Screentime: How Gonzo Made Me A Bad Parent

(YouTube/YouTube Movies)

On Being A Good Parent

Being a good parent means a lot of different things to different people, but one of the things it means to me is this: I will always try my hardest to take time and answer my daughters’ questions. She may have asked who’s shoes those are 16 times in the past 10 minutes, but each time I calmly respond “Those are your shoes, that’s why you’re wearing them.”

This philosophy also means that when the time comes that I don’t have an answer for her, I’m committed to finding one. I expected that time to come around when she started school, but as it happened it came this year when she is but 2 and a half.

On The Muppets

My daughter loves The Muppets. The first movie she ever sat through was Muppet Family Christmas. She has watched every episode of The Muppet Show at least twice. I maintain that this love comes entirely naturally to her, and has nothing to do with my own Muppet fandom.

So it was only natural that one day she would point at Gonzo and say “Daddy, What That?”

We’d been through this before with the other Muppets, and it had gone swimmingly. “That’s Kermit,” I’d say, “He’s a frog.” “Kernit. Frodd” she’d repeat happily. Miss Piggy (Pig), Fozzy (Bear), The Swedish Chef (Chef). Easy stuff. But now we came to this. The first question I did not have the answer to.

What. Is. Gonzo?

The Muppets have been around for four decades. During that time they have starred in 8 theatrical movies, 9 TV shows and 26 TV specials. Kermit and his crew have used those productions to ask some troubling questions: What would the offspring of a frog and a pig look like? Can Michael Caine dance? What if Tim Curry was a pirate? Questions I’ve struggled with and bested. But to answer my daughter’s question, I had have to peer deeper into the heart of the Muppetverse than any man should ever peer. I have braved the Muppet wilderness, and this is what I have brought back.

Here we go.

(YouTube// Walt Disney Studios Australia)

 

On Reality Itself

Of course, you probably think you already know the answer to my daughter’s question. “What is this idiot on about?” you think to yourself, “Gonzo is an alien.”

This idea was first put forward in 1999’s Muppets From Space. In fact, the entire plot of Muppets From Space is concerned with Gonzo’s “people” coming to earth to take him home. Case closed, column finished, move on.

Not so fast, bucko. What makes you so sure Muppets From Space is real? What makes you think its telling you the real story behind Gonzo? Its long been the conceit of Muppet movies that they are either presenting a fictionalized version of the real story or are just completely fabricated.

This tradition goes all the way back to 1979 and The Muppet Movie. The film begins and ends with a segment showing all the Muppets attending a screening of The Muppet Movie in a theater. Kermit explains that the movie depicts the Muppet’s arrival in Hollywood “approximately how it happened”. It’s therefore clear that Kermit et al. are merely actors playing themselves in a semi-autobiographical work.

NOTE: One important caveat here is that Statler & Waldorf appear in the audience for the film but NOT in the film itself. They are merely members of the general public. (This idea is supported by both The Muppet Show and Muppet Family Christmas). It shows that not all muppets are Muppets. That is, not all muppet-like-creatures are Muppet cast members. Remember this, it’s important.

This idea is made even clearer in their follow-up film. Released in 1981, The Great Muppet Caper stars Kermit and Fozzie as identical twins who are journalists. Miss Piggy plays an aspiring model. Kermit et al. have the same relationship with their characters here that any actor has with theirs. The movie exists entirely in its own fictional universe, without reference to the established characters that we know. Heck, the whole production even begins with a song called “Hey, A Movie!” to cement this idea.

(YouTube//ZuzuFitzwaller)

On Non-fictional Muppet Movies

“Ok,” you think, “Great. The tradition of Muppet movies dictates that Muppets From Space is a fictional story, so Gonzo is not an alien.”

Good job! You solved my Gonzo riddle. Pour yourself a drink.

But hold on just one second! What if I told you that the markers that prove that The Muppet Movie and Great Muppet Caper are fictional stories aren’t present for ALL Muppet releases. In fact, there are three releases that don’t contain the combination of an explicitly fictional plot and impossible metatextual references that indicate a fictional Muppet movie. Those films are: Muppets From Space, The Muppets (2011) and Muppets Most Wanted. That’s right, the very movie that establishes Gonzo as an alien!

(YouTube//HTK1968)

Muppets From Space has all the Muppet cast, acting exactly within their established characters, living in a house together. The Muppets living all together is not a completely new idea. The extremely short-lived CBS series Little Muppet Monsters established a shared Muppet dwelling way back in 1985. It is, perhaps, unusual that Statler & Waldorf live with the rest of the cast. As discussed earlier, they have been established as members of the public. However, their increased involvement in sketches in later seasons of The Muppet Show may indicate that, at some point between 1987’s Muppet Family Christmas and 1999’s Muppets From Space, they became fully-fledged cast members. So there is nothing in characterization or setup to indicate that Muppets From Space is fictional.

How about any meta-textual weirdness? Gonzo may be given some hope by one line in which Pepe refers to the adventure being like a “Muppet movie”, but the comment in context is not that much more meta than something you or I might say to a friend. Still very ambiguous.

On Job Security

However, not all hope is lost. As any private eye worth his salt will tell you, sometimes clues come from the most unlikely source. Thus, in order to finally solve the mystery of Gonzo, we must follow the tracks an unlikely suspect, an obscure Muppet who seems entirely innocuous, but may actually hold the key that unlocks the mysteries of the Muppetverse.

Bobo The Bear.

(YouTube//dangersque37)

Bobo The Bear was a late addition to the Muppet universe. He first appeared backstage on Muppets Tonight as a security guard at KMUP, the TV station which airs Muppets Tonight. After that, he shows up again only in the TV Special A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa and in the movies Muppets From Space, The Muppets (2011) and as a cameo appearance in Muppets Most Wanted. That’s right, the 3 movies we’re interested in! Each of his major appearances give him similar roles, outside of the Muppet cast, and it is possible to trace quite a neat career path for Bobo just from these productions.

1996-1998: Muppets Tonight – At the start of the show, Bobo is already working as a security guard for KMUP.

1999: Muppets From Space – At some point between the end of Muppets Tonight and now, Bobo has moved into government work, presumably with a good reference from KMUP. He now works in a prominent position at C.O.V.N.E.T. While his position is not exactly a logical leap from security guard work, he seems to be a general henchman, which his skill-set and experience make him a good fit for.

2008: A Muppets Christmas: Letters To Santa – Bobo has remained in government work but has, at some point between 1999 and now, been significantly demoted (presumably after the disastrous mission depicted in Muppets From Space). He is now working as an airport security guard.

2011: The Muppets – After presumably getting tired of low level government jobs, Bobo has entered the private sector. He is now working for Tex Richman, as (you guessed it) a general henchman.

There are three important things to note here: First, Bobo’s appearances all see him play a specific type of role, which can be added together to give a consistent career path. Second, all of these roles place him in opposition to the main Muppet cast. He is not shown to be a member of the Muppet crew at any point, nor is he ever seen to be affiliated with their productions except in a tangential way.

Finally, and most importantly, most of his appearances occur in works which depict themselves as being non-fictional. Muppets Tonight is a continuation of The Muppet Show, the place where the established characters of The Muppets come from. A Muppet Christmas and The Muppets (2011) are set in a world in which The Muppets are all famous actors.

This all seems to suggest that Bobo is merely a member of the general public (NOT a Muppet cast member), whose various jobs have brought him into contact with the Muppets several times. His appearance as a henchman in Muppets From Space therefore cements its position as a non-fictional work. It’s much more plausible to accept that a former security guard would accept government work than to assume he would join a group of actors with whom he has butted heads in the past. Finally, we have confirmation: Gonzo is an alien, everything is great.

(YouTube//Activeaffiliates)

On Ricky Fuckin Gervais

And then Muppets Most Wanted shows up.

Muppets Most Wanted begins at the exact moment The Muppets ends. The big dance number finishes and the crowd dissipates. The first lines of the film are spoken: “And…. CUT!”

The Universe is torn asunder.

With two words, Muppets Most Wanted retroactively reveals The Muppets to be a work of fiction after all. Kermit et al., were just playing versions of their real selves.

At first this seems fine. Its just a fictional version of a true story, like The Muppet Movie. But the problems run deeper than that. Bobo’s presence ruins everything.

You see, the fact that Bobo has a role in the The Muppets means he is not just some hard-working security guard. He is a member of the Muppet’s cast. When did he join the cast? Was it in 2011, after leaving his government posting? Or was it in 1997, after Muppets Tonight? If it was any time before Muppets From Space in 1999, Gonzo’s status is unknown yet again.

But more than Gonzo’s species is at stake here. So much more. What if Bobo joined the cast even earlier? Has he been a cast member this whole time? Is Muppets Tonight also fictional? Is it all a sham?!

The implications of this are staggering. If Muppets Tonight is just another work of fiction, that means that The Muppet Show is too. Nothing is true!

(YouTube//dorcm1973)

Well…not quite. This state of affairs leaves one movie, one keystone holding all the others in place: Muppets Most Wanted. By revealing everything else, everything upon which The Muppetverse is built, as fiction, Muppets Most Wanted reveals itself as the only thing that is real. Walter, Costantine, Ricky Fucking Gervais. That’s the real, true story of the Muppets. Everything else is bullshit. They were just playing roles for 40 years. And now, finally, we know the truth.

But Muppets Most Wanted has one more trick up its sleeve. Right at the end, right at the climactic wedding scene, who shows up in the audience? Bobo The Bear. Its as if he’s saying “I’ve been here all along, hiding in plain sight. Everything you know is a lie.”

Epilogue

And so I return to my daughter a broken man. Not only do I not have the answer she seeks, but I have knowledge that to impart to her would be to destroy her world. It would be better had I never attempted to answer at all, if I had given up my researches and used that time to play with her and like, teach her to count or whatever. But what’s done is done.

Later she asks again. Pointing to Gonzo and looking up at me, all innocence.

“Daddy, What That?”

That’s Gonzo, honey. He’s a….whatever.

“Gondo. Whaever”

 

(YouTube//Sam P)

 

 

Micro Machines Are Coming Back in a Big Way

Micro Machines Are Back
(YouTube/MassRepeater)

Sometimes, nostalgia goes too far.

As a kid, there were a ton of movies and TV shows and toys that I loved. As a parent, I don’t know if I would feel the same way about them now. Thanks to our current culture’s obsession with resurrecting so many of those properties, I’m getting to find out for sure.

The latest craze to be brought back? Micro Machines. They were super tiny cars. Take a look:

I liked Micro Machines as a kid, but as a dad who is already terrorized by LEGO pieces and action figures and tiny trinkets strewn all over the floor of my house, I’m not sure I need another small toy to add to the mix. Especially one with wheels! At least with LEGO pieces I merely need stitches. If I step on a Micro Machine I might go airborne and end up in traction.

The main claim to fame for Micro Machines, at least as far as I was concerned, was their fast-talking spokesman. You know, the guy with the mustache who spoke super-fast in all their commercials? Apparently his name was John “Motormouth” Moschitta Jr., and he held the Guinness World Record for fastest talker!

Hasbro is working with Wicked Cool Toys to bring the little cars back, and while there aren’t yet any images of what the new Micro Machines will look like, Gizmodo has shared a look at one of the updated playsets.

Again, I’m not entirely thrilled about the prospect of my kids having more tiny toys to lose under the couch and leave on the stairs, no matter how nostalgic they make me feel. But I sure hope they bring Moschitta back to sell them again. That guy could give Eminem a run for his money!

Father Figures: Wouldn’t Trade a Thing

“Growing up, my dad was in and out of my life.

I would see him occasionally when he felt like it. He was one to make promises and not deliver and time after time I would be let down. It was through all this that I learned exactly what not to do to raise a child. That being said, I wasn’t sure if I would ever be ready for parenthood.

My wife Erin and I married in 2014 and in 2016 our first child, Aiden, was born. The moment I saw him, an overwhelming feeling of love came over me that I never had experienced before. It was one of the greatest feelings ever that you don’t truly understand until you have your first child. Two years later we had our daughter, Emmy. It was another rush of emotions and love; one can’t imagine what life was like before them.

Life isn’t always perfect, but these two kiddos make it all worth it. From running to the door when I get home to laughing nonstop as we play airplane and I chase them throughout the house, there is never a dull moment. I work a lot, being in retail management, so the time I have with them is limited, but I do my best to make every minute count.

I could not do it without the love and support of my wonderful wife, Erin. She is the glue that keeps the family together when I am gone, and the better part of me. She knows how to calm our kids and is always the biggest comfort for them. She plays both mom and dad when I am gone for long periods and does it without a hitch.

They say that the best in things in life you can’t buy and they are right. From teaching your kids to make snow angels, to potty training, playing monster, the snuggles, and everything else in between, they truly are what makes life wonderful.

I will do everything in my power to make sure they are taken care of and that they end up having the best life they can. You can’t give your children the entire world, but as long as you are present, keep giving it all your all, and helping them learn this world you are succeeding!

I wouldn’t trade a thing for fatherhood and I am very blessed and proud to have these 2 kiddos call me dad!”

– Brent Grotjahn

Want to share a story about fatherhood? Email [email protected]

Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

There’s a Goonies Remake Coming About Teens Trying to Remake Goonies

Goonie Remake Pilot
(Warner Bros)

The Goonies is a classic movie, the kind they don’t make anymore. It features young kids – pre-teens in some cases – doing dangerous things, saying bad words, encountering violence, and it was rated PG. It’s the kind of thing they made in the 1980s. A kids movie featuring kids acting like kids that kids could watch. (Nowadays, kids basically have Pixar and superheroes, except Batman, who is somehow way too adult.)

People love The Goonies and have been clamoring for a sequel for years, and I’m not just talking about Corey Feldman. Most of these people are now adults who won’t get their wish. After years of false starts, an actual sequel seems unlikely. But in this day and age, a remake was almost inevitable. And it’s getting one. Because Goonies never say die!

Sort of.

Fox has just greenlit a new TV series based on The Goonies, only it’s not a remake or a reboot. It’s about people trying to make a remake? It’s okay, I’m confused too.

Here’s the official word, from Deadline:

After failing to make it in New York and carrying a heavy secret with her, Stella Cooper returns to her distressed automotive hometown to substitute teach. She finds inspiration, hope and ultimately salvation when she agrees to help three students who are pursuing their filmmaking dreams by putting on an impossibly ambitious shot-for-shot remake of one of the student’s favorite movies… The Goonies. Over the course of the season, their passion will inspire a town in desperate need of hope in this love letter to the power of cinema, storytelling and dreams.

Shot by shot remakes aren’t unheard of. Some kids did it with Raiders years ago, a pair of brothers recreated Toy Story 3 over 8 years, and Gus Van Sant directed a shot-by-shot remake of Psycho starring Vince Vaughn, although I think we’d all prefer not to talk about that.

This is a little different, in that it’s a TV show, and it’s fictionalized. This isn’t someone actually remaking Goonies, it’s a fictional TV show about fictional kids remaking Goonies. My head hurts.

The thing that makes Goonies work, aside from the spectacularly treasure-hunt-with-booby-traps story, is the cast, and their chemistry. From well-known names like Sean Astin (Mikey), Josh Brolin (Brandon) and Corey Feldman (Mouth) to the beloved actors who played Data, Chunk, and Sloth (former NFL player John Matuszak), Fox is gonna be hard-pressed to capture that lightning in a bottle again.

Hopefully, they acknowledge that challenge, because it might be fun to watch them try.

Twitter Users Share Movies That Traumatized Them as Kids

Twitter Talks Childhood Movie Trauma
(Twitter/BeckettAdams)

When I was a little kid, my parents took me to see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I remember my father putting his hand over my eyes during the KALIMA scenes in which Mola Ram forcibly extracted someone’s beating heart from their chest. I don’t recall my dad covering my eyes two years later when they took me to see something else come out of someone’s chest in Aliens.

I survived those two movies, and I credit my parents for taking me to them at such a young age. They were pretty liberal with the entertainment they allowed, and I don’t think it had any negative repercussions (my therapist may disagree). But that’s not to say I didn’t see some movies that put the fear of god in me. Or, in my case, the fear of trees.

That scene in Poltergeist, when the tree outside Robbie’s window comes to life and tries to swallow him whole, gave my nightmares for years. Not least of which because I had a similarly large and gnarly tree right outside my bedroom window.

You never know what’s gonna scare a little kid. For me, it wasn’t chest-bursting aliens, it was window-bursting trees. For people on Twitter who shared the movies that scarred them the most as kids, it was even weirder stuff.

Twitter user @loudandfearless kicked things off, asking the question and then answering it with her own unlikely movie: Robin Williams’ Jumanji.

Then Twitter got a hold of it and things were off and running. I can totally vouch for this one, I saw it as an adult and the transformation freaked me out:

Credit to @OGintheOP for reminding me of this traumatic character:

A bunch of people mentioned this classic:

Some movies didn’t have to be supernatural to be psychologically damaging:

This one will melt your face off:

People continued to chime in, offering up more traditional horror movies like my aforementioned Poltergeist, The Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Jaws, The Birds, and The Shining.

My favorite response might have been this example tho:

What movies scarred you as a kid?

Penny Hardaway Praises Son For His Progress With Autism Diagnosis

Penny Hardaway and Jayden
(Getty/Joe Murphy)

There is no better parenting emotion than pride in your kids. Watching them accomplish their dreams, or overcome adversity, or even just try something new, can be tremendously moving for any parent, mom or dad, from any walk of life. When your kid perseveres and fights through their challenges, it makes you confident that they are going to be okay, and can handle whatever life throws at them.

It’s even better if the path they take traces the one you took before them.

That’s what former NBA star and current University of Memphis coach Penny Hardaway is experiencing right now, thanks to his son Jayden, who walked onto the Tigers team and recently started his very first game, against UCONN.

Jayden’s accomplishment – playing on a division one college basketball team – would be impressive under any circumstances, but it’s even more special in his case. Jayden was diagnosed with autism as a young kid. He began treatment for the neurological disorder, which affects social, emotional, and communication abilities, when he was just nine years old. In the aftermath of his 7 minutes on the court last week, his father praised him for his progress with his diagnosis.

Professionals at the facility where Jayden was treated are equally proud and using Jayden as a hopeful example.

“It gives parents hope,” Tracy Palm, executive director of Transformations Autism Treatment Center, told WREG in Memphis. “It gives parents that feeling that, ‘It can happen for my child as well,’ and I think that is so important for individuals on the spectrum and their families.”

“Success looks different for every person, so everybody is individual,” Palm said.

For Jayden Hardaway, success is stepping onto the court for the Memphis Tigers.

Crocs to Sell KFC Branded and Scented Shoes

KFC Scented Crocs
(Crocs/KFC)

That’s right, Crocs, a shoe brand, has partnered with KFC, a fast-food fried chicken brand, to make a new pair of shoes. You can not eat the shoes, they are not made of chicken or vegan chicken. They are actual shoes, actual Crocs, designed with KFC’s colors and images of fried chicken on them.

And they smell like KFC.

Taste of Home has the lowdown on these new limited-edition KFC Crocs, which come in two different sizes, the typical Crocs, and 4.5-inch Bucket Clogs, which are more like platform shoes. Something Tom Cruise might wear in a scene with Charlize Theron.

But the real piece de resistance, emphasis on piece, are the Jibbitz. What are Jibbitz? I’m glad you asked.

According to Taste of Home, Jibbitz, basically bling for Crocs, are mini drumsticks placed on the top of each shoe. They’re scented and removable if somehow the drumstick adorning your KFC-branded Crocs is a dealbreaker for you.

The KFC Crocs will be on sale this spring, on the Crocs website, and should cost around $60 bucks.

The Airplane Seat Recline Debate Takes Flight

Airline Seat Recline Debate
(Getty/Digital Vision.)

Flying sucks! It just does. It’s expensive and uncomfortable and stressful and despite its ability to get you farther away faster than any other mode of transportation, it’s time consuming! You have to get to the airport super early to make it through the long security lines, and then you have to sit at your gate and pray your flight isn’t delayed – again.

Again, it still remains the easiest way to travel long distances, so it’s often a necessary evil. We are all forced to fly every once in a while, and, unless you’re lucky enough to afford first class, the best you can hope for is an empty seat next to you, or at least a smooth, uneventful flight with courteous passengers.

That’s not quite what happened on a recent American Airlines flight.

A woman took to Twitter to share her experience after she got into a confrontation with the passenger behind her. Her complaints ignited a debate about airplane etiquette.

Wendi Williams (no relation) was flying from New Orleans to Charlotte. When she landed, she shared a video of a passenger behind her spent the flight nudging the back of her seat, all in protest of her decision to recline hers. He was upset because he was in the last row and was unable to recline his own seat, making her infringement on his territory all the more objectionable.

It’s safe to say that despite the seat’s ability to recline, nobody likes it when the person in front of them reclines their seat.

Meanwhile, the ensuing debate about airplane etiquette raged for days. What’s the etiquette when reclining your seat?

The CEO of Delta Airlines even went on CNBC to explain that reclining is okay, but you should ask first:

Needless to say, people on the internet were not about to stay quiet about this controversial issue.

A prominent tech writer spoke up for people with back issues:

A Hollywood heavyweight spoke up for people who pay to recline:

This guy used the opportunity to shine a light on how terrible airplanes are, to begin with:

I try to never recline if there’s someone behind me, that said I’m not going to retaliate against the person in front of me. But regardless of your personal etiquette, there’s one thing we we should all be able to agree on, whether we’re on an airplane or not: don’t be a dick!

These Bootleg Movie Posters are Way Better Than the Licensed Ones

(Twitter / Retr0Joe)

As important as they may be, movie posters are generally pretty boring. Typically just some headshots of cast members or a cooky visual joke to make them memorable, the advertisements rarely convey much about a film itself.

Interestingly, starting back in the 70s, some not-quite-legal theaters in Africa (specifically, Ghana) preferred to avoid the licensing costs for these movies by showing bootleg versions and, as a result, had to hire local artists to help advertise what’s playing.

Twitter user ‘Retr0Joe’ described the artful practice in a tweet, followed by some of his favorite examples:

“Some artists had no reference to what movie they [were] drawing,” he wrote, “so some just guessed…”

The result is usually something colorful, grotesque, or completely absurd (and often all three).

While initially singular in purpose, the unforgettable works of art from underground movie clubs have begun to attract worldwide attention for their bizarre uniqueness (and hilarious inaccuracies).

“They’re not just film posters – they’re 2m-high, one-off, original oil paintings,” says Karun Thakar, collector and curator behind African Gaze, an exhibition showcasing film posters from Ghana.

But if you want to own one of these massive, often surreal posters for yourself, you’ll have to beat other collectors to them.

Currently, an authentic Ghanaian movie poster can fetch several hundreds of dollars on eBay, but where else are you going to find a poster for 1999’s crime drama “Ghost Dogs” featuring Forest Whitaker fighting a literal group of weaponized ethereal dogs with a samurai sword?

(Photo by Brian Chanklin / Poster by Heavy Jay)

Ryan Newman Walks Out of Hospital With Daughters Two Days After Crash

Ryan Newman Walks out of Hospital
(Instagram/ryannewman1977)

If you were watching Monday night’s Daytona 500, you probably saw the fiery crash that ended Ryan Newman’s day just as he was about to win the race.

The trophy suddenly became the last thing in Newman and his family’s mind. Instead, Newman was rushed to the hospital, where it was reported that he was in serious, but non-life-threatening condition.

That was great news for Newman’s wife Krissie and his two daughters, Brooklyn and Ashlyn, whom he clearly adored, as evidenced by his doting social media posts.

NASCAR officials have been updating the public on their driver’s condition, sharing some good news on his progress.

Wednesday they released this statement: “Ryan Newman continues to show great improvement after Monday night’s last-lap accident at Daytona International Speedway. The veteran driver is fully alert and walking around Halifax Medical Center. True to his jovial nature, he has also been joking around with staff, friends, and family while spending time playing with his two daughters.”

And then, a few hours later, Newman posted this image on his Instagram, just two days removed from his harrowing wreck.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

#Repost @roushfenway ・・・ Ryan Newman has been treated and released from Halifax Medical Center

A post shared by Ryan Newman (@ryannewman1977) on

That’s Newman, exiting the hospital with his two girls. That’s Newman walking out under his own power, a mere three days after the crash that had many viewers fearing the worst.

The caption reads: “Ryan Newman has been treated and released from Halifax Medical Center.”

NASCAR fans knew the man was fast, but this is remarkable. Even better that his girls were there to walk out with him.

Happy news all around!