Friday October 27, 2017

I feel strangely related to the “Uncle Matt” character on Fraggle Rock, as if he and I were kin. “I’m traveling on my greatest adventure,” writes the bearded ethnographer toward the beginning of the show’s first episode. “So much to explore.” Part of me wishes to adopt as my handle from today onward the name “Traveling Matt.” After all, the first creature this character discovers along his journey into “outer space” is a four-legged beast named Sprocket. A light bulb goes on in my head: Fraggles are post-scarcity acid-heads! Characters like Gobo are like me. They seek advice not from the I Ching, but from a conglomerate entity known as the “Talking Trash-Heap.” Isn’t this similar to my use of the bins at the local Goodwill? (Trash-Heap, by the way, would be the Halloween costume to end all Halloween costumes.) Consider, though, the many psychedelic dimensions of Fraggle Rock: the Fraggles themselves are all stoners and acid-heads, their hair tie-dyed and frazzled. The Beast is asleep, whispers Gobo as he tiptoes past the upstairs inventor’s canine companion. Dogs, by some synchronistic logic, keep cropping up everywhere I turn. The show, I either realize or decide, is the script of my auto-psychobiography. I watched many of its episodes multiple times as a kid. Each episode begins with the mobile prosthetic consciousness known as the “camera-eye” gliding invisibly through the glass threshold separating exterior reality from its interior. Like Plato’s Cave Allegory, in other words, the show’s narrative unfolds across multiple levels. In Episode 2, a bongo-playing Fraggle sings about migration of consciousness via the magic of the jump-cut along that looped, ‘Möbius-Strip’ continuum that lesser minds divide into discrete domains denoted by the terms “here” and “there.” I know, too, from Brian Jay Jones’s biography that Henson “enjoyed a little grass” from time to time. Henson is also reported to have taken acid once, in the company of his friends Don Sahlin and Jerry Nelson — though he claimed in retrospect that the drug never took effect. Jones notes that the musicians featured in Henson’s short film Youth 68 praised acid’s positive effects when Henson interviewed them. After seeing Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane (the long-haired dude with the toy pistol) suggest, mid-film, that the baby boomers will have to “do an Oedipus on their fathers,” I believe it.

The book also recounts how Henson planned to create a psychedelic nightclub called Cyclia in the late sixties. The idea for it came to him, says Henson’s wife Jane, “during the first wave of psychedelia. Jim went to see Jefferson Airplane and he was very intrigued with it — the light shows and the psychedelic graphics.” The nightclub, which Henson imagined housing in a geodesic dome or an inflatable structure at the foot of the Queensboro Bridge, was to have walls, floor, and ceiling “broken into faceted, crystal-like shapes onto which films would be projected” (Jones). Alas, none of these plans ever came to fruition — but I like to think that there’s a parallel universe — an “outer space,” so to speak — where they did.

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