Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Savage Truths

My mornings are defined by certain rituals. After a night of baby-roulette (will he wake? or will he sleep? where it stops, nobody knows!) I wake up to small fingers pulling my hair, poking my nose and demanding Nutri-Grain bars and orange juice. I stumble into the kitchen and make a full pot of coffee (of which maybe one sip will actually be consumed) then turn on the TV to my favorite channel, Noggin.

At 8AM, Noggin viewers are treated to a delightful little show called Oswald. It's not cerebral, like say Dora or Blues Clues, nor especially jaunty and musical like the Backyardigans.

As an aside, Mr. Probert always volunteers to wake up with the kids on Saturdays. I had thought it was because he wanted to give me a break. Turns out he just secretly enjoyed the Backyardigans. It's his favorite show after Prison Break. Which, by the way, is his favorite show because the hero is a Civil Engineer.

Oswaldis a great show for first thing in the morning because unlike those obnoxious children's programs with hard skill curriculum objectives and learning goalslike math, logic or reading, Oswald is a simple story of an urban octopus and his companion dachshund, Weenie. The official learning goals listed on the Noggin web site include the warm fuzzy hot cocoa soft and comfy skills here:

  • Language and Early Literacy Goals:
    • Familiarizes viewers with conventions of narrative and story structure
    • Develops listening skills
  • Social and Emotional Development:
    • Models positive responses to conflict
    • Demonstrates taking turns, sharing, listening to others, and polite behavior
    • Presents characters getting along and working together to achieve shared goals

Listening Skills? Positive Responses to Conflict? Achieving Shared Goals? Anyone who reads my postings to the Swamp knows that these are things that I need to study up on. Is there an AOTC available?

Even with my four minutes of sleep and spit up encrusted pajamas, I can follow plots such as "A Day at the Beach" and "The Big Balloon Rescue".

While I can handle the anthropomorphism of octopi and penguins, somehow their friends Daisy (a walking talking daisy) and the Snowman (a walking talking snowman that runs a snow cone shop) disturbed me just a little bit. I also wondered who paid for Oswald's apartment, piano and Weenie's vet bills when he clearly didn't have a job. Despite these shortcomings, I still watched alongside Panorama as she ate her "blueberry grow-bar".


The other day as the credits were rolling, I caught a name on the list that sent my heart into a tailspin.

The voice of Oswald is FRED SAVAGE!

How did one of the greatest television icons of my generation get reduced to providing the affected voice of a repressed purple octopus?

The year Kevin Arnold started middle school, so did I. He went ice skating, to school dances, passed notes, got acne and was stuffed into his locker alongside my friends and I. Year for year, Kevin mirrored my emotional turmoil and clean cut teen angst (ok, so we didn't have Vietnam to deal with- what's your point?).

I thought the worst day of my life was when I flipped by Animal Planet and saw Mario Lopez hosting Pet Star. (Panorama instantly perked up because she has become a big Dancing with the Stars fan thanks to evenings spent with my mother and her pathetically middle aged television taste.) To add insult to injury, Pet Star was featuring special guest Danica McKellar**.

This must be the same kind of Hell my parents found themselves in the 1980's and 1990's when my brothers and I knew the songs of their youth only as adapted advertising jingles, Paul McCartney as that "old guy" who sang with Michael Jackson and Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire.

Perhaps this bothers me because I wonder if my life has followed a similar path. You come roaring out of the gate. You swear you will never compromise. You will lead an exciting life where you take only the most interesting jobs. You'll never commute. You'll always be creative and adventurous and raise your fist to resist the shackles of your parents, society and the "man".

Then you fall in love- with a house, with a job, with a person, with a pack of children and you search for ways to pay the bills so you can fund this life you would have once considered "boring".

Then you realize that this IS the adventure.. that dreams change... that you can't be expected to define your life at age 15...and that maybe just maybe being a purple octopus is your new dream.

**I later found out that Danica McKellar kicks butt. She has a math degree and a book called Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail . I also saw her guest star on How I Met Your Mother. Phew.