Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Opening the Book on 23 Skidoo's High Functioning Weirdo

Whenever a character comes along who shakes up a stale genre, there is inevitably a societal debate about whether or not this instance is (a) part of a trend or (b) just an aberration. Two notable extremes from TV would be Mimi the receptionist (Kathy Kinney) from the old DREW CAREY SHOW and Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) from THE BIG BANG THEORY. With her outrageous outfits and blunt honesty, Mimi's antagonistic relationship with Carey kept the show from being a conventional sitcom for a decade. For his portrayal of Sheldon, Parsons has won four consecutive Emmy awards.

A firestorm developed around Sheldon concerning the "is he or isn't he" on the autism spectrum. Specifically, does Sheldon have Asperger's Syndrome? For the uninitiated, "Aspies" tend to be very high functioning but have rough social skills. They can succeed in complex work fields because they fixate and are detail-oriented. However they tend to shy away from situations that require unanticipated human interaction. One producer flat out has stated "Sheldon does not have autism" because that would make the show "more serious" than they want it to be. You can look at Ray Romano's turn as an adult coming to terms with autism on PARENTHOOD for evidence supporting the producer's argument.

Into the equation steps Secret Agent 23 Skidoo with his new children's book, WEIRDO CALHOUN AND THE ODD MEN OUT. I'd bet the majority of the reviews will talk about "differences can bring people together" and "follow the beat of your own drummer." From the dreamy-eyed illustrations by North Carolina native Stu Helm to the text's descriptions of "Like his mind was a million miles off in space, With a twinkle in his eyes and a smile on his face,"I would bet with some certainty that L'il Calhoun might test high on the M-CHAT.

The book, written by the kid-hop entrepreneur behind the songs "Gotta Be Me" and "Mind Over Matter," follows an (initially) ostracized child who forges his own path and group of friends. They compete in a contest, dazzle the judges, and change the minds of many people. It's a children's fable in story and song – how did you think it was going to end?

The book is accompanied by a CD with hip-hop and bluegrass versions of the story, as well as karaoke versions that your family can use for home throwdowns between siblings and parents. It's inoffensive and perky and reads just like song lyrics, which is totally appropriate, considering the source.

Skidoo is promoting the book (and his most recent CD, THE PERFECT QUIRK) around the concept that "weird" comes from the Old English word "wyrd," which translates as "fate" or "destiny." I don't think many parents would derive comfort that their kids were destined to be autistic, but that's solely my take and my boat to pilot. Skidoo clearly means "wyrd" in the sense that kids have to realize that their differences make them special. And nobody who is special deserves to be left as an "odd man out." And that's a concept I can get behind.

WEIRDO CALHOUN AND THE ODD MEN OUT will be available September 23 from Secret Agent 23 Skidoo's website, Amazon, and the iTunes Bookstore.

Here is a video from Kindiefest 2012 of Skidoo and SteveSongs performing "Superhero":

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