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.