Guest Blogger: My Baby Brother

Introduction:

A week or so ago, I posted a blog stating that I was toying with the idea of inviting someone to be a guest blogger.  Without hesitation, my younger brother Christopher said he would love to write one.  Let me say that he is WAY more qualified to write than I am.  He has published a book and has been writing short stories and other things for as long as I can remember. 

I saw his email this morning as I was getting ready to take the boys home.  I had to open it and read it.  I stood in my kitchen laughing as I read it.  My wife was still asleep, and I thought for sure that I was going to wake her up.  My son, looked at me and asked “what’s so funny, dad?”  I looked at him and said, “Just something Uncle Chris sent me…”

At this time, I’d like to introduce you to my brother, Christopher. I hope that you laugh as much as I did….

What the heck are they laughing at?  By Christopher Louis

Growing up my brother and I were crazy and rambunctious kids.  There is no denying that we gave our parents a run for their money.  If we weren’t pushing their patience by staying up long past our bed time or begging them to buy us the newest Star Wars figure, we were beating the snot out of each other or purposely egging the other on to do something totally stupid.  While we were not angels, we also weren’t devils.  We just loved to have fun, laugh, and have a good time.  We wanted to make each day an adventure.  Sure, it got us in trouble sometimes, but it was almost always good natured.

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As with any siblings there are lots of growing pains as you discover new interests, new friends, and truly come into your own and the relationship between you and your sibling changes. Sometimes for the good, and sometimes not so good. Despite our many differences, there has always been one thing that could bring us together – laughter. Laughter has helped us to remember and rebuild our bonds. When friends ask about my brother, I love to share how we can have the other laughing within seconds simply by sending a photo (usually of William Shatner), copying a movie quote (Airplane is always a good bet) or sharing an inside family joke (usually something our dear Grandpa mispronounced).

I admit there was a time when I swore I had to be adopted because I could not understand the joy that Keith, my dad, and my grandparents found in watching Sanford and Son.  However, the same could be said for him in my guilty pleasure of watching Dynasty.  While I am sure neither of us would relish the idea of sitting down and watching either of those shows together, there are still so many movies, TV shows, and old radio shows that provide us with so much laughter and delight.  I thought I would share a few of them with you now.

Your Money or Your Life!

Mugger: Your money or your life.

(Long, awkward pause)

Mugger: Look bud, I said your money or your life.

Jack: I’m thinking it over!

Jack

The first to share is one of the greatest comedians of all time – Jack Benny.  I am forever thankful for my dad introducing us to the joys of old radio shows.  While we both love many others (Fibber McGee and Molly, Burns and Allen, or Suspense), The Jack Benny Program is our favorite.  Whether Jack is giving sales clerk (Mel Blanc) the worst time possible by constantly exchanging show laces (he can’t decide between plastic tips or metal tips), or constantly insisting he’s 39 years old (which can’t be confirmed because there is a hole in his birth certificate from erasing it too many times) it is comedy gold.  Plus, both of us can totally tell you what LSMFT means or what the six delicious flavors of Jell-O were.  (For those not in the know, those are both from sponsors of the Jack Benny Program – Lucky Strike Cigarettes and Jell-O).

(Keith Note:  Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco!  Strawberry, cherry, raspberry, orange, lemon, and lime!)

“Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”

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The 60’s Batman TV show is a treasure trove of comedy genius.  Adam West’s portrayal of the Dark Knight is played so straight and even that it is impossible to not start laughing at the utter absurdity!  Don’t get me wrong – I love it, but it is odd to think how anyone couldn’t see that Batman and Bruce Wayne were one and the same.

(Keith Note:  I pointed out to my brother how he hits the nail on the head here!  It really is absurd!  Proof of the absurdity – and how Commissioner Gordon must be clueless – can be seen as Adam West has a conversation with himself as both Bruce and Batman in the following video clip!)

Of course, the many guest stars paraded through as villains brought much of the laughter.  There was Cesar Romero as the Joker with white paint over his mustache, Frank Gorshin jumping all over the set as the Riddler, Victor Buono running around as King Tut, and Vincent Price as Egghead making more egg puns that you can imagine. Of course, part of the fun is trying to count how many times Robin says “Holy ____” in an episode.  My favorite will always be “Holy Hole-in-a-Doughnut, Batman!”

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(Keith Note: Oh, and I had to add the above picture because of the sub-title of this section!)

“What’s the matter, Colonel Sandurz?  Chicken?”

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There are truly so many wonderful Mel Brooks movies and while I am not as into Blazing Saddles as Keith is, we can’t deny the laughter that comes from watching his films. I’m choosing Spaceballs for this blog. Plus – what’s not to love about this amazing spoof of Star Wars, a movie Keith and I both loved and played and recreated more times than I could count with many, many action figures.

Some of my favorite quotes include:

  • No sir, I didn’t see you playing with your dolls again.
  • How many Assholes we got on this ship, anyhow?
  • Keep firing Assholes!
  • We ain’t found shit!
  • Why are you always preparing? You’re always preparing. Just go!
  • Smoke if you got ‘em.
  • So the combination is 1-2-3-4-5. That’s the stupidest combination I’ve ever heard in my life. That’s the kinda thing an idiot would have on his luggage.

(Keith Note: Love the bumper sticker – “We Brake for Nobody!”)

“Kiddie Car, June Bride, Rookie, Phantom Fox, Blarney Stone, and Clunker”

AKA – The North Avenue Irregulars.  We loved this movie!  It was one of those great Disney gens of the 1970’s that we found and just loved as kids.  I remember how excited we were watching our dad record our own copy of the movie from one VCR to the other.  I also remember the exact spot where it cut out for a moment.  Oh, those good old days of VHS tapes…

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Anyway, who would think that kids would love a movie about a group of church ladies who work to take down an illegal gambling ring? But we did! It had so many big stars of the era; Edward Herrmann, Barbara Harris, Karen Valentine, Cloris Leachman, Michael Constantine, Ruth Buzzi, and Dena Dietrich (famous for playing Mother Nature in Chiffon Margarine commercials).  Each character was different and came with their own burdens and personal issues but came together to bring down the bad guys. As with many 70s movie, it includes its own car chase / demolition derby.

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One of my favorite scenes includes three of the ladies “going undercover” to place a bet and they are all wearing trench coats and sunglasses.  One has a tape recorder hidden inside her coat and just as she is about to place her bet, she is advised to start recording.  She accidentally presses “play” instead of “record” and the song “Roll Out the Barrel” starts blaring from her coat.

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(Keith Note:  My Favorite quotes:  “It’s her money.  Get two” and “Butt out, lady!”)

“Help!  Help!  The Alcalde has all my money!”

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George Hamilton playing dual roles!  Enough said!

Zorro the Gay Blade is one of those movies that just makes me smile and laugh. While George is hilarious as Don Diego and his twin brother Ramon (aka Bunny Wigglesworth), Brenda Vaccaro and Ron Leibman as Florinda and Esteban are so over the top and crazy you can’t wait for them to come back on the screen.

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Some of my favorite lines:

  • You naughty, evil Alcalde! I’m going to do . . . such . . . terrible things . . . to you!
  • Two bits, four bits, six bits, a peso. All for Zorro, stand up and say so!
  • Thank goodness for small favors!
  • Know me? Sink me! We were once womb-mates!
  • There is no shame in being poor! Only in dressing poorly!

(Keith note:  It’s funny that Chris mentions this movie.  Look for a full write up on it from me in early September for the “Costume Drama Blogathon”!)

“Jim never has a second cup of coffee at home …”

Johnny

Airplane! One of the great comedies of the 1980s. There is something about spoofs that if not done correctly are painful to watch. This is not one of them. I think Keith and I have quoted this movie since our first viewing and haven’t stopped yet. There are just so many great lines that I could do an entire post on this movie alone!

Some of my favorite lines:

  • It’s a big pretty white plane with red stripes, curtains in the windows, wheels. It looks like a big Tylenol.
  • Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.
  • Surely you can’t be serious? I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.
  • Joey, do you like movies about Gladiators?
  • A hospital, what is it? It’s a big building with patients in it, but that’s not important right now.
  • Get me someone who won’t crack under pressure. How about Mr. Rogers?
  • I haven’t felt this bad since I saw that Ronald Reagan movie.

There are many, many more movies and TV shows I could have included here, but I decided to focus on just a few for now, but as I near my wrap up, how can I not share the one photo that I think we’ve shared back and forth more times than I can possibly imagine? I mean, I even mentioned the person’s name at the beginning of this blog. Without further ado, I present the one image guaranteed to make both of us laugh.

Bill

You can totally hear him right now, can’t you??  The king of the dramatic pause – William Shatner.  There are no more words necessary – this image is all you need.

(Keith Note:  Ricardo Montalban should have won an Academy Award for his performance in this film.  He is brilliant!  My brother once got me a Khan figure to put on my desk for Christmas!)

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Laughter.  It has been a delight revisiting these few memories as they have helped spur so many more that could fill numerous more blog posts.  Thank you for joining me on this guest post, I hope it brought you some laughter as well. I will end with one final image that encompasses a big part of our childhood: Keith and me playing with our Star Wars figures.  The fun and adventures we created beyond the films!

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(Keith Note:  My brother could not have picked a more awful picture of me – ok, maybe he could have.  What makes me laugh about this picture is that he has Star Wars figures, and I have that Fisher Price motorcycle dude (who we called “Ginge”)!  I am also appalled that I am wearing black socks in this picture!  The picture, however, is a wonderful time capsule, though.  Besides the toys of the 70’s and 80’s, you will notice ugly shag carpeting, HUGE books called phone books (where we used to look up phone numbers), a stack of newspapers (where we got news before the internet), and one of the first video game systems – the Atari 2600!

It’s always fun to see what others remember and what you forgot.  The North Avenue Irregulars was something I had forgot about!  I am so glad he mentioned it.  In speaking to my brother after reading this, he stated that writing this blog for me, brought about many other things that he “could have” wrote about.  I am encouraging him to keep notes on those things and return for another “guest” spot.  Thanks, Chris!  I love you!)

 

 

Have You Used Your Imagination, Lately?

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The following blog is based off a speech I had to do in college.  It was a persuasive speech.  While most students tried to persuade me to think one way or the other about marijuana, assisted suicide, or some other hot topic items that I knew my professor had heard a gazillion times, I wanted to do something different.  I wanted to persuade the class to use their imaginations!

I am going to attempt to transform my notes from the speech into this blog and include links to the sound files that I used to illustrate my points….

Without any further ado – get ready to imagine:

Introduction

There is an old saying, “Seeing is believing”.

We live in a society where we can access images of just about anything. We can find them on television, the movies, and all over the world wide web.  However, I’d like us to conjure up an image without having to plug anything in.

I know we are in a speech class and eye contact is important, however, for the purpose of this I need you to close your eyes and listen. (For this part of the blog, I guess you need to keep your eyes open, but you’ll get the illustration).

You are looking at a table. On top of the table is a large lemon.  It is a bright yellow and at its peak ripeness.  Next to the lemon is a sharp knife.  Picture the knife slowly cutting into the lemon.  You can hear the knife cutting through the rind, and you can see the juice coming from the lemon onto the table.  The lemon is now in half.  I want you to pick up the lemon, and bring it towards your mouth …and take a bite into it.

Now open your eyes. How many of you could actually taste the lemon?

Now look down …do you see a real lemon? Of course not.  However, you did SEE it…and seeing is believing.

Picture this …

In radio, we often refer to using the “theatre of the mind”. As someone who has worked in radio for almost 30 years, I have witnessed firsthand the decline in the use of one’s imagination.  There was a time, not so long ago, children would use their imagination to create adventures – to go places they’d never been before – and pretend to be famous athletes, princesses, or dinosaur hunters.  Today, television numbs their minds by spoon feeding them images; video games are graphic and scenarios are predetermined.  Their imagination lies dormant.

Sadly, it’s not just children who no longer use their imagination, but adults too.

In the next couple minutes, I will illustrate the power of the imagination, and by doing so, cause you to want to use it on a more frequent basis.

Prior to television, families would gather around the radio every night and their imaginations would run wild.

I want you to listen to a clip from 1948. Marion and Jim Jordan were Fibber McGee and Molly on the radio.  One of the show’s running gags, was Fibber’s messy closet.  You are about to hear the first time the gag was used.  The McGee’s are trying to figure out what a word means and are looking for the dictionary.  They think it is probably in the hall closet, which we are told is full of McGee’s stuff.  (For blog readers – you need to go to the 4:00 mark to hear the bit.)

After playing  the clip for my speech class I asked them a few questions that illustrated a point –

What color was the door?   What did you see fall out of the closet?

Each one of us saw a different closet door. Maybe it had a glass door handle or maybe it was brass?  Maybe it opened to the left or opened to the right? All of us heard the same clip, but we all aw something different – our own vision of the door and the stuff that fell out!

Imagination

Albert Einstein said

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” “Logic will get you from A to B.  Imagination will take you everywhere”.

While technical advancements make life easier for us, the human imagination is being threatened. Technology encourages us to relax our minds and let others make decisions for us.

Doctor T. Berry Brazelton says, “Television imposes an artificial world of violence and unreachable good and evil numbing” the imagination.

In his article, the Death of Imagination, Duane Loose makes reference to the book “Sibling Society” by Robert Bly. Bly suggests that the measurable decline in the imaginative process of forming imagery in the mind is a direct result of the power of TV, movies and other intense visual media.  These things cause humans to bypass the imagination by feeding explicit images directly into the brain.  No imagination is needed, so the brain doesn’t have to work.  This results in a slow death of the muscles of the mind, because there is no need to form images when they are provided for you.  Scientists say that this will ultimately destroy the human ability to imagine.

To further illustrate my point, think about reading a book in contrast to watching television:

Watching television requires little thought for you to absorb the images, speech, and music which are a part of the program. Reading a book, however, requires imagination to turn letters into words, the words into thoughts, and the thoughts into images and actions.

Entertainment, so called, today requires no imagination. Even the creators of entertainment today lack imagination.  All you have to do is count the slew of old TV shows that have been made into below average movies to see that they lack any type of new idea!

More Old Radio

Radio, in its Golden Age, however stimulated the human imagination. It caused America to see the same program in millions of different ways …. Or if you will…millions of different closet doors.

To further prove the power of the human imagination, I want to tell you about a program that aired as a Halloween themed adventure. On October 30, 1938 radio caused an entire nation to panic.

The Mercury Theatre on the Air, broadcast it’s version of “War of the Worlds” with Orson Wells. As crazy as it sounds today, families listening to the broadcast actually thought that the earth was being invaded by Martians and that the men from space were destroy parts of New York.  The panic that ensued only proves the power and quality of the shows that aired at that time.

It also speaks volumes as to the actors acting ability to stimulate the imagination and make the program believable.

In an 1984 interview, Himan Brown, described radio actors and how they worked. He says, “Their voice and what they did with their voice.  What they did with the words.  They didn’t read- they played.  They touched, they felt.  There was a tremendous relationship in everything and the skillful actors were absolutely brilliant”.

Suspense, was a show that aired on CBS radio from 1940 to 1962.   It was often referred to as “radio’s outstanding theatre of thrills”.  Each week, the listener could hear stars like, Lucille Ball, James Cagney, Katherine Hepburn, and Jack Benny as the show’s weekly guest star.  Stars were drawn to the show, because it required that they actually perform.  The great Cary Grant said, “If I ever do any more radio work, I want to do it on Suspense, where I get a good chance to act”.

One of my favorite Suspense shows was based on Cornell Woolrich’s short story, “Three O’Clock”, which stars the great Van Heflin. A husband (Heflin) thinks that his wife is cheating on him.  He decides to get rid of his wife by building a bomb in the basement.  He wires the detonator to an alarm clock and sets it to go off at “3 O’Clock”, when he will be back at his office.

What he doesn’t plan on is being caught by two burglars when he comes upstairs.  They haul him off to the basement and tie him up and gag him.  What we hear is what he is “thinking” as he is counting the minutes until the bomb goes off.  It is one of the best episodes of the series in my opinion. Take 30 minutes and Notice how the use of sound effects and descriptions by the actors enhance the story and make the tension even greater!

A well written story, performed brilliantly by amazing actors, and brought to life within YOUR imagination!  Everyone listening pictured the characters differently, saw a different basement and different clock.  The imagination is a wonderful thing!

Now, go and imagine something!!!

Sherri Mandell defines imagination as: “the ability to remember, dream, create, improvise and in the process entertain oneself anywhere and anytime.”

We’ve seen how modern technology and entertainment hanker the human’s ability to use their imagination to its fullest potential. We’ve heard of the future ill effects of the non-use of imaginations.  And we’ve dusted off the cobwebs in our mind and used our imaginations a little.

I’d like to encourage you to continue to use it. There are countless hours of old radio shows available online, there are millions of books at the library, and it really isn’t a bad thing to turn off the TV and  daydream every once in awhile.

I will close with another quote from Sherri Mandell, “The next time you see a child lost in a daydream or in an imaginative game, sit down next to him. You might just discover the lost part of yourself, the authentic self who engages with the world without premeditation or pretense and disguise.  The self who dwells in fantasy.  The free and authentic self who is content to just be.”