Thursday, June 01, 2006

If you don't like puppets and puppetry, you might be dead inside. Come on—the Muppets? Thunderbirds? Casey and Finnegan? Meet the Feebles? There's even a Mule puppet, a sock augmented with frizzy hair and a miniature jeansuit that Super Robertson made for skits at the Supper Show. When it's off-duty, resting at home, Super's daughter likes to gnaw on its eyes, so it's clear I'm a hit with the kids.

A few weeks ago, fancylady came back from Happy Bats with this movie called Strings. I think we intended to get Capote or Walk the Line, but Truman and Johnny would have to wait. There were puppets to watch. Above all else, Strings is beautiful to look at. The sets are unbelievable, and the puppets are incredibly expressive, especially considering their faces are static except for moving eyelids. They have a universal, timeless quality. The storyline is serviceable, with the most inspired element being the self-awareness of the puppets. They know they are animated by strings, and this is the foundation of their spirituality/mythology. The movie also carries a nice message about the interconnectedness of all living things, which, set against the plot's wartime backdrop, says a lot about the times we're a-livin' in. Insert your allegorical interpretation here.

In November 1969, puppets walked on the moon...sort of. I've been reading Destination Moon—The Apollo Missions in the Astronauts' Own Words, a book I got from the bargain table at Crapters a couple weeks ago. During their first EVA, the Apollo 12 astronauts were supposed to set up a fancy new colour TV camera. Unfortunately it caught a bright reflection off the Lunar Module (or directly from the sun, by some accounts), and burned out while Alan Bean was setting it up. With no pictures available, the TV networks rushed to find other visuals to convey the astronauts' activities on the lunar surface. According to the book, NBC "had contracted a puppeteer to create Apollo marionettes for simulations. They had a small lunar surface mockup, and soon two tiny puppets, strings clearly visible, were bouncing their way across the lunar surface." They say if you can remember the '60s you weren't really there...but who could ever forget that?

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