Those Muppets; Those Puppets

It is the first time in recent memory that my 13 year old and my 7 year old sons both agreed on a movie that they wanted to see: The Muppets. Now, granted, we are a Muppet household (which doesn’t mean that my third boy is a puppet, by the way) in that we have Muppet DVDs and their humor is sort of ingrained in our DNA (again, we are real people). Part of this is because I have often used The Muppets in my classroom as a way to get at script writing and story development, and character trait work. Plus, um, humor in writing.
(You can even watch last year’s puppet show performances at our Puppet Show Website)

So, I packed up the boys and we all went to the movies yesterday. I guess I have seen enough reviews to know that the latest version is  a sort of return to the old days when it comes to humor, and heart, and witty dialogue, and the reviews were right. There’s a nice combination of fun, adventure and some soul searching that goes on in the movie, and there is a feeling that, well, maybe The Muppets have a chance to get a little foothold back in our culture. The storyline plays with that idea, but for a long time, I wondered if the death of Jim Henson had irretrievably damaged the Muppets as an entertainment empire.

I guess not, thanks to Jason Segal.

One thing I kept grinning at is how many songs were in the movie, and what my 13 year old was thinking. He’s into action movies, and pushing his way into more “advanced comedy” flicks (ie, the movies that make Mom and Dad uncomfortable for him to watch) but he said he liked The Muppets and didn’t mind the songs so much. And since he said next to me, we kept whispering the cameos by actors and actresses that we know from other movies and television shows.

The Muppets is a keeper.

Peace (on a string or two),


Webcomic: Occupy the Classroom

I had this idea the other day to turn around the Occupy Wall Street into Occupy the Classroom as a webcomic. So this is what I came up with. Now I am thinking this idea may need some more episodes down the road (what about a counter Tea Party group of kids? I like that.) It came to me that many of the attributes of the Occupy Movement makes sense for a classroom culture (as long as the teacher doesn’t act like the Oakland Police Department).

(You can also view the comic over at Flickr.)

Peace (in the funny pages),


Tryin’ 2B Funny: Canned Email Replies, Teacher Edition

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(I just found out that in gmail, you can set up canned, or prewritten, email message replies. I was thinking about what teachers would add to their list of canned replies to parents. – Kevin)

A Teacher’s Canned Messages

  • I’m sorry I missed your email. I’ve been shut up in my house for hours with all these five paragraph essays. Five paragraphs times 100 students is a whole lot of reading. I’ll get back to you when my eyeballs return to normal and my own family is talking to me again.
  • If you have a question about the curriculum, contact the superintendent. I had nothing to do with it.
  • I’m not available right now. I’m busy building a giant converter box that turns letter grades into standardized assessments. Leave a note if you want to use my new invention, too, when I am done.
  • The school day has ended. For once, I decided that my working day has ended at the same time. I’ll respond to you tomorrow. Go toss a ball around with your son or daughter. That’s what I’m going to be doing.
  • If you are wondering about the quiz we had in class today, it wasn’t too difficult but it was designed to make your child think and use their head. And, no, they could not study for it. The question was a real-life scenario that called for real-life problem-solving. I’d like to think that that’s what school is for. If they struggled, that’s perfectly fine. Don’t worry about it.
  • I’ve received your email but I have decided to go on digital sabbatical. You will need to come see my in person if you want to talk. If you need directions to our school, ask your child, My classroom is the one just off the hallway from the nurse.
  • I now see where your child’s lack of spelling, punctuation and vocabulary comes from. (note to self: keep this one on the shelf)
  • Thank you for being such supportive parents. It makes my day how much you care and I want you to know I appreciate the ongoing partnership between you and I about your child. I only want the best for them, and it is clear that you do, too. I’m busy right now but will be back to you soon. Have a wonderful day, Mr. x/Mrs. x.

I’d like to think that last one would be the most used.

Peace (in the funny bones),


Tryin’ 2B Funny: The Child Left Behind

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(Note: I sent this in to McSweeney’s for a contest they were having to find new columnists. I didn’t expect to win. I didn’t. But, that means I get to share this little bit of satire here. My aim was to take aim at No Child Left Behind.- Kevin)

Notes Sent to the “Child Left Behind”
By Kevin Hodgson

Hey Kid,
Sorry about that. There was a mad rush to the bus and kids were crawling all over the place. I thought I had the right count before I hit the gas, but I guess dropping out of high school to get a job driving a school bus has its limits. Counting squirming heads was never my strength. Stay in school, kid. If you make your way back to school, I mean. Gosh. I really am sorry about leaving you behind and I hope your parents aren’t all that mad at me.
Peace out,
Brian (the bus driver)

Dear James,
I want you to know that I thought you were with us. I could have sworn you were with us, that you were making good progress with the rest of the class as we exited the Museum of Musical Instruments. But it’s early in the year, and to be honest, I haven’t yet memorized all of your names and faces yet. Did you realize how closely you resemble Sam Tinson? It’s uncanny, really, and when he got counted and then crawled under three seats in order to steal Stephanie’s snack, I thought it was you, and counted you. I know this push for “individualized students” in our schools means I should know better, but I’ve taught this way for the last twenty years. I’m glad to hear that you took the cab back from the museum, although I wonder who will be the one will have to “pay” for it? Probably, me. The teacher always gets the blame. But, don’t you worry about that, James, you just keep doing what you’re doing. Whatever that is. Or maybe you could try to do better. Can you do that for me?
With apologies,
Mr. Hanniford
PS — I still for the life of me not remember what you look like …

Dear James Marshall,
You may not know me, but I am the United States Secretary of Education, down in Washington DC. I work right next to the president! That’s right — the president! I heard through the news that you were “the child left behind,” and I wanted you to know that this is inexcusable. Even the president said so. So did the last president. There should be no child left behind, ever. Unless the state .. err, I mean, your teacher decides to apply for a waiver. Then, we may leave a few children left behind. Not many. Not enough to fill a bus, that’s for sure. I just wanted you to know that I am concerned about the education you are getting at that school and there will be accountability measures brought to bear. Count on that!
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
Washington DC (next to the President!)

Yo Ugly Face!
We didn’t miss you at all. And in case you didn’t know, we got pudding pops on the bus ride home, as a reward for good behavior. Mr. Hanniford said “incentives are key to learning,” although I heard him muttering under his breath about something to do with reform or conform or something to Mrs. Shinklemeyer. Since you were left behind, I slipped under the seats and got a second pudding pop when Mr. Hanniford came around. It was good! I feel incentified!

Mr. and Mrs. Marshall,
I am writing to you to let you know your son, James, left his writing notebook here at the Museum of Musical Instruments on that fateful day which has been covered by all of the city newspapers. His name is on the cover of the notebook, and although I know he had a stressful day here at the museum — or rather, on the way home from the museum — I am surprised to find that his notebook is completely empty. There’s not a single note or sketch anywhere in it. In fact, it seems as if he were ripping pages out to make paper airplanes. We found a few in the giant Tuba section and wondered how they go there. Now we know. Is that the kind of effort he often puts into his school assignments? No wonder he was left behind.  Maybe he should try a little harder. The notebook will be at our Lost and Found window, if you want it back.
Yours in the Arts,
Susan Chancing, youth coordinator of the Museum of Musical Instruments

Peace (in the satire vein),


Tryin’ 2B Funny: The ‘Clean Your Room’ App

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(From time to time,  I try to get my funny bone working and crank out a few posts that are intended to be funny. Hilarious, even. They don’t usually work as funny material to anyone but me but that doesn’t stop me from writing them. I’m sorry you have to read them. My condolences. — the editor)

Mobile App Development Lab
Date: July 2011

The Pitch: Come up with an app that forces kids to clean their room. But makes the task so fun they will want to do it again and again! Also, provide incentive for parent to be “involved” with their child with this app (see, taser). And make sure there are plenty of embedded advertisements.

The Name: Clean Your Room or Die Trying

How it Works: A parent or parent figure buries a gold doubloon inside of a dirty sock on the floor of the room. The teenager has one minute to clean up all of the dirty clothes from the floor and find the gold doubloon before time expires. The app shows a video of the room, so that the player is working in “virtual reality” and uses the GPS transponder to find lost socks (worth five points), underwear (10 points), assorted shoes (10 points) and shirts and pants (15 points). The taser is used to ensure the game does not end before the goal is accomplished. Liberal use of the zapper is allowed.

Reward: The gold doubloon is really a piece of chocolate wrapped in cheap gold foil. The “winner” gets the chocolate. But any foil left on the floor is suitable grounds for an additional zap from the taser.

Playbility: Hours of fun, and the taser is adaptable for many parenting moments.

Cost: Free version (no taser); $19.99 (with taser). Embedded advertising for home medical kits and legal services is recommended.

Peace (in a clean room),

Tryin’ 2B Funny: Why Not Squirrel Week?

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(Note: I am trying my hand at humor this week. Whether it works or not … I’m not sure, but I am having fun with it. )

I don’t know about you, but I don’t live too close to the ocean so all this hoopla over Shark Week goes right over my head. I don’t encounter enough sharks to make it worth my while to worry about them (famous last words?). But squirrels? We’ve got more squirrels than you can shake a nut at.

So here, then, are my Five Reasons Why Squirrel Week Should Replace Shark Week in the imagination of the public:

  1. Squirrels attack in small hordes. Sharks are almost always alone. Which would you rather avoid have chasing you down the street: a pack of wild squirrels or a single flopping shark?
  2. Squirrels know how to set traps. They dig all the time. No, it’s not nuts they are burying in the yard. Those are tiny explosives known as AEDs or Acorn Explosion Devices. Have you ever seen a shark detonate a bomb? I didn’t think so.
  3. Squirrels can use their tails as a whip. Just watch them sometime (safely, from your house). Those bushy tails can reach up to 100 miles an hour. Sure, a shark has a tail. But it’s for swimming. It’s different.
  4. Squirrels can sleep. Sharks can’t. So, the use of sleeping potions could potentially kill off any shark predators. But not squirrels. They would wake up, well rested, and ready for attack mode. You don’t want to mess around with a well-rested squirrel.
  5. Squirrels can make their way into your house. Through chimneys (trust me on this one. It happened to me); through doors left open by unthinking children (but what do they do when the squirrel gets in the house? They scream. Why didn’t they think of that when they left the door open?); in backpacks; and through squirrel invisibility cloaks. A shark? You’d have to lug it into your house in the largest tub of water imaginable. It’s unlikely a shark is going to come into your house.

Peace (in the week),

Tryin’ 2B Funny: What the Phone Hacks Found

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(From time to time,  I try to get my funny bone working and crank out a few posts that are intended to be funny. Hilarious, even. They don’t usually work as funny material to anyone but me but that doesn’t stop me from writing them. I’m sorry you have to read them. My condolences. — the editor)

You may have read that The News of the World was shut down after the phone hacking scandal. What you probably didn’t know is that in a closet in the newsroom, just near the snack machine, is a data base of my phone records. Like you, I am shocked. Mostly, I am shocked because the phone conversations of my family are pretty boring and I feel pity over the fool who had to go through them to find salacious details. Needless to say, we never made the front pages of the now-defunct newspaper.

Phone Hack: Teenage Child

Child: Hey.
Friend: Hey.
(long pause)
Child: What are you doing?
Friend: Nothing.
(long pause)
Child: Did you text me?
Friend: Yeah.
Child: What did it say?
Friend (audible sigh): Read it.
(long pause)
Child: OK.

Phone Hack: Father

Father: …. frigging’ thing … who makes these buttons so damned sm..
Mother: Hello?
Father: Oh, you there? It must have rung through.
Mother: Hi. Who is this?
Father: Me. Listen …
Mother: Hold on. I need to adjust the phone. I can’t hear you.
(sounds of phone shuffling)
Mother: OK. Try it now.
Father: You can hear me?
Mother: Yep.
Father: We need more milk. Can you get some on the way home?
Mother: Sure.
Father: Bye. Love you.
Mother: What? I seem to have lost y….

Phone Hack: Toddler

Toddler: ‘ello? ‘ello? ‘ello? MOMMMMMMY ….. ‘ello? ‘ello?
(phone left on until battery clearly dies four hours later)

Phone Hack: Stranger

Father: Hello?
Stranger: Is Rufus home?
Father: Who?
Stranger: Rufus.
Father: There’s no Rufus here. You’ve got the wrong number.
Stranger: What do you mean, no Rufus? He gave me this number. He owes me money. You sure there’s no Rufus?
Father: What? You think I would misplace a kid named Rufus? There’s no Rufus here. Sorry.
Stranger: You Rufus?
Father: What?
Stranger: Are you Rufus? That you, Rufus? You hiding your voice?
Father: Listen. For the last time, there’s no one by the name of Rufus here. Goodbye.

Phone Hack: Teenage child

Child: Hey.
Friend: Hey.
(long pause)
Child: What are you doing?
Friend: Nothing.
(long pause)
Child: Me, too

(annotated note: this same conversation gets repeated at least five times a day.)

Peace (in the hack),

Tryin’ 2B Funny: From Twitter to Me

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(From time to time,  I try to get my funny bone working and crank out a few posts that are intended to be funny. Hilarious, even. They don’t usually work as funny material to anyone but me but that doesn’t stop me from writing them. I’m sorry you have to read them. My condolences.)

Memorandum (internal eyes only)

From: Twitter

To: Dogtrax

Listen, friend. No, wait … friend is the wrong term. That’s used by that other network. The one you have wisely scorned and ignored, even though all of the people you know are there. Don’t go there. Trust me. Listen, tweep. Wait. Hold on. That just sounds dumb. Why is it that you humans reduce cool technology to vocabulary that sounds like three 5-year-olds talking? Anyway, listen, we have to talk. I’ll make it brief, but longer than our traditional 140 characters. ‘Cause this is important. I notice that you have started using that new Plus site by Google. Or is it +? You don’t even know what to call it, do you? Plus? Plus what? Don’t they have someone on staff at that place who can come up with a catchy name? Anyway, what I wanted to say was, go ahead and feel your oats or whatever your human phrase is and play around with what will surely be another failed venture by Google. Remember Buzz? Wave, anyone? Wave goodbye is more like it. And then, after you realize how lacking it is, come on back to me, baby. You know Twitter is where it is at. Ignore that piece in Newsweek that noticed how many of my founders have split the scene. They were losers. Visionary losers. It means nothing. And sure, the fact that MySpace has crashed and burned is a bit … unsettling … but that’s what you get when Rupert Murdoch takes you over and uses you for an advertising base to teenagers.  I mean, come on. Teenagers? That’s what you build a company on? They’re the most fickle creatures in the world. Now, wait a sec … so we do now have a few ads popping up in your Twitter stream. No … big … deal. We’re just trying to bring in some cash so that we can keep Twitter alive and well, and working just for you. What? You don’t think Google is not going to do the same thing with … what is it? … oh yea, Plus. Don’t be a fool. Google (Plus) You means advertising dollars in their heads. Cha-ching. Don’t you forget it! But you will always have a place here at Twitter. So go on, explore and see what I mean. I’ll see you soon.

Sincerely, in short bursts, Twitter


From: Dogtrax

To: Twitter




From: Google

To: Dogtrax

Don’t listen to that twitterin’ fool. He’s just a tiny version of us.

Staying on the Plus side of things, Google


From: Dogtrax

To: Google



Peace (in the networks, if they could write),