11

Masterpiece YouTube: Team StarKid, “The Trail to Oregon!”

Happy July 4th, y’all! I haven’t shared a fun YouTube in almost a whole year (September 30th, 2015), so I figured I’d share one of the most American things of all time (or what should be): musical theatre mixed with American history, so…here’s the full cast recording of Hamilton!

Just kidding, and yes, I am sick of hearing people obsess over it, it’s kind of like…have you ever seen a musical before? Ever? Anyway, here’s another fun musical.

That’s So Jacob Presents:

Masterpiece YouTube

Episode 22: Team Starkid, “The Trail to Oregon!” (2015)

Any true American who grew up in the 1990s played Oregon Trail, the original educational, low-graphics game designed to teach kids about Manifest Destiny but mostly ended up teaching kids how to shoot a buffalo, die of dysentery, and an excuse to make up obscene family names.

I remember I was scared of the game when I first encountered it in fourth grade, because the trend was to name your characters after your family members and friends, and I got it in my head that if you died in the game, that meant you died for real, or were going to die soon, which led to many, many nightmares about my family members being buried in the Wyoming wilderness or eaten by wolves. Eventually, though, I got over that silly fear and joined everyone else in making sure that Jelly Head, Pantyhose Nose, Donkey, and Princess Bunny make it to the Willamette Valley. And if they didn’t, oh well, at least you could write a dirty epitaph on their 8-bit tombstone.

But enough about nostalgia, back to the video. Team StarKid, the University of Michigan-based student acting troupe behind A Very Potter Musical and its sequels came up with The Trail to Oregon!, a brilliant choose-your-own musical adventure that eventually made it off-Broadway. Five characters play the basic family members your game gives you: the dimwitted Father (Jeff Blim), the stressed-out Mother (Rachael Soglin), obnoxious Son (Lauren Lopez, AKA Draco Malfoy from AVPM), easily-distracted Daughter (Jamie-Lyn Beatty, AKA Ginny Weasley from AVPM), and stereotypical oldster Grandpa (Corey Dorris), who doubles as Cletus Jones. The remainder of the parts, including a deformed ox, a fast-talking general store owner, and a horny bandit, are played by Joey Richter, AKA Ron Weasley from AVPM.

If you have two hours, or even if you don’t, it’s worth a watch for all the witty lyrics and low-budget fun. You even get to pick who dies at the end: I’ve only clicked on the Mother one and the Daughter one, but eventually I’ll watch the other three.

My favorite numbers are the two that open the show, “Gone to Oregon,” especially with all the bad rhyming, and “Independence,” a perfect selection for July 4th, especially with the “YMCA” tribute towards the end. Even though the talk of it being a “family vacation” is a little cringey – it was actually a complete lifestyle change, it’s not as if they were going to take tacky tourist photos and then turn back around and head back to Illinois, although that would be an interesting twist. The only part where it sagged for me was the story line with the Daughter and the bandit, I felt it was too melodramatic and one-note for the rest of the production despite Beatty’s brilliant acting and singing. “It Pays to Be an Animal” and “Speedrun” are also fun numbers. Anyway, enjoy!

This episode of Masterpiece YouTube was brought to you by AMERICA.

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10

Traveling and Things I Thought Were True When I Was Little

Well hello there, and greetings from the Eastern Time Zone for the first time since January. After a day and a half of travel, I am finally lying in my own bed and should probably be asleep but it’s been too long since I wrote something or updated on my life.

Yesterday, I packed (light) and flew from Madison to Washington-Reagan. The plane was tiny, of course, but I had a row all to myself. Not bad, even with a baby right behind me. Only about two hours of flying time though. My ears popped like crazy; we had a relatively quick and steep descent over the Potomac. I’ve never flown into Reagan before and I did not see the ground until we were literally on it; seriously, I was about to get my flotation device out.

It was a gorgeous day in Washington, so upon my sister’s advice, I took the Blue Line to Foggy Bottom and walked to her place in Dupont Circle along 22nd Street. After meeting her at her apartment, we had a quick dinner at CharBar (kosher meat, and Jack Lew was sitting at the next table!) and came back to clean a little and pack up some stuff.

This morning: time for kindergarten! Yay! Up and at ’em at 6:30 AM, leave at 7:30 to get to her school in Rockville, with a Dunkin’ Donuts stop on the way, and arrival right on time at 8:30. Surprisingly, one of her boys remembered me, and was all “hi, Jacob!” as if I was there every day (for the record, I have visited exactly once before, and that was back in the fall). The kids were mostly good today, and when my mom showed up (she drives down and volunteers there every Thursday) it was even better. I did a lot of reading, spelling, and adding; all helpful things in life. There’s something that’s just so exciting about that age, and the whole kindergarten atmosphere is just so colorful and fun you want to stay and play forever. The kids were done at 3:30, but my sister does tutoring after school, so I transferred my stuff to Mom’s car and we headed back to Baltimore, a trip that took us TWO. WHOLE. HOURS. Just from Washington to Baltimore. Of course, my sister left later and made it in record time, missing all the lovely traffic we suffered through. We had our traditional pre-Passover country club dinner with half the people we’re going to see tomorrow night anyway: my aunt, uncle, and two cousins. Tomorrow night’s seder will be a whopping 23 people, 21 family and 2 friends, which is probably the most people that I am related to being in my house at the same time (if that sentence makes any sense outside of my tired little brain), but Saturday night’s seder is going to be 11; the four of us plus 7 people we’re not related to (2 sets of family friend couples who are related to each other, 1 of my mom’s friends, 1 of my sister’s friends, and 1 of my friends). So that should be fun.

That should get you up to speed on my travels.

Now, for some fun…last week, Jenna Marbles did a video about things she thought were true as a little kid. Here are some of mine:

I thought that:

1. Harriet Tubman was the inventor of the bathtub.

2. Madonna owned McDonald’s and McDonough (a local private boys’ school that my cousin attended). Don’t blame me, they all sounded the same!

3. A cuticle was a short newspaper article.

4. Chartreuse was a word you used when you couldn’t remember what color you were trying to describe.

5. If you named a character after yourself or someone you knew in The Oregon Trail computer game, and they died, that person would die soon in real life. I had several macabre nightmares about dying of malaria, dysentery, and snakebites.

6. If you took medicine and were not sick, it would make you sick.

7. It took me awhile to understand what someone meant by “having something up their sleeve.” Apparently, I was so confused that my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Rubenstein, actually asked me to look inside her sleeve (don’t worry, all I saw was the amount of arm you normally see when you roll up your sleeve) and tell her what was in there. When I saw nothing, that’s when I learned what a figure of speech was.

8. Lemonade was actually…something else yellow in a bottle, and that only boys drink Coke and only girls drink Pepsi.

9. You graduated elementary school at age 10, and high school at age 20 (thank God I was wrong about that).

10. My stuffed animals came to life after I went to sleep. A lot of kids probably thought this, but I was totally invested in it. I remember taking their temperatures to make sure they were not sick when they came out to play, slept with my door open so they could find their way back and get back in easily, and that if they were lying face down, I should leave them alone for awhile because “if they fall forward that’s okay, they need their sleep during the day.” They also all had last names and home addresses and phone numbers; originally they were random collections of letters (one was Sallesam, pronounced “sawl-sam,” something my dad still teases me about today). But, after I took a summer class in mythology, their first or last names changed to Greek and Roman gods/goddesses; for example, I had a stuffed snake that was named Anthony, who gained the Greek name Hephaestus and the Roman name Vulcan, and I had a feminine looking bear who got Juno as her Roman name and Hera as her Greek name, and I called them those names depending on what I felt like calling them that day. I had so many stuffed animals that at one point I made them all name tags. FACT.