RIP The Count – the Boba Fett of Sesame Street

Another great artist has departed this earth – Jerry Nelson – the genius that voiced Count Von Count on Sesame Street.

This one hurts. The Count was my all-time favourite Sesame Street character.

While he was considered a secondary character, to me he was the Boba Fett of Sesame Street. No one could make me laugh quite like The Count. His obsessive counting and – ah ah ah laughter – never failed to put a smile on my face and make me feel good about life, no matter what my mood might have been. On top of that, he made counting and learning FUN! Heck, I could watch the count all day. He was that awesome.

Kudos to all the great puppeteers, but especially Nelson, for creating a character that truly stood out among all the great Characters on Sesame Street. With stars like Ernie and Burt and the Cookie Monster, that wasn’t easy to do. He was the Elmo of his time.

I will always be thankful to The Count for his wisdom and teachings. As we say goodbye to Nelson, it’s somewhat comforting to know that The Count will live on in re-runs and new shows voiced by the next generation.

Ah ah ah!

William Windom was one of Star Trek’s greatest guest stars

I was very sad to hear about the passing of actor William Windom.

Windom, an Emmy-winning actor, is best known for his role in the television series Murder, She Wrote. But I will always remember him for his guest appearance in an episode of Star Trek entitled “The Doomsday Machine.”

This episode consistently makes top ten lists of Star Trek episodes and deservedly so. Windom plays Commodore Matt Decker, a captain who lost his starship to a giant planet-sucking “doomsday device” and is obsessed with obtaining revenge. In a crazed state, he pulls rank to take control of the U.S.S. Enterprise and puts the lives of its crew in great danger as he takes the ship in hot pursuit of the planet-killing machine. When I was in high school and had the chance to “teach” a Trek episode to a Grade 9 English class, I chose this episode.

Windom gives a brilliant, if over-the-top performance, as Decker. His passion and enthusiasm and range of emotion in the episode make it work star to finish. It’s one of my favourite episodes and I look forward to watching it again to pay tribute to this fine actor.


Picasso’s final week in Toronto

I remember my first brush with Picasso. It was 1992. I was in Paris with my mother and brother. We had a few days to hit as many galleries and monuments as possible. At my bro’s insistence, we went to the Picasso Museum, which is a little outside the city. (We ended up walking there – don’t ask.)

I can’t say I was too impressed. But I would have a problem with any museum that displays a bicycle seat with a couple of bars sticking out of it. If Adam West had done it no one would have cared. Just because it was “a Picasso,” it was therefore a masterpiece. Ridiculous.

But towards the end of our tour, we came across this painting. Here is a picture of it I snapped.

The security guard was not pleased that I took a flash photograph in the museum, but in the heat of the moment, I couldn’t resist. There was something about this painting that made me and my mother laugh really hard. It was like the genius of Picasso clicked right there and then for us after a couple of hours of dismissing every other work in the museum as crap.

As I write this, the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Picasso exhibit is entering its final week. I visited today. What can I say? In the 20 years since my trip to Paris, I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for Picasso.

Picasso could paint anything. He was capable of painting subjects in a “photorealistic” way, and there are many examples of him doing so. But much of what Picasso is known for are paintings like “The Kiss,” which is part of the AGO’s special exhibition. Here it is:

What chaos! It’s an explosion of sex and love and violence on the canvas. What mind could dream up and paint such a thing? Picasso, of course. It has his “signature” style all over it. Both beautiful and disturbing at the same time.

Picasso exhibits are a rarity in Toronto so it’s well worth seeing. There are many paintings, drawings and sculpture’s on display that run the gamut of Picasso’s talent. Yes, even the Blue Period is represented. Some of my favourites were La Celestine, Death of Casagemas, Still Life with Pitcher and Apples, The Kiss, and Jacqueline with Hands Crossed.

These works are hardly easy on the eyes. They are very demanding, horrific in some cases. But they evoke deep emotion and discussion, and that’s what great art should do.

Kudos to the AGO for bringing Toronto another blockbuster exhibit that will be remembered for a long time.