kottke.org posts about weddings

Searching for a Wedding Dress Accessory (Comic)

From 2021.
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Two Songs from The Muppet Movie

”Tim

Tomorrow, November 4th, 2023, is my first wedding anniversary. I married Karen McGrane at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia in 2022. We walked down the aisle to Gonzo’s “I’m Going To Back There Someday.” It was one of the best days of my life.

To celebrate our anniversary, I’m reposting what I wrote shortly after I moved into Karen’s house (which also, somewhat unusually, was the first time we met in person). It’s also the most recent — and since we haven’t renewed our WordPress license, quite possibly the last — post on Snarkmarket.com. I hope Kottke.org readers enjoy it.

Why write a blog post somewhere nobody has published in five years, in a new WordPress interface where you recognize… yeah, nothing? Where somehow you can’t even upload a JPG or PNG file you downloaded from another site “for security reasons” without converting it first? Or get paragraph tags or linebreaks working inside blockquotes? (Really? On Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s own World Wide Web???)

Because sometimes there is no other place to put such things. There is no other place where you want to put such things.

I bought a new laptop late in 2020, one of the new Apple Silicon M1 MacBook Pros that was announced just after the election (which was also my birthday). It is easily the best laptop I’ve ever used, let alone owned. I’m typing on it now. (It doesn’t have enough ports; otherwise, it is as perfect a machine as has ever existed until the next one comes out.) Buying that laptop started something for me: a new round of investment in myself after a long period of being fearful and dormant. And shortly after I bought it, I covered it in Muppets stickers.

I’m hardly unique in loving The Muppets; we’re past fifty years of Sesame Street and even longer of Jim Henson’s earlier creations, meaning just about every living generation has been touched by those special creatures one way or another. But the Muppets are a talisman of something I try to guard in myself: tenderness, exaggerated emotion, a desire to experience the world as something new, an urge to creativity and renewal, a fear of rejection, and a sometimes desperate need to be loved in a world where love is often in short supply.

The most famous song from The Muppet Movie is the opening number, “The Rainbow Connection.” It’s sung by Kermit the Frog, as played and performed by Jim Henson himself, and the conceit in the movie is that Kermit is playing and singing the song alone, on a banjo. This conceit is quickly abandoned, at least aurally; a whole orchestra comes in, turning a dead-simple children’s song into something swelling and cinematic. It’s three minutes long, and sung by a puppet, performed by someone who, for all his unbounded talents for voice and performance, can’t really sing. But I think it’s the greatest song ever written for a film. (A surprisingly competitive category!) It’s really worth watching, as many times as you can.

Here is a story about the writing of “The Rainbow Connection.” And here are the lyrics:

[Verse 1]

Why are there so many
Songs about rainbows
And what’s on the other side?

Rainbows are visions
But only illusions
And rainbows have nothing to hide

So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it
I know they’re wrong, wait and see

[Hook]

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

[Verse 2]

Who said that every wish
Would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star?

Somebody thought of that
And someone believed it
Look what it’s done so far

What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing
And what do we think we might see?

[Hook]

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

[Bridge]

All of us under its spell
We know that it’s probably magic

[Verse 3]

Have you been half asleep
And have you heard voices?
I’ve heard them calling my name

Is this the sweet sound
That calls the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same

I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it:
It’s something that I’m supposed to be

[Hook]

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

[End/Outro]

That’s the whole thing.

As a child, I was taught that this song was about hope in tough times — a rejection of cynicism, an attempt to uphold on the threshold of the Reaganite 1980s something of the idealism of the 1960s, from Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech to the antiwar movement, only somewhat looser and more adaptable (if also more inchoate). The song also had a religious element to it: something of my mother’s highly adaptable (and thoroughly idiosyncratic) Catholicism — a belief there was a magical, spiritual universe both separate from and pervading the one we could see. The Rainbow Connection was not heaven in any proper theological sense, but it was the heaven my mother believed in. And, I think, that she still believes in.

And it is those things — insofar as it “is” anything but a sweet song with a good melody — but it’s also something else. And as you get older, and continue to deal with grief and heartache (as I have, many times), and are dealt reversals and disappointments, the other meaning of “The Rainbow Connection” becomes insistent and impossible to ignore.

It is a song about what you can and can’t believe in after a life filled with missed chances, casual cruelties, and dead family and friends. It’s a song shot full of the melancholy many of us remember most clearly in our own childhoods, an ache to your bones that has never gone away. It is every heartbreak you have ever had, every injury suffered to your body, mind, and pride. It is how you think about friendship and community when your community is broken and your friends are all so very far away. It is not about a cohort of happy dreamers, or lovers. It is about how you care for your child inside when all your illusions are gone. It is the last illusion you keep, because without it, you would have nothing left.

The questions “The Rainbow Connection” asks are genuine questions, with a more ironic edge than Kermit places on it in the song itself:

  • “Who said that every wish / Would be heard and answered”? Really ask yourself: who?
  • “Somebody thought of that / And someone believed it.” Who thought of it? Why have any of us ever believed it?
  • “Look what it’s done so far.” What has it done? Have you actually looked? Where are we? All these years of struggle: what were they for? And what have they done?
  • “What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing / And what do we think we might see?” What are we looking for? How would we even know it if we saw it?
  • And if not this, then what? What are the alternatives? Lie down and die? Give in to the world’s cruelty and cynicism and make yourself a part of it? Tranquilize yourself and wait for something to change? Could we even do otherwise? After all… it seems like most people genuinely can do exactly that.

Seen from this perspective, The Muppets are not childlike or naïve at all. They are advancing a powerful critique of how we live and what we believe, and how we’ve come to settle for so much less than what we are capable of. There is a utopian element to “The Rainbow Connection,” but it turns out to be a very slight one. A Minimum Viable Utopia, if you will.

The other song that matters the most to me from The Muppet Movie (which, like Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall and Prince’s self-titled album, was released shortly before I was born) is Gonzo’s “I’m Going To Go Back There Someday.” And this song, too, has multiple layers that are worth unpacking.

Here are the lyrics:

Verse 1:

This looks familiar
Vaguely familiar
Almost unreal yet
It’s too soon to feel yet

Hook:

Close to my soul
And yet so far away
I’m going to go back there
Someday

Verse 2:

Sunrises, night falls
Sometimes the sky calls
Is that a song there?
And do I belong there?

Hook:

I’ve never been there
But I know the way
I’m going to go back there
Someday

Bridge:

Come and go with me
It’s more fun to share
We’ll both be, completely
At home in midair

We’re flying not walking
On featherless wings
We can hold on to love
Like invisible strings

Verse 3:

There’s not a word yet
For old friends who’ve just met

Part heaven, part space
Or have I found my place?

Hook:

You can just visit
But I plan to stay
I’m going to go back there
Someday

I’m going to go back there
Someday

[End/Outro]

This song is somehow even simpler than “The Rainbow Connection,” but it wears its ironies farther out on its sleeves.

The obvious (although not literal) reading of the song is that Gonzo is not talking about any past he remembers, or even really a future he’s waiting for, but about the love and newfound family he’s discovered with his friends now all around him: the Muppets to whom he’s singing the song. Again, as a child, this is what I was taught without having to be told, and for the most part, it’s what I believed.

The second, more critical take on “I’m Going To Go Back There Someday” is that it is a profound confession of abandonment and loneliness in Gonzo’s formative years. It is the absence of anything like the heartsoaring love he is stumbling to find words to describe, and his very early and extremely keen awareness of that absence, even before he knew there was hope of anything different. It is less about loss (you have to have something before you can lose it, technically) than lack.

And while you could say that Gonzo is realizing now that he’s found what he’s long been looking for, the fact that he still puts it in the future tense suggests that he’s still feeling something lacking, either in his companions or in himself. He still feels incomplete, blown apart, alone and lonely, en route to something he does not have and has never had, does not know and has never known — something that he can only describe or define by its absence. A negative theology.

You could take this a step further and say that what “I’m Going To Go Back There Someday” is really about is the fact that such a place does not exist, has never existed, and if it waits for anyone, it does not wait for the singer. Gonzo — Tim Carmody — is so irreducibly damaged by what has happened to him, so thoroughly alone, that he can only think of love and belonging as a return to a paradise he’s never known and will never in his lifetime see.


The trouble with all of this is that sometimes the impossible happens.

Here I’m going to invoke another important text from my childhood, but I won’t take the time to explicate it, because I can talk about baseball (and specifically, this single plate appearance) forever.

It is hard to talk or even to think about miracles, especially if (like me) you have long since relaxed the God hypothesis. The 18th-century empiricist / skeptical philosopher David Hume defined a miracle as “a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent.”

Nothing is esteemed a miracle, if it ever happen in the common course of nature. It is no miracle that a man, seemingly in good health, should die on a sudden: because such a kind of death, though more unusual than any other, has yet been frequently observed to happen. But it is a miracle, that a dead man should come to life; because that has never been observed in any age or country.

The trouble for Hume with miracles is the trouble for Hume with all knowledge (including very basic relationships of cause and effect): the evidence to genuinely believe in miracles is always lacking. It falls apart given the tiniest bit of criticism — and yet, people are inclined to believe in miracles anyways.

In fact, people all over the world, at every age and in every walk of life, may be more inclined to believe in something impossible they believe they’ve witnessed themselves, alone or in a small group, than an ordinary event witnessed again and again by millions of people. Aristotle, too, understood, this irony, writing in the Poetics that (translations differ, but here is the gist) “the poet should prefer probable impossibilities to improbable possibilities.” And if you can keep God’s hands off the probable impossible, so much the better.

The world Gonzo prophecies in “I’m Going To Go Back There Someday,” that Kermit imagines in “The Rainbow Connection,” is not supposed to exist. It is an illusion, an impossibility, even if it remains a necessary one. And yet: sometimes, somehow, after you have already set aside your own eligibility for such things, and doubted their real existence for others or their cameos in your own past, you nevertheless, to your own total astonishment, find yourself back there again.

On Saturday, February 6th, I moved back to the city of Philadelphia. I made my nostos, not to the city where I was born (Detroit, which will also always have my heart), but the city I chose when I was 22, and where I spent most of the important years of my life.

I am back. I am home.

You can just visit
But I plan to stay
I’m going to go back there
Someday

”Tim

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Record player wedding invite

This wedding invite designed by Kelli Anderson has a 45 RPM record player built right into it.

Here’s more info on how the musical invite was constructed.

The resulting booklet is comprised of a cover, two inner pages, a letterpressed band (with instructions and a tear-off RSVP postcard), and a flexdisc on a screwpost. The recipient bends the second page of the booklet back to create a tented “arm.” With the needle placed, they then carefully spin the flexidisc at 45 RPM (ish) to hear the song. The sewing needle travels the length of the song and produces the sound. Its vibrations are amplified by the thin, snappy paper to which it is adhered. To keep the needle down on the record, we reinforced the back of the “tent” with a spray-mounted half page of heavier cardstock. To reduce friction between the acetate flexidisc and the backing cover, we had the inside of the booklet laminated to be slick and conducive to hand-spinning.

(via stellar)


The Bride Was Beautiful

This was a tough series of photos to get through: The Bride Was Beautiful.

Katie Kirkpatrick, 21, held off cancer to celebrate the happiest day of her life. […] Her organs were shutting down but it would not stop her from marrying Nick Godwin, 23, who was in love with Katie since 11th grade.

The last photo is just heartbreaking. (via cup of jo)


Bridal preparations

T&A is not my usual schtick here, but I found these photos of brides in their underwear — most are pictured getting dressed for the ceremony — appealing for non-obvious reasons (the titillation factor here is almost zero unless you’re 12 years old). There’s something about the natural, unguarded informality of the preparation in comparison to the fussiness and solemnity of the ceremony itself…it makes the wedding part seem artificial. It’s also disturbing that all these intimate photos ended up online, likely without the consent of the undressed. Really NSFW.


Bratty brides

Gay marriage should be allowed and encouraged in the US but denied to brides who want their bridesmaids to get Botox or boob jobs before walking down the aisle with them.

Becky Lee, 39, a Manhattan photographer, declined when a friend asked her — and five other attendants — to have their breasts enhanced. “We’re all Asian and didn’t have a whole lot of cleavage, and she found a doctor in L.A. who was willing to do four for the price of two,” said Ms. Lee, who wore a push-up bra instead. Not for nothing are some maids known as slaves of honor, but this kind of cajoling is a recent development on the wedding front.

Another woman requested professional spray tans for all her bridesmaids…two declined and were removed from the wedding party. Ugh, what horrible self-centered people.


Wedding then earthquake

Absolutely incredible photos of a wedding and then an earthquake.

Can you imagine what it was like to have been photographing a wedding in Sichuan, China when 7.9 earthquake hit and shakes for three minutes? From what I understand, there were thirty-three missing guests in this church.


A “story map” distributed to guests of

A “story map” distributed to guests of a wedding that shows the possible occupational, relational, and recreational relationships between guests to be used as a conversational cheat-sheet. Reminiscent of Mark Lombardi’s network maps. Better larger. (via gulfstream)


Really listening

I was recently talking with an acquaintance who makes custom wedding dresses. The lead time for making dresses is typically several months and tailoring a dress that’s going to fit someone 3-4 months after the initial measurements are made can be challenging. Most brides-to-be desire to lose some weight before the big day and typically share a target weight/size with her…”Make it a size smaller because I’ll be 20 pounds lighter on the day of the wedding”.

This woman’s been doing it for so long that she’s learned to ignore what these brides say will happen and to plan for what actually ends up happening. The outcome is pretty simple, she says; as the wedding day approaches, thin women get thinner and the heavier women get heavier. The hypothesis here (expressed by the dress maker) is that the weight loss/gain depends on how these women deal with the stress of the event: thin women don’t eat or lose their appetites when stressed while heavier women eat in response to stress.

Aside from how general a statement you can make about relation of the stress/eating/weight factors, the fact that she’s able to accurately size dresses based on this simple rule is another reminder of how misleading it can be to rely on asking people about their potential behavior. As a web designer, one the most valuable things I learned when building sites was that watching people use prototypes or web sites was way more useful than asking them what features they wanted.


Two bloggers get married via their blogs.

Two bloggers get married via their blogs. Texas law requires a public declaration of the marriage with local witnesses and their blog posts satisfy that requirement. (via mr)


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