wants them to enjoy what he loves so much.”

I’m leaving North America

For the first time. But I’m eventually coming back. Heading to Austria later this month, I’m going to spend three weeks as a Knight fellow at the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change. The four fellows — two from the USA, two from Jordan — are going to be working with faculty and students from around the world as they create new lenses for media literacy and critical awareness. But my favorite parts so far? The Salzburg airport is apparently named W.A. Mozart Airport, and our classrooms are in the palace where they filmed The Sound of Music.

If you’ve been there or near there, any and all advice is welcome. I’ve begun reading all I can in preparation, but there’s much more to go.

Two weeks out, I’m excited and nervous. My foreign travel experience consists of Montreal, Toronto and Niagara Falls, Canada. My longest flight over water likely involves Lake Michigan. I joke that my brother, jetting off these days to Beijing, Madrid and Sao Paolo for work, is the Cooper most likely to cause an international incident. But really now. We know there’s only one Cooper most likely to fall down the Alps.

Or, as we all learned as children, this could happen…

Seeing Itzhak Perlman

If you ever want to see an orchestra in Technicolor, sit in a stage box. Sit directly above the cymbals, so when they crash together, you see them fly back apart and catch the lights as the sound rushes at you. The bass drum and the timpanis are alongside. After loving timpanis more than any other percussion since childhood, the rare pound of the bass drum gives you second thoughts. Your third thought is how you can get one for the office. A gong is there too, but it only gets a lone, shimmering touch. Leaving the symphony hall, you have to admit a massive, stage-shaking gong strike wouldn’t have fit the Tchaikovsky.

Jess and I — despite the summer’s weeks of sad music in this blog, we’re still friends — saw Itzhak Perlman and the NSO at the Kennedy Center recently, and we took no pictures of how good the seats were. The usher was sure we youth were going to take illicit cell photos in the hall, and we totally would have if he hadn’t been rightly eyeing us. But the Kennedy Center site captured the view well. Screengrab …

Perlman, admittedly one of the few classical musicians on my shelves, didn’t disappoint. He conducted while playing his famous violin for the first piece (Bach 1, 2, 3) and then led with the baton for the latter two (Mozart 1, 2, 3, 4 and Tchaikovsky 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). He threw himself into both roles, and I loved seeing his face and his arms when he sat facing the players. He lost his grip on the baton at one point but caught it in mid-air without missing a beat. Attending a previous show, even the high-minded and classically attuned Washington Post critic received the same impression, “it offered a lot to enjoy — which, as Perlman seems most healthily to keep in mind, is the whole point of the exercise.”

My last time seeing Perlman was on Sesame Street, a fact that much amused the Kennedy Center box-office operator. I couldn’t remember exactly what Perlman’s performance was on the show until later. He had played with early Telly and joined in the great Put Down the Ducky montage, but neither was what I was looking for. A Muppet Wiki entry and a blogger with a mending pelvis finally led me in the right direction.

A little girl ran to a stage, and Perlman climbed slowly on his crutches. Then they played their violins and talked about the lesson. The video.

In honor of last week and newsprint’s last great day ever

Sesame Street clip: Grover has just one newspaper left. He encounters an aging audience, competitive noise (“If you make noise, I cannot sell my newspapers and make my cute furry little living!”), usability issues, internal brand perception concerns, and a limited distribution model. Sure, his Daily Monster is a hyperlocal tabloid, but is it enough?

Beyond newspaper sales, we can find Grover: delivering a singing telegram,  selling door-to-door, working as an elevator operator, and trying to fix a 1982 computer by running around in circles. Theme here?

I can see Fat Blue canceling his subscription.

Most honest lede of the bunch

In the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obituary:

Most Americans under 40 know Alistair Cookie, the furry host of “Monsterpiece Theater,” a feature on TV’s “Sesame Street.”

Far fewer would connect the Muppet to its inspiration, the man whose elegance, style and wit represented television’s once lofty ideals, the same ideals that created the pioneering children’s program.

Muppet Central thread: Favorite Monsterpiece Theater segments thread: Monsterpiece Theater

Grover: Forgetful or a liar?

Promoting his new “Global Grover” segment, Sesame Street’s Grover recently told the Associated Press, “I had not even gone around the corner before. This was something extra-special.”

Well, Grover, welcome to the No-Monster-Spin Zone. I’ve got some questions for you. Sure, there’s the old saying that a monster never forgets, but is there an exception to that rule when it comes to promotion? Well, is there? Because, correct me if I’m wrong, but haven’t you previously held more than a few jobs away from Sesame Street?

Your years as a waiter and singing telegram delivery man come to mind. You don’t like to remember them, do you? All the food dropped, all the telegrams mis-delivered. And what about Super Grover? Come now, Grover, the American public aren’t fools. They know you when they see you.

And what about the musical career? Are you really going to tell me you recorded Grover Sings the Blues without ever leaving Sesame Street? As musical as Bob was, fitting a recording studio in that apartment of his would’ve been impossible. Impossible! Even today, we all know recording on the Street is bad business. No sooner do you get the record out than Prairie Dawn is over at Luis and Maria’s cybercafe putting you out of cash: Rip, mix, burn, baby!

Finally, the trip to the Alps. We all know about it, Grover. The hills were alive with the sound of music, and you ended up looking foolish. Yet, after all of these very public events, you sink to the depths of claiming you’ve never left your block of Sesame Street. What have your PR goons done to you? It’s a shame.

But here in the No-Monster-Spin Zone, we put the truth over shame. We know you, Grover. Admit it! We know you’ve been places. Near, and far.