Thoughts on a Frog

Following the unfolding drama of Steve Whitmire’s firing from The Muppets Studio has been increasingly difficult.

At first I was one hundred percent on Steve’s side… but as more information came to light from Disney and (importantly) the Henson family… I find myself increasingly conflicted.

I don’t know Steve personally, so I have no basis for my opinion other than distant observation; therefore, it’s difficult to say whether it truly was/is in his capacity to behave as horribly as the studio and the family claim he did. But is saddens me to admit that I’m not convinced he didn’t.

That being said… I don’t think Disney and the Studio ever made it absolutely plain to Steve that his behaviour could be career-ending. This may be due to Steve (and all the Muppet performers) being contract-players, so there was never really any guarantee that any of them would be continually hired to play their roles. Perhaps Disney felt the tenuous nature of these types of contracts was enough to infer to any performer that they could be replaced at any time.

This is why I think Steve probably did/does have an ego-problem… he felt as Kermit he was untouchable. He believed that they couldn’t fire him and so he dug his heels in and asked for things that he was in no real position to ask for.

At the end of the day, the person I trust the most in this whole debacle is Brian Henson. He says Steve needed to go and, painful as it is to hear, that he needed to go a long time ago.

I grew up with Jim as Kermit the first half of my childhood, and with Steve as Kermit the last half and into adulthood. The important thing is that Kermit, and all he stands for, endures – whomever is performing him. Matt Vogel (the veteran Muppet puppeteer now assigned the role) is a consummate performer and I am increasingly excited to see him take on the mantle of the frog.

Ultimately, no one looks good in this mess. Not Disney, not Steve and not even the Hensons… but I also have to look at who stirred the pot to cause this public debacle in the first place and it falls to one man – Steve. Because of this, I have to also lend some credence to Disney and the Henson’s claims of his arrogance and ego.

Steve’s time with The Muppets is done. No amount of groundswell support from outraged fans will change this.

It’s time to support Matt and the performers still working with the Studio and Disney. I have to trust that someone is trying to make the right decisions for The Muppets… there have been a LOT of errors in judgement, but the last portion of the cancelled sitcom proved that they could learn from mistakes and begin to course-correct. The live events that the Studio has been producing for The Muppets have been increasing in both scale and quality (and quantity) so it certainly feels like they’re heading in a more positive direction.

My wife and I will be attending one of these events in September – The Muppets at the Hollywood Bowl – and I am just as excited now as I was before all this mess.

While the lights dim on Steve Whitmire… it’s time to light them on Matt Vogel.

It’s time to get things started.


PAX Prime 2014 – Pre-Con Drama

I totally thought Jen and I weren’t going to make it PAX this year. The tix sold out almost immediately, and there was no way I was going to buy from scalpers.

But then, last week, Paul and Storm (amazing nerdy comedy music duo) tweeted that they needed volunteers for their merch table in exchange for free 4-day passes. I leapt at this opportunity like some crazy monkey and shortly both my wife and I were signed up! Woot!!

So! Today I had some extra time between work and rehearsal and swung by the convention center to pick up our badges… Only they wouldn’t give me my wife’s badge because I didn’t have proof that she is my wife (I took our dom. partner card out of my wallet when we became officially married).

They were like, “We need some kind of ID.” So I said, “I can show you our relationship status on FB, plus wedding photos. Will that work?” They said, “No.” So I asked if they hold straight married couples to they same scrutiny?

Loooooong pause.

The gal behind the counter looked like a deer caught in headlights. Finally, carefully, she said, “Yes.”
Me, “You’d better; because I think you’re lying.”
Her, “I’m not.”
Me, “Ok.”
Her, “You’re just the first person I’ve had who’s tried to pick up their spouse’s badge.”
Me, “Ok.”
Her, “Sorry.”
Me, “Sure.”

Here’s the thing, PAX has a bad reputation for not being LGBTQ-friendly; or even just female-friendly. There was a big controversy last year about some seriously anti-trans things that one of the founders said and as a result a bunch of indie game developers pulled out of the show. There was further trouble when the founders dug in their heels in response to backlash surrounding an anti-woman, pro-rape cartoon that one of them drew and posted on their site. They went so far as to sell t-shirts showcasing the cartoon, and encouraging male attendees to buy and wear them to the convention. It was seriously effed up, and totally juvenile.

Why on Earth would I still want to attend a convention rampant with such misogyny? Because I’m a gamer girl. I love games. Board games, video games, I love them. Just like I love comic books and nerdy pop-culture and attend conventions celebrating those things, I love to attend PAX because it celebrates games and gamers.

This experience at the registration desk was my first personal experience with any sort of LGBTQ ignorance at PAX. Even though they *said* that they held straight couples to the same scrutiny it was SO CLEARLY a lie. You had to be there, but trust me, they were lying.

It just really hurt and was really frustrating. I thought we were past this here in the PNW.

My wife and I are still going to attend, we made a promise to Paul and Storm to help out, and we’re keeping it. We’ll still have fun, still play lots of games, but this experience has clouded the fun with a filter of disappointment, and that really sucks.

Flights of Fantasy

Last weekend my wife and I went to see the Fantasy Exhibit at the Experience Music Project in Seattle.

The Experience Music Project (EMP) at Seattle Center

The Experience Music Project (EMP) at Seattle Center

What followed was an impressive display of media artifacts (read collector’s items) from some of my favorite fantasy projects including Jim Henson’s Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal!!

Maquette of a Mystic (Dark Crystal)

Maquette of a Mystic (Dark Crystal)

Map of the world of The Dark Crystal

Map of the world of The Dark Crystal

Jim's personal notes on The Dark Crystal

Jim’s personal notes on The Dark Crystal

And attracting a LOT of attention: David Bowie's Jareth costume from Labyrinth!

And attracting a LOT of attention: David Bowie’s Jareth costume from Labyrinth!

In addition to these Henson treasures, they also were showcasing some sweet items from another popular 80’s flick: The Princess Bride!

Inigo's, Buttercup's and Wesley's costumes

Inigo’s, Buttercup’s and Wesley’s costumes


The actual swords used in the famous "Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya, etc" fight sequence!

The actual swords used in the famous “Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya, etc” fight sequence!

After leaving the Fantasy exhibit, we wandering into the Horror Movie exhibit and found these gems:

It's got red on it!!! (from Shaun of the Dead)

It’s got red on it!!! (from Shaun of the Dead)

Stunt Stakes from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer (TV Series)

Stunt Stakes from “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer” (TV Series)

They actually had a LOT more cool stuff in this exhibit but it was really, really, dark in there (you know, for atmosphere) and none of the other photos I took turned out well-enough to share here.

After the Horror exhibit we wandered (again) to the SciFi exhibit and found more awesomeness:

Anakin Skywalker's cowl from Episodes 5 and 6.

Anakin Skywalker’s cowl from Episodes 5 and 6.

Yoda's walking stick and necklace from Ep 5

Yoda’s walking stick and necklace from Ep 5


A Dalek from Doctor Who, the original series! Exterminate!!

A Dalek from Doctor Who, the original series! Exterminate!!

After this, we started home again. But not before this happened:

Jen of Thrones!!!

Jen of Thrones!!!

An excellent way to spend a few weekend hours. If you’re in the Puget Sound area, or visiting soon, please visit our EMP and check out all of the insanely cool stuff (including things I didn’t show here, like the Nirvana exhibit, or the Jimi Hendrix exhibit, or the guitar gallery… just sweet).









If Jane Austen Replied to a Customer Service Survey

Yesterday I was on the phone with customer servicefor one of the businesses my company works with. It was a pleasant interaction and, following the end of the call, I received a “How Are We Doing” survey request from the agent who had assisted me.


Most of the survey was your typical “On a Scale of 1 to 5 Rate your Experience” series of check boxes; but at the end was a place where a person could leave a free form comment.

I was about to write something like, “Excellent service, keep up the good work”, when it suddenly occurred to me that this was a window of opportunity to answer the question, “What if Jane Austen were to reply to a contemporary customer service survey?”


So I wrote this (please note, names have been changed for privacy):

Dear Sir or Madam or, indeed, Monkey (as ‘twere the case, this being a Survey after all),

 It is a truth universally acknowledged that a lighting rep in possession of a quality product must be in want of a reliable customer service agent.

 Behold me going to write you as handsome a letter of praise as I can.

 The day began with a dismaying cry of vexation as I was in the most piteous of states trying to discover the purpose and function of your device named simply “N80”.

 I was in want of a sheet of specification that would in detail reveal the secrets of the device, thus imbuing me of the knowledge wherein I might present the piece confidently to those so in need.

 Finding myself at a loss for such discovery I lept with eager haste to take in hand my telephonic communicator and, pressing the appropriate keys in sequence, found myself, as luck would have it, directly connected with your Mister Brzozowski. It is his name, though unpronounceable, of whom I sing the praises of this day.

 Quick to the task, Mister Brzozowski eloquently answered my questions, of which there were many, and politely directed me to the location of the document I sought. My brain so full with new knowledge and my chest swollen with sighs of relief, I thanked Mister Brzozowski heartily for his time and learned counsel and returned to my work so much the better for it.

 I endeavor here to remark how very grateful I was for his aide and thank you heartily for his employment as it benefits us all.

 Yours very truly,

Jen “Austen” Tidwell


I think I shall respond to survey inquiries in this manner from now on.

And this week’s edition to the Testimonial Gallery is:

Natalia Tena aka Tonks!

Natalia Tena aka Tonks!

Yes, there is a smudgey bit on the photo, she’d written my wife and I a personal message and I (badly) photoshopped it out to keep it personal. Hope ya’ll don’t mind 🙂