Wherefor Art Thou Gordon?

We were a Muppet family, but I was never that big on Sesame Street. Mom always wanted me to love Bert, Ernie, Big Bird, and the crew. Really though, save for Grover and his The Monster at the End of This Book, I wasn’t down.

Though I wasn’t a massive Sesame Street fan, I didn’t hate the show, so bits and pieces of it stuck with me over the years. Along with Oscar and Snuffy, I also remembered Gordon. He was just as whimsical and magical to me as a Muppet because Gordon was a human who got to live on Sesame Street. I didn’t know much about Gordon, but I knew if you were cool enough to cohabitate with Muppets, you were quite the bad ass, the epitome of cool.

So, I was distressed to read Gordon and other longtime human cast members of Sesame Street were being let go. Apparently in the transition of the show from PBS to HBO and the downsizing from an hour to 30 minutes, the Children’s Theater Workshop and the network decided more Elmo and fewer humans was the key to success. Over the past couple of days, people are rightfully claiming this is a case of ageism, though no one has mentioned species-specific discrimination.

What concerns me isn’t just the belief that young children have no desire to see people their grandparent’s age on TV (which I don’t believe, as so many kids have much stronger ties to their grandparents than I ever did), but that we were severing one of the final ties that connected what I liked to what kids who could ostensibly be my kids like.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to hear I like old stuff, but I also like long-running stuff that can help bridge generations together. As a kid, I liked Captain Kangaroo on its own and because my aunts and uncles used to watch it as a kid. I liked tapping into Bozo the Clown both because I loved the ping pong balls and buckets game (you want to know how beer pong became popular? Bozo, that’s how), but also because I was tapping into an institution. It is part of the reason we pick the sports teams our families rooted for, because it helps to bring us together.

Now, I realize the Reds have a much different lineup now than in the 80s, so one can argue Gordon and others are past their prime and, like an athlete need to be replaced, but to have a show that is supposed to teach tolerance and inclusion turn its back on cast members that have been involved since the 70s is not the Sesame Street I knew. This is some new Sesame Street, like the team that moved cities yet claims to keep the heritage of their old locale.

With this latest change in the Sesame Street lineup, I look around the TV landscape and see that the long-running shows are also high turnover programs like news broadcasts or Sportscenter. There is no throughline but the name of the show. For someone who has always hated too much change and sought out programming that felt comfortable and familiar, I am nostalgic not just for Gordon, but for all of the connectors between my parents and me…between me and the next generation. Everything continues to become fragmented and insular. While it is great to be able to cultivate such a specific collection of TV and movies thanks to massive streaming libraries, this latest blow to communal viewing still hurts my heart because now the current Sesame Street isn’t an artifact from another era that gives me hope that the classics stay classic and relevant at the same time. To me, it is a zombie Muppet that looks a little like the original, but is lacking in, well, the humanity that Gordon and others brought to the show.

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Listing and Learning

For many in the poker world, July and August is tantamount to New Year’s. We set goals, we feel like we’re starting anew, and, in the brief reprieve from the onslaught of tournaments, many of us set our sights on self-betterment.

I am always setting goals this time of year, but this year I realized the internet has taken my presumably undiagnosed case of OCD and let the super ego dictate every facet of my life. You see, there are endless web sites that allow you to track, list, and follow your own progress about everything from your weight to your movie acumen to what books you’re reading.

I’m a sucker for all of them. I spent three hours the other day doing nothing but indexing everything I have read on GoodReads. There is something cathartic to me about lists. Part of it is I am always striving to be a better person. This goal is rather vague and difficult to quantify, but with apps and sites like Goodreads, I can create a definitive representation of exactly how well read I am and put it on display for the world to see.

You would think this love of lists would make me a Pinterest-holic, but I don’t really enjoy lists which are purely aspirational. I like tracking progress, feeling like I am getting more out of reading a book than the pleasure that comes with reading because I get to check it off a “To Do” list when I am done.

Most importantly, as someone who takes a tremendous amount of pride from her ability to refer restaurants, books, movies, TV, and music based on someone’s personal preference, I like to have sites that indicate my opinion on a wide array of just those things.

If you’re obsessed with list making, here are some sites I am fond of and where to find me should you want to track my progress too:

Letterboxd

This movie-centric social network is fantastic because not only can you log and review movies you’ve seen, you can make and follow lists from other users, which is great when I decide to binge and address my gaps in the canon. Really though, my favorite part is how they tile the movies you’ve seen with posters, creating a beautiful visual of all the movies you’ve seen.

Goodreads

This is my latest obsession, as I have been very actively trying to return to my bookworm nature of my childhood and adolescence. There was a time in my life where the new Harry Potter was a six-hour read, as I can fly through a novel when I am reading at peak. Since Mom passed, I find it difficult to concentrate on only a book, which means the benchmark of what I am willing to spend time reading is higher than usual, but as you can see from my lists, there are still plenty of books to be read.

Amazon Wish List

I’ve kept items on this for years and, about a year ago, my decade-od list was somehow erased, taking the very first item, a fancy KitchenAid mixer, along with it. I’ve been building it up again since then mostly because my family never has a clue what to buy me for Christmas and birthdays, and because the Amazon algorithm of things I might want is so good and I spend countless hours mindlessly revising it to keep the recommendations as ideal as possible.

My Fitness Pal

I am certainly not on a strict diet and, as someone who still refuses to eat vegetables, so I am obviously not concerned with my health, but I do track my progress and meals on here just to keep up a sense of accountability. I have always thought if I gain five pounds, I’ll notice and do something about it if I track regularly, whereas if I don’t, I will potentially gain 15 pounds, not notice, and have to work really hard to get back down to the weight I want again.

What other list apps should I try? Is Salt worth its weight in…salt (ew)? Is there a good TV tracking site? Anything for stage shows or music you enjoy? Tell me about it or tell me if you have a Goodreads or Letterboxd account so I can follow and get some more suggestions!

Three Cheers for WiPHOF

Photo courtesy of Kara Scott

Photo courtesy of Kara Scott

The Rio is noisy this summer. And cold. But mostly noisy. Every day I am asked if I saw someone’s Tweet or if I’ve heard a story or what the gossip of the day is. It is cliche to say I am tired of the gossip, and let’s be real, I am Southern, I am not above gossip. But this year the incessant buzz on social media has worn on me, so much so that issues I have opinions on I find I stay silent simply because I don’t want to perpetuate any more Twitter discussions, as basically no one comes out of them looking good.

Today though, I had a nice reminder of how a positive approach to an important issue can make an impact. This is the third time I have had the privilege to be a part of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Each time I attend, I look around and take in how diverse, eclectic, interesting, and inspiring the women of the poker world can be. We’ve spent the summer laser-focused on a group of women who, don’t get me wrong, are amazing, but it is fair to say their poker experiences aren’t exactly indicative of that of most women in the poker world.

I say this not to be an agist (so no op-eds, mmkay people?), but the simple truth of the matter is that I was one of the younger people in the room at this luncheon. Part of this is to be expected. When you are honoring women who have made a lasting impact in poker, they are inevitably not going to be in their 20s. But I think it is important to note women in poker often are a little older. They are retired or independent business women or mothers. There are numerous successful young ladies in poker too, but we don’t pay enough attention to the over-40 crowd. Like any field, we are focused on the new, young things, but that can’t be at the expensive of these women like Linda Johnson and Jan Fisher or this year’s inductees Victoria Coren and Debbie Burkhead. These women blow my mind with their humor, their grace, and their talent and, just because they aren’t crushing $5/$10 NLHE or playing every $10K doesn’t mean they aren’t the foundation on which the female poker community rests.

And being able to celebrate these women and know that even though I may not agree with everything everyone in that room had to say, but we could all agree these women deserved celebrating was such a welcome reprieve from the rest of the summer. Even my lovely date Kara Scott and I don’t see eye to eye on everything, but what I love and cherish about our friendship is that we can talk through it in a way I learn so much from. When we take opportunities like this to remind ourselves we are striving for a common goal, it can help all of us from being so myopic about a singular 140-character Tweet and focus on how to colelctively make the community better.

I don’t know Victoria Coren well, but listening to her video speech today, I was so enamored with this incredibly bright, funny person who manages to balance being a nurturing mother to her daughter and being an absolute force to be reckoned with at the tables. As Barny Boatman so greatly put, Coren is the only person on the planet with two EPTs, but at least the men can all still hope they are the first man to do the same. I look forward to writing a blog about that feat!

I look forward to the microcosm of the summer simmering down. I look forward to people not bickering daily. And I look forward to spending less time criticizing and more time celebrating. The criticism is important, it is often valid and necessary, but lost in this summer of criticism are these moments of celebration like today. So, continue to speak your mind and fight your battles, but come 2018, if you get a chance, take the time to come to the luncheon, to celebrate something wholly positive, and to take a breath and realize that even though women still have plenty of ground to make up, women like Coren and Burkhead continue to break ground and be first. For that, I will always be grateful and I will also always be grateful that these women pay it forward to us “young’uns” with compliments and motivation and support. Unlike me, who sees the drama and clams up, they reach their arms out, be it to push barriers aside for the rest of us or to offer a hug. It is something to aspire to and something I will readily celebrate as long as I am invited to do so.