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Lessons From Sesame Street

By Beth L. Pinsker

WHEN the real-life Mr. Hooper from Sesame Street died, millions tuned in to PBS to see how the show would deal with the loss. Parents knew that Big Bird would somehow be able to offer children more reassurance and security in the face of death than any spiritual advisor, developmental psychiatrist or cartoon character.

I wonder how the show is going to deal with the death of its creator, Jim Henson.

Little kids won't be able to tell the difference. Kermit the Frog may have lost his original voice, but most people can do a credible Kermit impression. Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, the Muppets and the Muppet Babies will go on as usual.

But I think we need a special program to explain Henson's death to us, the big kids, the people who learned to read and count by watching Sesame Street and who have moved on to bigger tasks such as interpreting nuclear politics in the Third World.

Oh, enough of this sappy stuff. Jim Henson was a fun guy and the most loveable creator on television. His death doesn't mean the end of Sesame Street. The muppets offer universal and timeless lessons--even for our ivory tower of esoteric knowledge.

Grab a stuffed Snuffleuphagus or Big Bird and pay tribute to Jim Henson by recognizing his message to Harvard students.

Bert and Ernie: Who could ask for a more fitting pair of roommates? They are a paragon of Harvard middle-class diversity--short, tall, red, yellow, round head, pointy head, etc. Despite their profound differences, they lived together in perfect harmony.

Well, sort of. I remember a few problems with a rubber ducky. But other than that, Bert and Ernie truly cared about each other. Bert never borrowed Ernie's clothes without asking. Ernie never blasted AC-DC's "Back in Black" while Bert was cramming for a final. These two muppets ought to be a model for all those who share rooms.

Beaker: Check out the Chem concentrators in the basement of Cabot Library and you'll understand the importance of Beaker's message to Harvard: Science can be fun, but it can drive you crazy.

Kermit and Miss Piggy: Unrequited love, sexual tension, conflicting interests, difference in species--Kermit and Piggy have a lot of romantic hurdles to overcome, but at least they aren't trying to get a college degree at the same time. Love between the amphibian and the porcine may be fraught with problems, but it doesn't compare to a River-Quad relationship.

Big Bird: If Big Bird represents anyone on campus, it is the prototypical wide-eyed first-year student. He's innocent, he needs to have life explained to him, and he gets scared. But generally, he's just a big, loveable kid.

Oscar the Grouch: Oscar doesn't get along with too many people. He's ugly, he's cynical, and he rarely showers. Need I say it? He's a Core teaching fellow.

Pigs in Space: "Frank's Oriental Fish," "Savory Fresh Brisket," "Pigs in Space." It all sounds the same, doesn't it?

Animal: We've all seen them around campus. They haven't showered or combed their hair since intersession. They've been locked in the Gov Docs division of Lamont for the past week trying to pin down the specifics of U.S. trade policy with Burkina Faso. They talk to themselves as they crosses the Yard. Then they jump up and down, unleash a primal scream and start belting out heavy metal lyrics. They are writing their senior theses.

Cookie Monster: Michael Milken, Leona Helmsley, the Harvard Management Corporation--we all know greed. Cookie Monster is that cute, cuddly creature who goes absolutely bonkers at the mention of cookies. Just substitute "$65,000 plus performance bonus!" for "cookie!" and you can set off the same frenzy at the Office of Career Services.

Gonzo: Gonzo was always an perservering muppet. No matter how many times he got blasted out of a canon, he still bounced back. Gonzo is the patron saint of QRR failures and Crimson compers.

Waldorf and Mortimer: You remember the conceited, totally self-satisfied dudes in tuxedos who sat up above the fray and imagined themselves to be incredibly sophisticated? At Harvard, they do the same thing at addresses all up and down Mt. Auburn St.

This opinion piece is brought to you by the letter "B."

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