10 Best Media Objects of 2006 (Part 3)
6. Sesame Street--Old School, Vol. 1 (2006 DVD release of shows from 1969-1974): If you’ve had the misfortune to be stuck watching Sesame Street recently, you may have noticed that it seems to be NOTHING BUT ELMO! Shut up, Elmo! Shut up! There is apparently no longer a street, much less a neighborhood, and almost all the muppets have been sent off to concentration camps where they are forced to crank out the uninspired computer-animated shorts that pad out the show between “Elmo’s World” and the end credits.
Thank God somebody finally had the balls to release this three-DVD set. If you grew up watching the original (or even if you didn’t), you’ll thoroughly appreciate the genius that went into the early episodes: insanely catchy songs (a cast that can sing!), alphanumeric drills seamlessly incorporated into the surreal in-between animations, and a steady stream of 70s celebs classing the place up. The cast is clearly allowed to improv during skits, leading to plenty good grown-up humor, and the overall flavor of the show could only be described as psychedelic in the best sense. But the crucial point is: Your kids will dig it too. And it may even help them count to 20.
5. The Man Who Was Thursday (1907 novel by G.K. Chesterton): I first read this in tender school days at college and boy, did it ever stand the test of time. If anything, it’s better than I remembered: Chesterton (most widely known for his Father Brown mystery stories), not yet a Catholic propagandist (he joined the RC church 15 years later), spins an inspired, angry, comic and nightmarish tale of a secret band of anarchists--each code-named after a day of the week--out to destroy “the very existence of civilisation.” Newly inducted philosophical policeman Gabriel Syme goes undercover as Thursday and seeks to stop the evil plans of the larger-than-life Sunday, whom he first meets in this snappy scene:
[Syme] saw something that he had not seen before. He had not seen it literally because it was too large to see. At the nearest end of the balcony, blocking up a great part of the perspective, was the back of a great mountain of a man. When Syme had seen him, his first thought was that the weight of him must break down the balcony of stone. His vastness did not lie only in the fact that he was abnormally tall and quite incredibly fat. This man was planned enormously in his original proportions, like a statue carved deliberately as colossal. His head, crowned with white hair, as seen from behind looked bigger than a head ought to be. The ears that stood out from it looked larger than human ears. He was enlarged terribly to scale; and this sense of size was so staggering, that when Syme saw him all the other figures seemed quite suddenly to dwindle and become dwarfish. They were still sitting there as before with their flowers and frock-coats, but now it looked as if the big man was entertaining five children to tea.
A modern analog of Thursday might be accomplished by some kind of lame Alan-