When a Nerd Becomes a Dad: The Little Einsteins

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When a Nerd Becomes a Dad: The Little Einsteins

Our friend Cordy has graciously accepted the request to submit an article to Nerd Lunch. We like it so much, we’re going to spread it out over two posts. I’ll let PLee introduce Cordy…

Cordy “The Red-Headed Stepp Child” Stepp designs forklifts for a living, perhaps as a result of his traumatic forklift accident as a boy. He has spent long hours trying to reconcile conflicting canon about the rank of Miles O’Brien and has written surprisingly explicit fan fiction on this theme. We saw “Batman and Robin” in the theater and have agreed never to discuss it. He might kill you, but he will never lie to you. -PLee

As nerds we often find ourselves deconstructing (yeah, I know this isn’t really the proper use of the word but it just sounds good in this instance) everything from books to movies to tv shows.  We dedicate websites and online communities to picking apart the tv shows we love and hate, discussing the theories behind our favorite authors’ works and “re-do”-ing movies that should have been good but just plain stunk.  Where does it end?  Where should it end?
It’s even worse if you happen to be a nerd who is also a parent.  Personally, I don’t want to ruin what little magic remains in the world for my children.  Sometimes it is almost too hard to resist making snide comments about the shows they watch, though.  Allow me to provide a couple of examples of the things I would love to point out to my kids.
This is a show about four little kids who inevitably help some sort of bizarre object perform a series of musically-related tasks necessary for said object to reach it’s goal.  I love the show because it introduces children to classical music and art but the story lines are pretty far out there.
These kids have a toy Rocket that helps them along the way.  Rocket’s very nature causes me to speculate as to what principles allow him to operate as he does.  First of all, Rocket’s size seems to vary according to the Einstein’s needs.  He appears larger or smaller according to the situation and their surroundings.  Rocket also has the ability to transform into various modes of transportation, also according to need.  He can take the form of a boat, a train or even a…ROCKET!  When he transforms I really want to know where the extra components come from and where the ones that are no longer needed go.  Is Rocket like the Hulk and somehow gains or loses his extra mass from and to some sort of pocket universe?  I have yet to broach that subject with my kids.
A recurring theme among current children’s shows is the amount of space available inside an object like Rocket.  There always seems to be much more room inside Rocket than one would think upon viewing his exterior.  This has got to be technology akin to the TARDIS used by the Time Lords of Dr. Who.
Another of Rocket’s aspects that causes me to speculate is his power source.  There are times when the Einsteins are riding around in Rocket that he isn’t moving quite fast enough or nimbly enough for them and they need to give him more power.  Usually at this point the leader, Leo, will ask for audience participation in the form of patterned patting and clapping to power-up Rocket.  I can only assume Rocket’s power source is based on the conversion of sound waves.  It seems that Rocket converts this vibrational energy into kinetic energy which can be used for thrust or maneuvering.  In the real world we would have seen Rocket imprisoned and experimented upon by the government.
Finally, where are all the people?  The world which the Little Einsteins inhabit seems to be devoid of any other humans.  This makes me wonder if these four children have somehow been transported to a pocket universe with Laws of Physics which differ greatly from our own.  Or have they somehow traveled to an alternate reality or timeline in which humanity has ceased to exist yet the great artistic works of Man remain?
Come back tomorrow for Cordy’s review of another children television show. In the meantime, follow Cordy on the Twitter or check out his blog.
By | 2017-03-17T02:36:34+00:00 March 18th, 2010|Categories: Article|Tags: , , , , |8 Comments

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  1. Carlin February 23, 2017 at 4:00 am - Reply

    Oh Jeeg, why did you have to bring up the Muppets?

    I can't directly address your second question because my Fraggle Rock knowledge pretty much stops with the first season, but I believe later seasons expanded the Doozerverse and while they may not directly answer your question, I do believe different Doozers had different roles. One of those roles might have been construction hat manufacturing.

    The real sticky question is your first question. To succinctly answer, yes there are actual dogs and cats in the "world of the Muppets." I can't cite every instance, but at the end of The Great Muppet Caper, the Muppets are trying to break into the Mallory Gallery, they encounter actual guard dogs. Rowlf attempts to communicate with them.

    However, that leads me to the first major question I have and that is why is Rowlf (and other dogs, too) able to speak English, but Sprocket is not? Shouldn't Sprocket be able to speak up and tell Doc what is going on with these Fraggles? Is Sprocket not able to speak English, or does he choose not to because he fears scaring Doc? Because a dog speaking shouldn't be a big surprise to Doc since it was just a few short years later he was renting a house from a talking bear in Muppet Family Christmas [MFC] and didn't even bat an eyelash about it. In fact, while he hadn't heard of the Muppet Show, their arrival did not shock Doc in the way you'd think you might be shocked if a frog, bear, dog, and a whatever suddenly showed up at the house you were staying in.

    This discussion is very reminiscent of the classic Goofy/Pluto discussion. But it extends beyond the Rowlf/Sprocket dynamic and extends to the "real world," too. Rowlf is enough of a dog that he thinks he can communicate with the guard dogs at the Mallory Gallery, but he is somehow different than a "real dog." Rowlf could communicate with Sprocket in MFC, but Sprocket is also different than a "real dog." And if it wasn't confusing enough, "Kermit's Swamp Years" muddied the issue with the character of Pilgrim, a dog character played by a real dog and a puppet. In fact, this horrible made for TV movie attempts to explain how people first learned that animals could talk. Personally, it has too many continuity issues and I'd assume we drop it from the Muppet canon.

    Not just considering the animals in the Muppetverse, I wonder about the people. Bert and Ernie are not animals, but they're not people like Gordon, Bob and Maria. So, what are they? I'd love to see a US Census form in a world that has Muppets.

    Sigh…I could keep going, but I won't.

  2. Jeeg February 23, 2017 at 4:00 am - Reply

    Good stuff, Cordy. I only briefly encounter this stuff when visiting my godson or relatives, but these sorts of questions come up amongst all my nerd buddies.

    I wonder at what point the little ones start to ask these sorts of questions themselves? I know that by the time I saw Fraggle Rock, probably around 8-9 years old, I was plagued by my own nerd analysis.

    – If all the pets in the human world were muppets (Sprocket, Fluffanella, etc.), were there any actual dogs or cats?
    – If all the Doozers did was build constructions, where did their hard hats and gear come from?

    And so on.

  3. Christian February 23, 2017 at 4:00 am - Reply

    I like this. Deep unnecessary analysis. Being a father of a 2 year old I have these thoughts as well. Every time I watch "Handy Manny" questions of the tools relationship with Manny and the inexcusable ineptitude of Mr.Lopart and his ability to function in normal society come to mind. Don't even get me started on Thomas the Tank Engine. Let me stop my ramble before I begin and look forward to the next chapter of this article. Good stuff!

  4. Carlin February 23, 2017 at 4:00 am - Reply

    Excellent topic and excellent analysis, Cordy. As a father who has sat through many of these children shows, I have also gone down this path.

    You touch on many questions I have about the Little Einsteins, but one additional question I always had was about Jet. This mean jet plane comes out of no where and tries to ruin the kids' plans. Apparently there's an entire world, only inhabited by four kids, a sentient rocket, sentient musical instruments and such, and a sentient evil jet.

    I don't know. It blows my mind.

  5. Christian February 23, 2017 at 4:00 am - Reply

    I bow to your knowledge of Muppetdom. You are as wise as Rowlf the Dog or something.

  6. Carlin February 23, 2017 at 4:00 am - Reply

    Well, the Muppet Show and Sesame Street were clearly in the same "Muppetverse" since Kermit was in both and there were a few additional crossovers in the shows and movies. Where the Fraggles fit into this Muppetverse was somewhat more nebulous until the made-for-TV (serious this time) Muppet Family Christmas special which featured Doc and Sprocket renting Fozzie's mom's house for a nice quiet Christmas. Also in this special, Kermit and Robin find a Fraggle Hole and happen to meet up with the five main Fraggle characters. And since this was pre-Jim Henson's death, I'm considering this TV special part of the Muppet canon.

    That aside, you'd think that Sprocket was a "real dog" but I'm fairly certain that Traveling Matt encountered actual real dogs during his travels and those dogs didn't stand upright and have opposable thumbs. I question Sprocket's "realness."

    Regarding Marjory the Trash Heap, again, my knowledge is limited to first season Fraggle Rock so I will defer commenting on who or what I think she is until I have rectified this hole in my knowledge.

    As for inside of Oscar's trash can, the mystery was ruined in the lousy Sesame Street movie, "The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland." If you haven't seen this movie, spare yourself. It's nowhere near the quality of Follow That Bird.

    Clearly I have some things to say about the Muppets.

  7. Christian February 23, 2017 at 4:00 am - Reply

    As far as Fraggle Rock is concerned I always considered it outside the Muppetverse. So I guess I watched it without my Muppetvision goggles on. It always pretty clear to me that Sprocket was a "real" dog in Muppet form. I think the thing that fascinated me the most about the show was the three separate universes. Our world, Fraggleville & Gorg-topia. What I did learn years later when I bought my wife the first season on DVD was that one of the specific purposes of the show was to educate children about understanding different people & other cultures. Makes a lot of sense now when I see the show every once in awhile. The thing that bothered me most about the show was that Trash heap. I never understood what she was. Was she made up of the trash from our world, Fraggletown or Gorg-opolis? Also, what is so wise & all-knowing about a mutated pile of trash? Maybe I'm relating her too much to Oscar the Grouch I suppose. Speaking of which, haven't you always wanted to see what's down inside of Oscar’s trash can? Must be awesome. He has an elephant.

  8. Carlin February 23, 2017 at 4:00 am - Reply

    Sorry, I said Kermit's Swamp Years was "made-for-TV." That was incorrect. It was "direct-to-DVD." However, I did get the "horrible" part correct.

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