Have you ever come across something strangely wonderful? You don’t know why you like it, just that you do. There’s something appealing about it. Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s a charmingly campy, maybe it’s just bizarre enough to spark your imagination—whatever the reason, it appeals to you.
A number of years ago, a friend showed me a video called Yellow. No, it isn’t the Coldplay song. It’s a strangely wonderful video about the color Yellow. Here, take a look.
I’ve always loved this video ever since I saw it, but that’s where it ended and it’s really a shame. I didn’t let my curiosity take me further into what made Yellow. I suppose I figured it was a crazy, strange video that just happened to be made and thought nothing more of it. Probably some of that false genius just happens attitude I was still living under at the time.
But what if I had gotten curious about yellow? What would I have discovered?
Well, let’s start with the video. Who is Ken Nordine? Why should I care?
It’s really a shame I hadn’t gotten more curious about yellow sooner, because I might have discovered Word Jazz faster. So who is Ken Nordine? He’s someone you might know better hearing his voice than hearing his name. He’s been used as a voiceover for many TV commercials and movie trailers, and as you’ll find if you Google search his name, best known for Word Jazz. Check out his command of story craft.
This prompted me to search out further Ken Nordine videos, which were familiar somehow even though I could recall ever hearing them before in my life—aside from that first Yellow video. Something about the way they were constructed reminded me of something. It didn’t take long until I found the connection.
Ken Nordine was obviously a huge inspiration to Jim Henson as he started to make his mark on the world. It was somewhat cathartic to me to see something that had inspired one of those great story tellers that I admire. In fact, it was an almost perfect embodiment of a certain quote I love from Ray Bradbury.
If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting. I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans. I get out of bed to trap them before they escape. –Ray Bradbury
We tend to think of any storyteller we admire as born genius. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not discrediting their obvious talent. What I am saying is like Mr. Bradbury has suggested, they too are probably busy stuffing themselves full of story from a variety of media and a variety of genres. They take inspiration from everywhere. They let themselves get curious about yellow and see where it leads and delight in what new stories await them.
This is how we should approach our craft. Absolutely!
MORE ON JIM HENSON
Now I’m not just saying that I believe Ken Nordine was an inspiration to Jim Henson because he happened to use one of his pieces in one of his early shows. No, why Ken Nordine really seemed familiar was because of Jim Henson’s short film Timepiece. Not exactly the same, but an exploration of sound and music—now connected to visual space as well.
Jim Henson took something he loved, filled himself up with it, and most of us have reaped many benefits from what spilled out of him later. I encourage you to watch the entire short film, which runs at 8m40s. It’s certainly a mind-altering view of time. And very much worth the $2. Buy it here.
Jim Henson’s Ken Nordine piece also led me to an early Kermit video. I also found it fascinating to see the early version of Kermit and realize that the perfection of later Muppet encounters didn’t start off smooth, but were rough like an unshaped diamond. So, too, are many of our stories. We need only have the faith that eventually as we hone our craft things will grow into their own perfection.
Not that this video is bad. Just that it’s encouraging to see the process of growth and to see Jim Henson’s humor and storytelling voice was always present.
WHERE CURIOSITY LED
I really thought I’d understood Mr. Bradbury’s quote before, but now I’m really getting it. And with the internet bringing instantaneous information to our fingertips, there’s no reason we can’t easily stuff our heads full of wonderful stories.
Whether or not you find what Ken Nordine or Jim Henson have done inspiring, it’s a unique way of telling story. And stuffing it into your subconscious will have an effect on your storytelling, even if you are never aware of it.
So get curious about yellow!
Now it’s your turn. Have you ever read a book, listened to a song, watched a movie, etc. that led you to new and interesting discoveries? Do you agree with Mr. Bradbury’s quote? What sources do you turn to in order to fill yourself up? Let me know in the comments below.