January 6th, 2010


Time to get things started, again

I read an interesting article today on the ridiculous youtube sensation that is the Muppets.
Now, comfortably middle aged, the zany puppets who came to prominence in the 1970s with "The Muppet Show" have recaptured their youthful bravado.

And they're doing it by popping up all over the Disney corporate matrix, including appearances on ABC and ESPN programs, top billing on the Walt Disney Company's homepage and, soon, in a network special and feature film written by "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" star Jason Segel.

But nothing has brought audiences back into the fold quite like YouTube.

Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie and the rest of the Jim Henson's creatures have become internet sensations with their recent viral video cover of "Bohemian Rhapsody," and their more recently released version of the Christmas carol "Ringing of the Bells." The puppets take on the Queen classic has drawn over 11.5 million viewers.

Versions of "Ode to Joy" and short videos featuring the likes of the Swedish Chef demonstrating pumpkin carving have also attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers to the Muppets' YouTube channel.

The Muppets have been further shaking off their self-imposed seclusion (it's been over 10 years since their last feature film) with a series of strategic cameos on established television shows. Characters are popping up on programs such as "Dancing With the Stars," where Animal banged on the drums as Aaron Carter hoofed it to the theme from "The Muppet Show." Miss Piggy interviewed guests during the series finale.

Graham and I sort of informally watched the hit numbers on the Muppet Bohemian Rhapsody in the first week it was posted. Every day, it seemed, the video got another million viewers.

I have to say that I'm pretty impressed with the way that Disney has gone about relaunching the brand. I suspect that it's no coincidence that they timed the revamp of their youtube channel* shortly after the Sesame Street 40th anniversary. The internet was abuzz with muppet realted nostalgia in September, and I'm certain that the Disney people picked up on that. I've noticed the volunteer commercials on TV, and when I looked for muppet related things on my DVR after the youtube video hit, I was surprised to see the "Letters to Santa" airing for the second year in a row.

I think, though, that the internet is where the muppets really are going to shine, in part because the internet allows for the wacky experimentation that made the original Muppet Show so awesome much better than any other forum. I honestly don't know how the original Muppet Show got past studio execs back in the 70s. The only explanation I can think of was "It was the 70s and it was the Brits." No fucking way an American broadcast network nowadays would greenlight such a weird, wacky and surreal show. We were very lucky CBS agreed to syndication. But on the internet, the guard is let down a little, and there's room for exploration. And stuff like the Bohemian Rhapsody is just pure genius.

I hope they keep doing this good stuff.

*The youtube channel used to be several. Many characters had their own channels, featuring videos staring themselves.
come and get me

Using media for good.

Back in November, a former employee of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan announced that she quit, had a conversion, and joined the other side. She had worked in the clinic for 8 years, and had moved pretty high up the chain at Planned Parenthood. She was the clinic director when she left. She said her conversion came from observing an ultrasound abortion. She also said something about her superiors pressuring her to up revenues by getting more abortions scheduled. This was in the middle of the 40 days of Harrassment.

Fortunately, mainstream media didn't really pick up her story. Except salon.com, which noted that the employee had been put on an Employee Improvement Plan by her superiors two days before she left and was seen removing confidential information from the clinic, and RH Reality Check, which looked at her story with some incredulity. Unfortunately, the whackadoo conservative media ate it all up. She hit the right-wing talk show circuit in October and November, and they loved her. She repeated her conversion story over and over again, describing in detail the ultrasound image she saw of a 13 week pregnant woman's abdomen during a surgical abortion.

The Right Wing Media didn't look too deeply into her story. Texas Monthly did. And their story on the matter hit their website today. On top of the questions about the timing of the Employee Improvement Plan and the conversion, several statements from befuddled friends and co-workers, and Ms. Johnson's own statements on a radio show the day after her supposed conversion, Texas Monthly quickly discovered that Ms. Johnson never heard of the Induced Abortion Report Form that is required to be sent to the Texas Department of State Health Services. It contains data on all abortions performed in the state, including demographic information on the patients, weeks of gestation, type of procedure. This is the form.
The Bryan clinic reported performing fifteen surgical abortions on September 26. Johnson has consistently said that the patient in question was thirteen weeks pregnant, which is plausible, since thirteen weeks is right at the cusp of when physicians will consider using an ultrasound to assist with the procedure. Yet none of the patients listed on the report for that day were thirteen weeks pregnant; in fact, none were beyond ten weeks.
When Texas Monthly pressed Ms. Johnson on the issue,
Johnson volunteered that the patient in question was a black woman, a description that she has never previously included in her account. Only one patient from September 26 was black, according to the Induced Abortion Report Form, and she was in the sixth week of her pregnancy. There would be no medical reason for a doctor to use an ultrasound to guide an abortion performed on a woman at such an early stage. Even if one was used, it’s hard to imagine how Johnson, who said she has seen hundreds of ultrasound pictures in her career, could mistake a one-quarter-inch-long embryo for a three-inch, thirteen-week fetus.
Johnson later suggests that Planned Parenthood doctored the form to discredit her, though apparently she's never disclosed the race of the pregnant woman before so it would have been difficult to pre-determine her statement. I don't know if Texas Monthly got the Induced Abortion Report Form from Planned Parenthood or the Texas Department of State Health Services. I suspect the latter under a public information request, since the form does contain information that could be considered individually identifiable under HIPAA (date of service, for you HIPAA junkies out there). The Texas Administrative Code says the data has to be submitted annually, but facilities can submit the form on a monthly or quarterly basis for greater efficiency. I don't know how often Planned Parenthood submits the form, but the story about the conversion didn't come out until November 4, and the procedure that supposedly triggered the conversion ocurred on September 26th. The end of September tends to be the end of the third quarter, and the end of the month would have been the same. Give a few days to compile data and send it in, it would have hit the State by mid-October, well before Ms. Johnson's story came out.

This story really upset me back in November when it broke. I'm very close to the people who work in this branch of Planned Parenthood. And I'm glad to see a mainstream publication take the story apart piece by piece.

The first rule of selling something: Know your audience

Thing the first.

Back in February, Graham worked on a great show at Diverseworks called Becoming a Man in 127 EASY Steps, which was a one-man show. Graham worked sound cues during the show and generally helped with production. The other two people working on the show were Matt, the lighting and technical guy, and Scott, the writer, actor, director, and otherwise important person. Graham, Matt and Scott spent a week or so getting ready for the show, and Graham had a genuinely good time working on the show. He got along great with Matt and Scott, and though they'd been on the road with the show together for awhile, Matt and Scott mad Graham feel like part of the team. There are a lot of shows that Graham will do where he doesn't really care all that much about the people he's working with. A gig is a gig, and by and large, he's done so many by now that they sort of run together. But Graham genuinely liked these guys, and even better yet, he loved the hell out of Scott's show. It's laugh at loud funny for a good hunk of it. There are some aerial stunts at the beginning. It involves some audience participation and interaction, but not enough to make any one individual feel uncomfortable or put upon. And it's likely to make you think. I saw it on opening night, and it was wonderful. And Scott and Matt turned out to be a really cool guys at the after-party. I genuinely liked them, and Graham was kind of bummed that he couldn't go to LA for the two week run of the show there because we had a previous commitment in Las Vegas during that run.

Thing the second.

Another awful reality show called Conveyor Belt of Love aired on Sunday. This is how it works:
If a woman is interested in someone, that man will step aside and wait as the rest of the men go by. But if another man comes by on the belt that seems better than that woman’s first choice, she can swap out the man waiting off of the belt as many times as she wants until the last man has passed by. If two or more of the women are interested in the same man, the tables turn and the man on the conveyor belt gets to choose which one he would like to wait for. After all 30 men have made it through the 'Conveyor Belt of Love,' each woman is left with her final choice as they embark on a date in the hope of finding a true connection.
It's sort of on my radar, because someone on my lawyer board mentioned it right before it aired and later reported that it was the trainwreck that everyone though it would be. I kind of got the impression that the show was a souped up version of that old show Studs, but in reverse.

And how they merge.

As I'm sure you've all figured out, Scott was one of the 30 men that ended up on the "Conveyor Belt of Love". And he was picked! Some douche bag-ette (or is that douche baguette?) decided that she liked Scott's description of himself and his play and his physical appearance which she thought was "gorgeous", and she was "interested" in him. Or so said the card she was given. He stepped aside while others were evaluated. One of the other girls said he was "nerdy". Graham had the link up on Hulu when I got home, so I could see Scott's few seconds of national television fame. Fast forwarding through Hulu, I gather that the douche baguette decided on some other guy that came down the conveyor belt of love, so Scott never got to go out with her (unless, of course, they exchanged numbers in the green room after the show).

And so Scott's facebook page is now atwitter with all of his friends laughing their asses off. I think he thought that this show wasn't going to air and/or there was some sort of "never speak of this" clause in his contract.

This is Scott's description of the play when he's trying to woo the ladies on Conveyor Belt of Love.
I spend most of my time teaching at colleges and universities. I go around talking about masculinity. And what it means to be a guy. And how to be different from most of the macho stereotypes. What I do in order to do that is a theater show called Becoming a Man in 127 EASY Steps and I spend most of my time in that show up in a Cirque du Soleil type fabric which I climb up and do tricks in and all that stuff.

This is Diversework's description of the play on their website, trying to woo audience members to come see it.
Scott Turner Schofield puts his personal journey from female-bodied boy to butch girl to unrecognizable woman to man on display through his performance, Becoming a Man in 127 EASY Steps. Schofield has created a "Choose Your Own Adventure" solo play, where the audience chooses which of the 127 autobiographical stories he has developed. These stories, conveyed through storytelling, stand-up comedy, fantastical movement sequences and drag routines, explore Schofield's transition from female to male, exploring his origins, childhood and young life as a transgender person. Sometimes funny, sometimes shocking in their frank emotional honesty, these wildly original theatrical performances last from 30 seconds to five minutes and give audiences a view into the many parts of a person that make up the whole.

Both methods of wooing worked! Scott's pitch on the show got a girl to say she was interested in him. And Diverseworks did a damned good job of selling out the play. It was just a question of giving the right pitch.

Way to go Scott! BTW, I don't think the ladies on the show ever knew about Scott's transformation. Maybe not even the producers. Who knows? The internet, of course, knows because Scott's name is all over the place and he's sort of famous in trans circles. Reactions are pretty much mixed, though most people think it's pretty awesome.

At any rate, if you see an advertisement for a show called Becoming a Man in 127 EASY Steps, by Scott Turner Schofield, I highly recommend it because it's an awesome play. Go see it. And see if you can set Scott up. Obviously, if he's stooping to the doucheois's (pronounced like "bourgeois") stomping grounds, he's obviously desperate for a date.